Välkommen to Norrtullsgatan, Stockholm, Sweden!
MARY JO THORSHEIM
The Swedish word for “welcome” brings us into a fantastic Impressionist painting by the famous Swedish artist, Karl Nordström (1855 – 1923). It seems that the wide-open doors beckon us inside.
Step through the doors to get a glimpse of a Stockholm apartment that was depicted in 1914. Take note of the details in the room: woodwork, furniture, lamp, drapes, the way paintings are hung on the walls. And don’t overlook the hardware on the doors. Doorknobs were not used, but rather doorhandles. What details stood out to you when you first looked at the picture of the painting? Send me an email (see below)!
The glowing palette of colors and other influences of the Impressionists are obvious in this stunning interior scene, from the Norway Art collection. Karl Nordström leads the eye through the room by his clever use of perspective and carefully placed color. The 22-inch x 18-inch painting is signed with his monogram KN and dates from 1914. The frame is the typical light-colored, painted wood that has been popular in the past and today in Sweden.
When we think of “Impressionism,” Claude Monet’s paintings come to mind. Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light, ordinary subject matter, skillful use of color and unusual visual angles. Nordström’s Norrtullsgatan painting is an excellent example of the Impressionist style.
Karl Nordström was a friend of famous Swedish literary figure August Strindberg (1849 – 1912). Strindberg gained international fame primarily as a playwright, but he was also a poet, essayist, novelist, and photographer. He also painted (!) as a hobby. He is universally known as the “Father of Swedish Literature.”
Strindberg’s last residence was at Drottninggatan 85, near Norrtullsgatan. There is some speculation that Nordström depicted Strindberg’s apartment in his painting, but that requires further research. If the painting does not show a Strindberg apartment, it remains a remarkable documentation of a similar living space at the same time and in the same neighborhood, created by a good friend. Although Strindberg is reported to have lived in many places, including the apartment that is now the Strindberg Museum, several features of the apartment in Nordström’s painting are similar to those in the museum: Notably, the table lamp, a table, and the chair that is partially shown to the right. For photos of the Museum apartment (see www.strindbergsmuseet.se/hemmet).
In Stockholm in the early 1900s, there was a cluster of friends who had creative literary and artistic talents. Future fame came to three of them: Karl Nordström, August Strindberg, and Richard Bergh. How did they happen to meet one another? School? Neighborhood? Accidental meetings? Family friends? Involvement in artistic and literary movements? Active in the groups of young Swedish artists who opposed the old traditional methods of painting and instruction and the writers who moved away from the old traditions? In Paris at the same time?
Karl Nordström, 1855 – 1923
Swedish painter Karl Nordström had an interesting life. Between 1875 and 1878, Nordström studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in Stockholm and the private painting school of Edvard Perseus (1841 – 1890). Traveling to Paris in 1881, he was influenced by the Impressionists. From 1882 to 1886 he lived in Grèz-sur-Loing, a center of Impressionist painting southeast of Paris that was the site of an important colony of Scandinavian artists. There he met Swedish artist Carl Larsson and the Norwegian painter Christian Krohg. At first, he was influenced by the painting style of the Barbizon School that included Corot. Later, he turned to Impressionism.
In 1885, 30-year-old Karl Nordström joined the group of young artists protesting against the policies and leadership of the Swedish Royal Academy. Beginning in 1886, he was one of the leading members of Konstnärsförbundet, the opposition group. He was its chair from 1896 until its dissolution in 1920.
He married Swedish photographer Tekla Lindeström in Paris in 1886. Later in 1886, he returned to Scandinavia. Nordström reconnected with the work of Gauguin in Copenhagen in 1892, another influence on his own art. Recognition of Nordström’s talent grew and, in 1893, his paintings were exhibited in Copenhagen, along with works by Vincent van Gogh. Now it could be said that he had joined the “big leagues”!
It is continually amazing to learn about the interweaving of Scandinavian artists’ friendship and creative circles, across the political borders of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. While we may think of each country and its culture separately, there are firm connections that are fascinating to realize through studying the influences on individual talented people like Nordström and Strindberg that unify the story. These two friends represent the brisk artistic exchange among the Scandinavian countries and with the arts community in Paris.
NORDSTRÖM PAINTING DETAILS
“Interior från Norrtullsgatan (Salen),” 1914, Karl Nordström (1855 – 1923)
Location inscribed on stretcher, with an indistinct building number, verso
22 inches x 18 inches
Signed upper left: KN
Provenance: E. Toffol, handwritten on stretcher verso.
Paper label on verso: Svensk-Fransk Konstgalleriet Stockholm
The painting was purchased from Sweden, for resale.
This article originally appeared in the June 18, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.