Art and Design KS3: Karin Larsson and interior design

In a small farmhouse on a remote Swedish lakeside, 4 hours north of Stockholm, lived Karin Larsson: a housewife whose creativity transformed not only her own family home but the way we all see our domestic space.

Presenter Amanda Vickery explains how Karin, an educated woman, was on course to be a professional artist until she met and fell in love with a fellow Swedish artist called Carl Larsson.

They married and Karin gave up a career to start a family.

By looking at Carl’s paintings it is revealed that Karin was still being creative behind closed doors: she was crafting a family home with local flowers, hand-woven tapestry and local furniture.

The established dark and gloomy taste of the time was a far cry from Karin’s light, relaxed, colourful and distinctly modern style.

Despite living remotely, Karin kept up with art developments across the continent.

Her tapestries had such modern design that they stand up to present-day tastes.

Without Carl’s paintings we would never know what Karin had achieved.

She created lifestyle as art and her influence is seen in the Swedish firm Ikea, whose designs have travelled the world.

Karin Larsson gave up an artistic career and yet has left a more tangible legacy to modern commerce than any painting hanging in any gallery in the world.

This clip is from the series The Britain That Women Made.

Teacher Notes

This could be used in lessons on relevant key historical concepts such as change and continuity and causation, or relevant historical periods like the Industrial Revolution, and the social, political and economic changes of the 18th century.

Students could be encouraged to discuss the barriers women faced as artists.

What were the social barriers which Karin Larsson had to overcome in order to become a successful at her craft?

In their answers, students could consider how those barriers could have been used to her advantage.

What economic advantages did Karin Larsson enjoy which helped her to become successful?

To what extent did Karin Larsson have to battle and fight prejudice in order to achieve success?

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching Art and Design and History at Key Stage 3 and Third Level.