Two Nude images by Carl Larsson

(Last Updated On July 14, 2023)

Carl Olof Larsson was a Swedish painter who has been featured in Pigtails here and here. Larsson was born in 1853, and had an unhappy childhood because of his irresponsible father. At age 13 he applied for the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, and was accepted. Larsson became a professional illustrator for two newspapers, as well as books and magazines. His income was sufficient to support his parents as well as himself.

Carl Larsson – Graziella Asking Whether She will do as a Model (1888)

In 1877 Carl Larsson moved to Paris and in 1882 moved to a Scandinavian artists’ colony at Grez-sur-Loing. There he met the Swedish artist Karin Bergöö, whom he married. They had eight children. In 1888 the Larsson family returned to Sweden. Larsson is most famous for his depictions of happy family life, often using his own family as models. Larsson wrote in his memoirs of the family paintings, “… these pictures are of course a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children.”

Larsson is also famous for his frescos in public buildings. His nudes are not as well known, even though he won his first medal in art, while still a teenager, for drawing nudes. The two illustrations in this article are examples of his nude illustrations.

When Larsson was living in France, aspiring models frequented the artists’ colony looking for work. In 1888, before the Larsson family moved to Sweden, a young Italian girl came to Larsson’s studio and asked if she would do as a model. Larsson apparently thought that Graziella, the girl, would do as a model, for we have this drawing he made of her. She was more slender than was considered to be ideal at the time. Her expression is not one of confidence. Nevertheless, Larsson’s drawing of her is quite touching. Suzanne Larsson, Carl’s oldest child, would have been about four years old when Graziella modeled for this drawing. Perhaps the artist’s affection for his daughter, who was only a few years younger than Graziella, helped him to create a sympathetic image of Graziella. I found two examples of this drawing online, a scan of an etching and a scan of a postage stamp. The illustration on a 1982 Swedish postage stamp is sharper than a scan of the etching, so it is the one shown here.

Carl Larsson – Mammas och Småflickornas Rum (1897)

The second nude in this post is typical of Larsson’s paintings of family life. The painting shows the mother’s and little girls’ room. Since it was painted in 1897, the nude girl on the left must be the artist’s daughter Brita, who was born in 1893. The infant in the middle of the painting would be Kersti, born 1896, and the older girl on the right would be Lisbeth, born in 1891.

8 thoughts on “Two Nude images by Carl Larsson

  1. I, too, could not imagine the U.S. Postal Service ever putting the drawing of a nude young girl on a postage stamp. The Northern European, and especially the Nordic countries used to be much more sensible about such things. I am not sure how things are now, now that there seems to be a big push AGAINST any display of nudity, at least here in the United States, and by Internet providers who are allowed to operate here.

  2. I have to admire the Scandinavians for their inhibition and liberal attitiudes. there must have been a point in time, maybe post world war when polite society decided nudity is socially unacceptable so to bring about a reinvention of the fig leaf for the same purposes of Adam and Eve

    • I don’t know when the change in attitude would have occurred, but the postage stamp shown in the post is from 1982. In the list of films in the pipeline I find these two from Scandanavia; You’re Out of Your Mind, Maggie (Swedish 1979) and Ice Palace (Norwegian 1987). This would indicate the liberal attitude lasted at least until the 1980s.

      In the early 1990s, a secretary where I formerly worked returned from a long vacation visiting her husband’s family in Norway. She said that she enjoyed taking her family (three boys, elementary school age) to the beach because girls were allowed to go naked on the beach, and she was amused to watch her boys pretend to ignore the fact that girls their age were naked. It did not occur to me to ask if only girls were naked, or if she only mentioned girls because that is what inspired the amusing reaction by her boys. Perhaps a reader from Scandanavia can answer this.

      This woman was a conservative, Christian, Southern lady. She was a devoted mother who would never expose her boys to anything harmful or corrupting. Apparently she did not think it harmful to take her boys to a beach with naked girls. I get the impression that she, and others in America, are not really opposed to nudity, but act as if they are to conform with what they think is the majority opinion.

      • I’d say it lasted well into the 90s there as well.

        There is a trilogy of Danish movies from around then
        To quote filmafinity:
        “The 3rd of Jesper W. Nielsen trilogy: Buldermanden, Lykkefanten and Ogginoggen. Ida’s life looks a lot better now that her mother has come to her rescue and sobered up. Now Ida can hopefully be the kid she’s supposed to be. But life keeps throwing more hard lessons at her; this time about friends, relationships, love, even sex and boys.”

        In Ogginoggen, there’s a lengthy shower scene, something I thought was a remnant of the 70s and 80s.

        However, with someone with a European spouse, She informed me that when she was growing up, non- sexual nudity of children was still seen as innocent; kids are kids and sometimes kids are naked and any film that deals with kids’ stories sometimes has them portrayed in the nude.

        But yeah, that hasn’t been possible in North America for decades, without some sort of ‘message’ as to why they are naked.

  3. Reading Larsson’s story was touching.

    The candid nature of the Graziella piece along with the sketchy, hatching shading gives it a sort of weight that helps it out a lot, I think. A sort’ve uncertainty.

  4. Europeans are always beautifully uninhibited.
    I could not imagine the United States Post Office putting out a stamp with a nude child painting on it. (Unless it was a Christmas stamp featuring a “Madonna and Child” painting that includes a naked baby Jesus.)

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