Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853 – January 22, 1919) was a Swedish painter and interior designer.
The Swedish artist Carl Larsson was born in Gamla stan, the old town in Stockholm. His parents were extremely poor and his childhood was sad and miserable. However, at the age of thirteen his teacher at the school for poor children urged him to apply to the "principskola" of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts and he was admitted. During his first years there, Larsson felt socially inferior, confused, and shy. In 1869, at the age of sixteen, he was promoted to the "antique school" of the same academy. There Larsson gained confidence and even became a central figure in student life.
After several years working as an illustrator of books, magazines, and newspapers, Larsson moved to Paris where he spent several rather frustrating years as a hardworking artist without any success.
In 1882, whilst in Grez, a Scandinavian artists colony outside Paris, he met Karin Bergöö (1859–1928), who soon became his wife. This was to be a turning point in Larsson's life. In Grez, Larsson painted some of his most important works; now in water-colour and very different from the oil painting technique he had previously employed.
Carl and Karin Larsson raised eight children and his new family became Larsson's favourite models and many of the watercolours he produced are now popular all over the world.
In 1888 the young family was given a small house, named Little Hyttnäs, in Sundborn by Karin's father Adolf Bergöö. Carl and Karin decorated and furnished this house according to their particular artistic taste and also for the needs of the growing family.
Through Larsson's paintings and books this house has become one of the most famous artist's homes in the world. The descendants of Carl and Karin Larsson now own this house and keep it open for tourists each summer from May until October.
Larsson's popularity increased considerably with the development of colour reproduction technology in the 1890s, when the Swedish publisher Bonnier published books written and illustrated by Larsson and containing full colour reproductions of his watercolours, e.g. "A Home". However, the print runs of these rather expensive albums did not come close to that produced in 1909 by the German publisher Karl Robert Langewiesche (1874–1931): His choice of watercolours, drawings and text by Carl Larsson, titled "Das Haus in der Sonne" ("The House in the Sun"), immediately became one of the German publishing industry's bestsellers of the year — 40,000 copies sold in three months, and more than 40 print runs have been produced up to 2001. Carl and Karin Larsson declared themselves overwhelmed by such success.
Carl Larsson considered his monumental works, for instance the frescos in schools, museums and other public buildings, to be his most important works. His last monumental work Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice) signed in 1915 and intended for the last wall in the staircase of the National Museum in Stockholm — which was not yet decorated by Carl Larsson — was refused by the board of the museum. In his memoirs Jag ("I") — published after Larsson's death — he declared his bitterness and disappointment with this rejection of the painting he himself considered to be his greatest achievement. In his memoirs, Larsson wrote "The fate of the 'Midwinter Sacrifice' broke me! This I admit with a dark anger. And still, it was probably the best thing that could happen, for now my intuition tells me — again — that with all its weakness, this painting will once be honoured with far better placement after my death." He admitted, however, in the same memoirs that the pictures of his family and home "became the most immediate and lasting part of my life's work. For 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."