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And here is the man himself: ‘Self Portrait (in the new studio)’ 1912.  ‘The Larsson home in Sundborn, Dalarna, is one of the most famous artist’s homes in Scandinavia. The home was undergoing constant changes and extensions. The last extension was made in 1912 when a new studio for the artist was created. That same year Carl Larsson portrayed himself in the new studio, sitting in the so called grandfather chair. In front of him on the table he has a sculpture of a nude woman made by fellow artist Anders Zorn. On the table is a tablecloth that his wife Karin made and there are also paint brushes, a book and a sword’ (this last is a bit odd). Carl and Karin Larsson would live another seven years, until 1919. They were survived by seven children so there are a lot of Larsson descendants in Sweden today.

 

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‘My friends the carpenter and the painter’ 1909. Only Larsson would have prefaced the title of this painting with the words ‘my friends': everything about it is admirable.

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And here  is ‘Correspondence’ 1912. The joy of all these less-familiar Larsson paintings is that they are very everyday: ordinary people doing ordinary things. And yet the family superbly follows William Morris’s precept: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

 

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This is ‘School Girl in an Interior’ c. 1910, a painting that is at the Brooklyn Museum. What is marvellous about Larsson’s work is that it never seems staged: this is how it was, it’s as though someone has just that second pushed their chair back from the desk  and got up to say hello to the young girl, who is tired.

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After European children’s toys last week, the Post can morph seamlessly into the European domestic in painting – and of course this has to be the Swedish artist Carl Larsson who had such a huge influence on visual representations of C20th domesticity. Much of his work is very well known indeed, almost too well-known – so this week on the Post a selection of the much less well-known paintings. This is ‘Where I Do My Etchings’ 1910.

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This is the star of the show – any child would love this and any adult would love to have this around in their living room. Lots to think about in this exhibition. ‘To what extent do [these kind of toys] privilege standardisation, geometry and simplification, the principles we associate with industrial production and a modernist vision of the future? But is there an alternative, a genuinely intuitive toy?’ This is Hans Brockhage and Erwin Andrä’s Rocking Car 1950. The exhibition is on until the end of August.

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‘Also known as Peter’s Chair and Peter’s Table, the CH410 and CH411 respectively, were designed by Hans J. Wegner in 1944. Sturdy and safe, they are made from four pieces of wood that can be assembled and disassembled again and again–no tools are necessary. In fact, Peter’s Table and Chair were one of the first “knock-down” furniture designs ever. This makes the chair functional and a great toy for children. Peter’s Chair and Table were designed by Wegner as a present for the baby son of Wegner’s friend and colleague, Børge Mogenson.’ They are in the exhibition but you can still buy them here.

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Set of 1923 Bauspiel construction blocks by Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1899-1944). These are in fact already in the V and A collection: this particular set was manufactured in Switzerland in 1988 and seems to have been given to the Museum of Childhood pretty well straightaway.  Stephen Hayward calls this a ‘Bauhaus toy’ and asks: to what extent do toys like this ‘privilege standardisation, geometry and simplification, the principles we associate with industrial production and a modernist vision of the future? But is there an alternative, a genuinely intuitive toy?’ (Sometimes we put a set of 1907 German building blocks in the window in Lamb’s Conduit Street. They were inherited from an ancestor and have been played with by three generations. But do they have a greater influence than one thinks? Do they create people interested in standardisation and simplification? Surely not. But it does make one think – what’s in a toy? How much influence does it have? Are a child’s choices, or the direction it takes in life, influenced from the very earliest moment by the toys he or she is given to play with? Interesting…)

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Children’s toys are an aspect of childhood rarely discussed on the Post. The Montessori method is quite often mentioned (Dorothy Canfield Fisher was a huge proponent) and of course design and domesticity are constant tropes. But toys not so much. Although many of us have held on to some of our Galt or Paul and Marjorie Abbatt wooden toys: they were so beautifully designed that they can be part of the furniture not just for small children to play with but as objects of beauty in their own right. Now there is an exhibition at the V and A Museum of Childhood called ‘Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to Today’. This inspired Stephen Hayward to write an article about Scandinavian design and children and on the way he threw up many interesting themes. Here is the article. The first section, on Nordic design, ends: ‘To what extent is Kay Bojesen’s wooden monkey a contemporary antique, an accessory for slow living, or a toy that is too good to be played with?’

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William Morris was one of the founders of SPAB, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, in 1877, more details here. It was established in response to the work of Victorian architects whose enthusiasm for harmful restoration caused irreparable damage. These two houses, 41-43 Great Ormond Street with the blue doors, were the SPAB’s first premises. The rooms on the first floor were knocked through, which was useful for lectures and committee meetings. Motto for today:  ‘We are only trustees for those that come after us’ William Morris.

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