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The Norwegian Art of Rosemaling

Rosemaling on a large plate

Rosemaling is a Norwegian folk art and the word means rose or flower painting, but it represents a characteristic type of Norwegian folk painting. Norwegian art is essentially ornamental, never naturalistic and its ideas are charged with ancient magic. They are of practical use in the home and their bright colors make them a cheerful addition to any kitchen or room.

The ancient Scandinavian art of rosemaling ("rose designing"), can be described as a distinctive form of Norwegian art with bold flourishes and delicate scrolls in bright colors. The popular conception of the rose pattern on natural wood or white background differs from the more authentic reproduction of the art that uses colored backgrounds, including black.

Rosemaling on Serving Platter

The art of rosemaling is tedious and it is difficult to find those who will take the time the intricate work demands.

Rosemaling bears the same relation to the more formal Norwegian art that folk songs bear to the classics. It is the art of the people and that is why it has lived on for centuries.

Each piece of rosemaling is by its very nature, an original, painted in the coloring and technique of the Norse folk-artists of a century ago. and finished with layers of lacquers.

Although rosemaling means literally- rose painting, the word rose may be more freely translated as flower, and although the designs are completely imaginary, the flower motif£ is central to the decoration. Most characteristic of this painting is its use of color. Vermilion and bright blues predominate in the design to form a combination that is entirely distinctive. The artist mixes her own paints, and varnishes over the finished article to make it durable and washable.

Rosemaling on Jewelry Box

Rosemaling is a natural art; one usually has to be born with the talent for it. It most definitely is not acquired. That also is why no two people's work is alike. Each takes the design and interprets it according to his own feeling.

Rosemaling with Natural Wood Background

the highly-skilled and imaginative process of rosemaling wooden household articles and objets d'art, and will make demonstration pieces that will be of great interest to lovers of art, home crafts, and Scandinavian culture.

The articles, such as salad bowls, hors-d'oeuvre plates and jewelry boxes, are made of wood and decorated with highly imaginative designs in beautiful colors. The wooden articles which are decorated with the rosemaling process are turned out by hand, and are of pine, gum, or cotton wood. The decorating using rosemaling is often seen on a great variety of articles, plates, bread boards, vases, candleholders, coffee grinders, chests, wood platters, lamps and glassware.

You will also find huge cupboards, carved sideboards, chests and trunks painted with gold leaf and rosemaling (flower paintings) decorate the rooms of a Norwegian home. A "toten klokke" (grandfather clock) is a common item decorated in a rosemaling motif both in large and smaller forms. A gateleg table is put together with wooden pegs. Rich old woven tapestries often adorn the walls and are used as hangings and cod liver oil lamps of wrought iron provided the only lighting in the old Norwegian homes..

Rosmaling on Plate surrunding painting of Church

Also somewhat unusual and very popular are the music boxes for jewelry, handkerchiefs, etc., which are decorated with rosemaling. There are Hallingdal aprons, embroidered and with a dressy black background with a bright floral pattern of traditional Norse designs.
Textile painting is in evidence, featuring Norse rosemaling designs, many of them imported from Norway. There are place mats, cocktail napkins, luncheon sets, and the like.

And there are hand printed Christmas cards, gift enclosures, correspondence and dance cards, many of them printed using the silk screen process.

Colorful Rosemaling on large plate

The art of rosemaling appeared first in the Scandinavian countries in 1000 A. D. as a medium of artistic expression. It requires great imagination, skill and steadiness of hand. The central pattern is a stylized floral motif, marked by a high degree of symmetry and scroll work.

In Norway, the people were fond of adapting colors from the fields in autumn to the decoration of their homes. Whether :he colors were used in rosemaling or merely in coverings on davenports or pillows, it was conspicuously displayed in the homes.

The first immigrants from Norway to America came in 1825 from the port of Stavanger on the southwest coast. They were the people of the western fjord and the central mountain country which is the heart of Norway and the heart of Norwegian folk culture. It was here that folk art took root more firmly than in the coastal areas which were open to a constantly changing foreign influence.

Rosemaling Border on White

Rosemaling Border on dark background

Photographs from the Lawrence Gjenvick Collection

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