Introduction to Rosemaling

Rosemaling is decorative folk painting from Norway.  On Tuesday, November 18th, we gathered to explore this old and declining art form that was prevalent in Scandinavia and brought to America with Scandinavian immigrants.  The word Rosemaling has its origin in Norwegian dialects and actually means decorative painting.  The flower like clusters were called roses, or "rosur."  It flourished at its peak from about 1780 to 1850.  Country painters took inspiration from church art, city crafts, from illustrated broadsheets, traditional patterns, cast iron stove panels and faience.  They didn't copy, as city painters were taught to do.  They used what they found according to their own fantasy and premises.  Often we see elements from different styles side by side and blended in with purely imaginative flowers.  In this way it became a spontaneous and individual form of expression.

 Rosemaling was practiced over most of Norway.  In particular, it bloomed in the valleys east and south of Langfjella.  Here it was normal to decorate walls and ceilings in living rooms, not just chests, furniture, drinking vessels and ornamental items.  The artists were often wandering crafts-people who carried their "roses" from their homes and found new ones along the way.  This blending of artistic traditions can be seen most often in western Norway.  Around 1860 the peak period ended. The reasons for this are many and complicated, but they are primarily connected to the rise of the industrial era.  In particular the use of color was less sure, with too many colors and nuances used in the decoration.  It didn't help matters that so many new, synthetic, coloring products appeared on the market.

By the 1880's rosemaling was out of favor in most areas.  It was replaced by the golden brown wall paint that was meant to imitate oak, mahogany and other fashionable woods.  Rosemaling's classic period ended as the old rural-based society also ended.  Then came the turn of the century with its neo-romanticism and nationalistic trends.  The old crafts awakened to new life, and in this entire century, rosemaling has existed amid shifting conditions.  In particular, it became especially popular after 1950.  This must be seen as a healthy reaction to standardization and mass production.  If rosemaling is to have a future, emphasis must be placed upon free fantasy, carefully taught techniques and the harmonious use of color.  {taken from Rosemaling-Decorative Painting from Norway by Bjorg Oseid Kleivi}



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