From quite rudimentary
beginnings in the woodcarvings motifs and religious
art of the Middle Ages, Rosemaling emerged in Norway during the
Renaissance and Baroque periods of 1550
–1700, primarily as stylized plant motifs and acanthus scrolls in larger churches. International trends in
religious art filtered slowly into the rural areas of
Between 1700 -1850, lavishly
painted objects were often seen as status symbols in
Well-to-do farmers and Government officials had their homes decorated according to international trends established by the fashion- conscious, upper middle classes.
However, Rose-painters were not always quick to abandon the older styles and patterns, and in rural districts, motifs from a particular style continued in use, often after they had become unfashionable with the urban elites. Today it is even possible to identify the origins of a piece of Rosemaling based solely on the design itself.
As the twentieth century
approached, Rosemaling declined in popularity and it was only the
political situation in
opportunity to see the rich heritage of
You can reach
Travelling firstly through
picturesque wooded farmland dotted with lakes and red barns on the
Swedish east coast, one reaches
A Telemark cottage, especially commissioned by a farm owner to
accommodate a V.I.P. guest, in 1800, is completely adorned with the rich
scrolls of Telemark Rosemaling on the ceiling, walls, and the
Like the Uvdal and
If the weather turns nasty, the Folkemuseum has an indoor exhibition that will keep a Folk artist’s jaw well and truly hung open. Documenting the evolution of Rosemaling as an art form, this exhibit contains many historic examples of the different styles, such as hutches and turned bowls from the Hallingdal valley, hanging cupboards from Telemark, as well as mangle-boards and tankards from Valdres and other districts.
The pieces are very old, and the artist’s palette was obviously limited to the pigments available in rural areas. Despite this, the old masters were able to achieve stunning colour harmony and magnificence in their work. Don’t miss the splendid trunk from Romsdal dating from 1834, as well as ale dippers, and pretty “sending baskets” (used in olden times for carrying a food hamper to a neighbour who had fallen ill) which are decorated in Vest Agder and Os Rosemaling.
“Os” style is distinguished by strong bright florals on white, red or black backgrounds, accompanied by leaves with visible veins. Occasionally houses or churches are used as focal points in Os, whilst objects painted in Vest-Agder style are geometric patterns with symmetry. The teardrop details complement the floral motifs, but the leaves are painted in the simple technique of each half a different colour.
* HUSFLIDEN (Norwegian handicrafts)
If you are enthralled with
what you have seen at Bygdøy museum, go to the Husfliden (traditional
handicrafts) store in
pieces, already painted in Rosemaling, are offered for sale. some of
these are specifically produced for the tourist market, but if you want
something special, contact the Rosemaling artists in
If that is still not enough
to satisfy the artist in you, step back in time by driving south east
from Oslo, to Fredrikstad. For many years, this medieval fortress housed
the Danish and Norwegian armies and is well preserved with bastions,
rampart gateways, trenches, and even a 1667 drawbridge still intact.
Moreover, at the small museum in the
Bjørn Pettersen is a Telemark Rosemaler, and his works are painted in oils and varnished. Here he is painting a traditional kubbestol in the Telemark style. Here you see his work.
Antiquing patina, sometimes
popular on traditional pieces in
My budget extended to a turned bowl, beautifully painted with the words:
“Den som vil kliva kvar den klett, skal ikkje undrast um han stundom dett” which was translated to me as: “He who sleeps in ‘til the sun is on his belly, will have a mountain to climb for the rest of the day.” This reminded me of my teenage sons and their fondness for sleeping in!! The base of the bowl has an interesting faux finish that Bjørn explained, had been dabbed on with kitchen paper and paint thinned to the point of transparency.
Another saying was delicately painted on a frame: “Lykke hu rømer frå mannen som krev men fytter med rikdom den handi i som give, which is a rhyme but means - The happiness will run away from you if you demand things from others, but will fill you with riches, if you hand is open and you are giving.
GAMLEBYEN Dragging myself away from the
exhibition, I realized
there is much more to inspire an artist in the
colours of the town
itself. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the star shaped moat,
Church green and brightly painted wooden houses lining cobblestone
streets, the Gamlebyen (or
If luck is on your side, you might catch a glimpse, as I did, of wedding guests wearing their folk costume.
The Bunad is comprised of a woollen skirt or trousers, with a richly embroidered blouse and vest, and like Rosemaling, each district has its own style.
It was easy to imagine what life was like for the early painters in Fredriktad as on special occasions, a historic society will re-enact the battle of 1704. Peasants and Norwegian soldiers in full period costume march into a mock battle, with bayonets fixed, bugles sounding and drums beating the march.
Whilst I was there, I also spotted the intriguing Infanterikasermen, or Calendar House, which is a wonder of military architecture from 1788. Constructed as Infantry Barracks, the building comprises 52 rooms representing each week in the calendar year, 12 chimneys for each month, 365 windows for each day, and 24 panes of glass in each window, representing the hours in a day, even 60 doors for the minutes in every hour. The military have since moved out and a school occupies the building.
Amanda McLaughlin copyright
Links pertaining to the content of this article:
Rogaland style of Rosemaling. A
design by an Australian artist, Jo Cavanagh that I painted in 2003.
- a Nancy Morgan design I painted in 2009.
Learn more about the fantastic Rosemaling heritage of Norway in an article about my travels: