“Getting Ready for a Game” by Carl Larsson
“Getting Ready for a Game” by Carl Larsson depicts a view of idyllic family life in an idyllic Swedish home. The table is all set, tea on one side, and the tray of drinks on the other. The room is decorated, and the lady is reaching for the monastery liqueur, which she is taking off the shelf. The two young girls are looking at us expectantly. The artist’s description of his painting in the book entitled “Larssons,” which was published in 1902 states:
“It’s terrible outdoors. The wind is whistling through the joints of the house, and the snow is not snow but sharp needles that get into the corners of one’s eyes… Just the right time for a game of “vira.”
In the background is the card table for “vira” which was an enormously popular card game invented in Sweden sometime in the 19th century. In his autobiography, Carl Larsson writes that it was his wife who gave him the idea of portraying their home in pictures. Books about the Larsson home sold many editions, and the images, such as this one, spread in popularity via reproductions. At the time, few homes throughout the world have received as much publicity as the artist’s home. For many people, Larsson’s paintings became the standard for all things Swedish.
Larsson and his wife were influenced by John Ruskin’s ideas about a more beautiful world beyond that of the mass-production. In Ruskin’s view, beauty must collaborate with function for spiritual health and joy. Karin Larsson, the artist’s wife, had received artistic training at the Academy of Fine Arts. She met Carl in Paris while he was studying there. Karin never ceased to be creative, and the house regularly changed in character to suit the shifting needs of the family.
John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron and a prominent social thinker. He wrote on many subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany, and political economy. Ruskin’s influence reached across the world.
Ruskin wrote over 250 works, initially art criticism and history, but expanding to cover topics ranging over science, literary criticism, the environmental effects of pollution, mythology, travel, political economy, and social reform. Kenneth Clark summarised some of the critical features of Ruskin’s writing on art as:
- Art is not a matter of taste but involves the whole person.
- Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity.
- Good art is done with enjoyment.
- The greatest artists have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts but about religion and the conduct of life.
Carl Olof Larsson (1853 – 1919) was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He is principally known for his depictions of idyllic family life. Larsson’s popularity increased considerably with the development of color reproduction technology in the 1890s for illustrated books.
Getting Ready for a Game
- Title: Getting Ready for a Game
- Swedish: Till en lite vira
- Artist: Carl Larsson
- Date: 1901
- Medium: Oil on Canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 680 mm (26.77 ″); Width: 920 mm (36.22 ″)
- Museum: Nationalmuseum
- Artist: Carl Olof Larsson
- Born: 1853, Stockholm, Sweden
- Died: 1919 (aged 65), Falun, Sweden
- Nationality: Swedish
- Notable works:
Explore the National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm
- “Tor’s Fight with the Giants” by Mårten Eskil Winge
- “Valdemar Atterdag holding Visby to ransom, 1361” by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist
- “Getting Ready for a Game” by Carl Larsson
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“Shared joy is a double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow.”
– Swedish Proverb
Photo Credit: Carl Larsson [Public domain]