Kidís Corner

Rosemaling

by: Irene Davis

Did you know rosemaling means "rose" or "flower" painting? This month I am writing about Rosemaling, a Norwegian decorative painting.

Rosemaling is the decorative painting of Norway. It began in the low-lands of eastern Norway around 1750, when upper class artistic styles such as baroque, Regency and Rococo were introduced to the rural part of Norway.

At first Norwegian painters followed the European styles closely. These rosemaling designs use strokes C and S and feature scroll and flowing lines, floral designs, and many colors. Script lettering, scenes and figures may also be included.

People who rosemaled for a living would not have been poor landowners, but fairly wealthy city dwellers. After being trained, the rosemaler would travel from town to town, painting churches and/or homes of the wealthy. They would get paid in either money or free room and board. Thus rosemaling was carried over the mountains and westward. Once farther away from the influence of the instructors, these artists tried new ideas and designs. Soon regional styles developed. However, as time progressed, the Telemark and Hallingdal valleys became known for their fine rosemaling.

The rural folk would often imitate this folk art. However, the amateur became spontaneous and expressive in the work on smaller objects, such as drinking vessels and boxes.

Rosemaling continued to head westward and found its way to America! Rosemaling was well established where many Norwegian emigrants settled. Travelers packed beautifully rosemaled trunks to make the journey across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, rosemaling went out of style around 1860-1870.

Rosemaling revived in America in the 20th century when Norwegian-Americans took attention to the trunks and other objects brought to America by their ancestors. Per Lysne, who was born in Norway, learned how to rosemal and is credited with inspiring the revival. When business slowed during the Great Depression, he began to rosemal again. Other Norwegian-Americans observed Perís work and American rosemaling was born.

Today Norwegian rosemaling is taught in many areas of the U.S. The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, is known for itís large collection of both Norwegian and American rosemaled objects.