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Friday, March 5, 2010

Show & Tell Friday: Grandmother's Rosemaling

I'm linking this to Cindy's  My Romantic Home for Show and Tell Friday!

My maternal grandmother was a creative woman who enjoyed many of the same things that I do: crocheting, painting, crafts, baking.Many of the things she knew she taught my mother, who, in turn, taught me. As the mother of seven children and the wife of a farmer, I don't imagine Grandma had much time on her hands for crafts when her children were at home, but when they were grown up and gone, she undoubtedly had more leisure time to devote to crafting. One of the things she enjoyed most of all, it seems, was painting. Particularly Rosemaling, a Norwegian folk art, which originated in the eastern low-lands of Norway around 1750.

Norwegian immigrants brought the art to the United States, but as an art it began to go out of style around 1860 and did not experience a revival in popularity in the U.S.until early in the 20th century. The revival of the art in America is attributed to a man named Per Lysne, who was a native of Norway and trained in Rosemaling and who had settled in Stoughton, Wisconsin, and worked as a wagon painter. The Depression forced him to begin rosemaling again and it soon became very popular once again.

 I do not know when or where my grandmother was exposed to this art form or how her interest in it began. She did rosemaling for as long as I can remember. I remember she kept all her paints and supplies in a huge old steamer trunk that had once belonged to my great-grandfather. Curiously, my grandmother was not Norwegian at all; she was 100% Polish. She was born in Milwaukee,Wisconsin to Polish immigrants in 1920.

The wall hanging above, which seems to be a key holder, is the only piece of her rosemaling that I own. This is one of her more simple and less elaborate pieces and I recall that it hung in the kitchen of their old house on the farm. Most of the really beautiful ones, like a painted bench and headboard, are still in the possession of my grandfather ( who is still living). He also has many painted trunks,trays, plaques and tins. My grandmother also did other painting as well, mostly birds and flowers, and she preferred to use oils as her medium. She passed away from complications from lupus in 1991, and sadly, her illness had forced her to give up painting several years before that. Most people with systemic lupus also have severe skin problems, and the oil paint and fumes were very irritating to her skin.

My grandparents sold the old farm, with the big farmhouse, when I was in high school and moved to a smaller home. Many of Grandma's beautiful work was displayed in their new home, but there wasn't room for all of it and after she passed away a few years later, my Grandpa allowed the extended family to select a few pieces  from the various boxes that had been in storage. Obviously, their seven children got first dibs and what was remaining had to be divided amongst the 17 grandchildren. Some of my cousins were fairly young at the time and some of them were not interested, but there was still only precious few pieces, which is why I only got one item. I chose this one because of the light colored wood and the blue colors (my kitchen colors are blue and yellow) and because it has a "K" monogram (my grandparents' last name is Koth), which incidentally, is the initial of my first name!

Although my grandmother spoke Polish at home with her family, I was not aware that she knew Norwegian, but many of her pieces, including this one, have words on them. This one is in Norwegian; it says "Forsyn den selv", which translates roughly to "Providence, the self". Providence, of course, meaning alternatively, "divine guidance or care" and also, if capitalized, as God, more specifically, as the power guiding and sustaining human destiny.  I would venture to guess that either way, the sentiment urges  to "take care of yourself" or to let God guide and take care of you.
Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my show and tell!


Debbie@Debbie-Dabble said...

This is so pretty and what a wonderful story to go with it. I am also of Polish descent and so is my hubby. In the church I went to while growing up, they still sang the Polish Christmas carols.

Cindy ~ My Romantic Home said...

What a great story! It so nice that you have something your grandmother painted!

mary'smom said...

Your grandmother was extremely talented. My grandmother embroidered and crocheted. Her father was Ukranian and her mother Polish, and both were immigrants.

dj said...

katie.....what an interesting story about your grandmother. what a lovely painted piece you have. love the story behind it. i wonder why she chose this painting style too. i love scandinavian style. this piece is such i wonderful thing to have.


Victoria said...

What a beautiful piece. I'd never heard of rosemaling before, very interesting and how special that you have this:)