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Rosemaling Art: A Unique Norwegian Painting Style

Rosemaling Art is originally a Norwegian painting style that has now taken over the world with renowned international artists. If you take a look at the Rosemaling Art style and the uniqueness of its aesthetics, it’s not hard to understand why this Norwegian painting style has taken the world by storm.


In this article, we dive into the origins of Rosemaling, the different Rosemaling styles, a few famous artists, and where you can view Rosemaling paintings. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the creativitity which is Rosemaling from Norway.


Rosemaling Art

What Makes Rosemaling Art So Unique?


Rosemaling art can be picked out of a line-up with its distinct characteristics. It’s categorized as folk art and was inspired by the Rococco art style. Rosemaling usually incorporates a lot of floral designs (Rosemaling literally translates to rose painting), flowing lines, and has a lot of detail with intricate curves and curls.


Many of the Rosemaling patterns and designs are symmetrical with bold colors, although more earthy, natural colors have also been known to be used. Many artists opted to use the colors of the traditional dress of the local community in their work.


The History of Rosemaling Art


Rosemaling started in the 1700s as a form of decorative folk art. Although it originated from the eastern lowlands of Norway, the artists tended to travel around in search of work. This could include decorating furniture, private homes, or public places such as churches. To this day, you’ll find many examples of their work still adorning pulpits and altars.


Rosemaling became so ingrained in Norwegian culture that it even played a big part in Norway's patriotism (and rebellion) in WWII. After the invasion of Norway, the Norwegian flag, as well as the State Coat of Arms, were banned by the Nazis. So, Norwegians started to incorporate the Royal Cypher (an H and a 7) into their Rosemaling designs, symbolizing their support for their exiled king.


The German forces never noticed, and it’s an almost comical thought that some occupying Nazis might have had these very symbols of defiance against the party openly displayed in their homes.


As is the case with most art forms, Rosemaling evolved with some adding their own flare to it, and soon there were three very distinctive “niches” within Rosemaling.


Rosemaling Art in Norway

Rosemaling Goes Global


In the 20th century, there was a mass immigration movement from Norway to the US. The few possessions these Norwegian immigrants had was packed in Rosemaling decorated trunks which they traveled abroad with.


Soon, these designs and patterns were picked up by Americans, and a few local artists started using them in their own artwork. Rosemaling’s popularity simply grew over time, and the art style could soon be found countrywide, from where it then went on to inspire the rest of the world.


The Different Rosemaling Styles


Although artists will always give a bit of their own uniqueness and flavor to their art, Rosemaling works tend to always fall into one of the following three Rosemaling styles (mostly location-based):


Telemark from Central Southern Norway


Telemark Rosemaling patterns are usually asymmetrical, with the predominant colors used being Prussian Blue and Oxide Red, while the features remain the typical flowery and flowing designs. The only difference here tends to be that the flowers appear more realistic, with many designs where one can actually identify the specific flowers.


Hallingdal from the Eastern Portion of Norway


Hallingdal Rosemaling patterns are usually symmetrical, with features that are a bit more elaborate while still keeping to the typical flowery and flowing designs. Most Hallingdal designs have flowers, leaves, and scrolls and incorporate some geometric elements.


Rogaland from the Southwest Corner of Norway


Rogaland Rosemaling patterns are usually symmetrical, with the predominant colors being blue, white, and black backgrounds while still keeping to the typical flowery and flowing designs.


Rosemaling

Where to View Rosemaling Art


You’ll be sure to find plenty of Rosemaling-inspired art in the galleries and souvenir shops of Norway, but the following sites are not to be missed during your Norwegian travels:


The Heddal Open-air Museum in Telemark


At the Heddal Open-air Museum, you will find a preserved Rambergstugo building, where the inside of the house looks more like a piece of art than a residence. The entire inside of the house is covered with the most beautiful Rosemaling, from the furniture to the walls to the ceiling. This is the incredible handiwork of Olav Hansson, who painted the house in 1784, and it is sure to have you question your own interior decorating back home.


The Norsk Folkemuseum (aka Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)


At the Norsk Folkemuseum, an open air museum in the capital city of Oslo, you will find over 160 buildings showcasing all sorts of architectural gems and interesting artifacts, including original Rosemaling pieces in their Folk Art Exhibit.


A Few Famous Rosemaling Artists


The following are a few famous Rosemaling artists, past and present:


  • Eldrid Skjold Arntzen, a Rosemaler from the US. She won the Gold Medal for Rosemaling in 1987, the highest recognition one can receive for this art form in the US, and had many trips between Norway and the US to both train and teach. Eldrid passed away in 2023.

  • Ken Magnusson, a Rosemaler from the US. If one sees some of his artwork, it’s unbelievable to think that he only really kickstarted his Rosemaling career after retiring.

  • Nils Ellingsgard, a Rosemaler from Norway. Nils was a historian and decorative painter of Rosemaling almost by birthright, having been born in Hallingdal. Nils passed away in 2021.

  • Andrea Herkert, a Rosemaler from the US. She has gone to Norway many times to improve her skills and gain further knowledge. The fact that she still has such a hunger for learning is hard to imagine since many other Rosemalers look to this passionate and skillful artist for their own teaching.


Rosemaling in Norway

Norsk Rosemaling: a Norwegian Art Form that Took the World by Storm


Today, many practice Norwegian Rosemaling across the world, especially the descendants of immigrants to the US. If you are planning a trip to the Rosemaling country of origin soon, we recommend renting a motorhome in Norway.


This will not only make your travels much more convenient and affordable, but it will allow you to take a little road trip to the above-mentioned Rosemaling “hot spots”. And, who knows, you could be so inspired that it might just be the beginning of a new rising Rosemaling star. 


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