Monday, June 17, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Monday, June 17, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Christmas with Jenny Nyström – Mother of the Swedish “jultomte”

After an initial rejection by the major publishing house Bonnier, Jenny Eugenia Nyström became a prolific artist, revered especially for her Christmas-themed works. Nearly 200 years later, her art continues to evoke the traditional spirit of Christmas in Scandinavia.

Published 26 December 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Julotta - "Christmas dawn". Inset: Self-portrait

Jenny Eugenia Nyström, born on June 13 or 15, 1854, in Kalmar, Sweden, and passing away on January 17, 1946, in Stockholm, is renowned as a painter and illustrator, particularly for creating the Swedish image of the jultomte (akin to Santa Claus) on Christmas cards and magazine covers. Her artistic journey began in Gothenburg, where her family moved when she was eight.

She studied at the Kjellbergska flickskolan, followed by Göteborgs Musei-, Rit- och Målarskola (now Konsthögskolan Valand), and later at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm for eight years. Her education continued in Paris at Académie Colarossi and Académie Julian from 1882 to 1886, thanks to a scholarship​​.

Newspaper clippings in Nyström’s Paris studio.

Nyström’s career gained momentum in Paris, where she was inspired by the postcard market. Although initially rejected by the Bonniers publishing house, her illustrations accompanying famous Swedish author Viktor Rydberg’s Lille Viggs äventyr på julafton (Little Vigg’s Adventures on Christmas Eve) found success with publisher S. A. Hedlund, establishing the work as a Swedish Christmas classic. Nyström became Sweden’s most prolific painter and illustrator, with her illustrations distributed by Strålin & Persson AB in Falun​​, Dalarna.

Illustration from Viktor Rydberg’s “Little Vigg’s Adventures on Christmas Eve”.

Continuing her work, notably painting jultomtar, until her death at 91, Nyström was a national celebrity, today regarded as a national treasure. She depicted the children’s world with warmth and empathy, attributing it to her love for children and memories of a happy childhood in the idyllic town of Kalmar.

Nyström sought to give both children and adults a glimpse of the beautiful land “east of the sun and west of the moon”, a theme from the tales her mother told during her childhood in Kalmar. Her efforts were successful, evidenced by the bags of mail she received from children wanting to celebrate her on her birthday.

In her personal life, Nyström married medical student Daniel Stoopendaal in 1887. Unfortunately, due to tuberculosis, Daniel was unable to finish his studies or practice his intended profession, leaving Jenny to support the family through her artistry. They had a son, Curt Nyström Stoopendahl, born in 1893, who also became a notable postcard and poster artist, closely mirroring his mother’s style​​.

“The two of us” – A self-portrait of Jenny with her son, Curt.

Nyström’s contributions are commemorated at Kalmar läns museum in a permanent exhibition, and her works are featured at institutions like Göteborgs konstmuseum, Nationalmuseum, Länsmuseet Gävleborg, Nordiska museet in Stockholm, and Kalmar konstmuseum.

Her name lives on in Jenny Nyströmsskolan in Kalmar and Jenny Nyströms gata in Fruängen, Stockholm, honoring her as a central figure in Swedish cultural heritage and the quintessential “mother of the Swedish jultomte”.

In the course of her productive life, Jenny painted thousands of works, of which we would like to show you a small selection. We would also like to take this opportunity to wish you, dear reader, a Merry Christmas!

 

“Snöbollskrig” – Snowball fight.

 

“Jultomte” – Santa Claus.

 

“Julafton” – Christmas eve.

 

“Vinterbild” – Winter image.

 

It’s important to serve “tomtegröt” to the jultomte if you want any gifts!

 

Unknown title.

 

Self-portrait.

 

“Nyårsklockan” – New year’s bell.

For more of Jenny Nyströms art, visit the database of the Jenny Nyström and Curt Stoopendaal Foundation.

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