I’ve had a lot of fun researching my #Blogmas posts this past week. I had to hit the ground running as it was a spur of the moment decision to participate and I had no planned posts! My first port of call was to Wikimedia Commons, a site I use for free photos when I haven’t taken my own snaps to illustrate a blog post. These pictures are usually in the public domain.
I was inspired to search for Christmas cards as I knew I had photographs to share of my great grandmother’s Christmas card that my grandfather sent from the battlefields of World War One. I’ve written about antique postcards a few times on my blog and they are usually well received and fun to write pieces. I anticipated that Christmas card/postcard articles could be a running theme throughout #Blogmas.
And so to today’s selection. I’ve chosen a gorgeous collection of Christmas images from prolific Swedish artist Jenny Nyström (1854 – 1946). Frequently represented in her artwork is the image of a gnome-like character, the jultomte, from Swedish folklore.
The example above shows an earlier representation of Nyström’s tomte, they’re slimmer and more gnome-like than the rotund image of Father Christmas. Her humour shows through as the hapless group chase a runaway sow and her piglets. Pigs are a popular symbol in Scandinavia and it is believed to be because they epitomise fertility and are guardians of the homestead.
There are similar manifestations of mythological people across Scandinavian culture. The jultomte (or tomte, tomtar if plural) has merged into a Father Christmas/Santa Claus character, whilst retaining the elements of his Scandinavian background. Traditionally, the tomte, along with his side-kick a julbocken (yule goat) will deliver presents on the night of Christmas Eve.
It is traditional to leave tomtar bowls of warming porridge served with butter as thanks for the gifts they deliver. Not quite the British glass of sherry and mince pie, but in snowier climes, porridge will do the trick!
Jenny Nyström was born in Kalmar, Sweden and moved to Gothenburg with her family in 1863. In 1869, she began studying at the Gothenburg Museum Art School and it was her tutor here that inspired her to paint pictures of the fabled tomte. In 1873 Nyström began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts Stockholm and in November 1882 she travelled to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Colarossi.
In 1887, after her studies, she settled in Sweden and married Daniel Stoopendaal, at the time he was a medical student. Sadly, he developed tuberculosis and was unable to finish his studies. Her talent as an artist and illustrator was used to support him and their son, Curt. She illustrated children’s books and historical novels, magazine covers, newspaper articles and was also contracted to produce greetings cards.
All images from Wikimedia Commons