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Rosemåling in Uvdal Stave church in Buskerud county, Norway
Rosemåling decorated with floral paintings in a traditional design
Rosemåling in Uvdal Stave church in Buskerud county, Norway

Rosemåling, rosemaling is Norway's decorative folk painting that flourished in the 1700s to the mid-1850s.[1] Norwegian rosemaling was used to decorate church walls and ceilings. It then spread to wooden items commonly used in daily life, such as ale bowls, stools, chairs, cupboards, boxes, and trunks. Using stylized ornamentation made up of fantasy flowers, scrollwork, fine line work, flowing patterns and sometimes geometric elements give rosemaling its unique feel. Some paintings may include landscapes and architectural elements. Rosemaling also utilizes other decorative painting techniques such as glazing, spattering, marbleizing, manipulating the paint with the fingers or other objects. Regional styles of rosemaling developed within Norway. Some regional styles varied only slightly from others, while others may be noticeably distinct.[2]

Sweden developed its own decorative artform called Dalamalning and Kurbitsmalning (Kurbits).[3]


Norwegian for "ros painting", (applied decoration or embellishment, decorative, decorated [rosut, rosute, rosete, rosa] and "å måle, å male" to paint). "Rose" can be interpreted as a reference to the rose flower, but the floral elements are often so stylized that no specific flower is identifiable, and are absent in some designs.[4]

History in Norway[edit]

Rosemåling in Norway originated in the low-land areas of eastern Norway particularly in the Telemark, Hallingdal, Numedal, Setesdal, Valdres, Gudbrandsdalen and in other valleys in Vest-Agder, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Rogaland. It came into existence in the early 1700's, when Baroque and Rococo artistic styles of the upper class, were introduced into Norway's rural culture. Rosemaling's popularity declined by the mid-1800s.

Rosemåling designs use C and S strokes and feature scroll and flowing lines, floral designs, and both subtle and vibrant colors. Script lettering, scenes, animal and human figures may also be included. Artists who specialized in rosemåling often came from poorer classes in the countryside. They would travel from county to county painting churches, homes and furnishings for a commission of either money or merely room and board. Thus rosemåling was carried over the mountains and toward Norway's western coast. Once farther away from the influence of the painters' guild, these artists tried new ideas and motifs. Rosemåling became widespread as amateur artists in rural areas often imitated this folk art. Soon strong regional styles developed and today the three main styles are Telemark, Hallingdal and Rogaland, named after the regions in which each originated.[5]

Rosemåling is, in a sense, the two-dimensional counterpart of acanthus carving, since it is clear that the C and S curves in rosemåling take their inspiration from the acanthus carvings of Baroque and Rococo art and the acanthus carvings in the rural churches (e.g., the altar reredoses and pulpits) and homes (e.g., cupboards) were painted in the same bright colors as used in rosemåling. While in the cities these acanthus carvings were generally gilt, the rural artisans did not have ready access to gold leaf as their urban counterparts and so painted their carvings in the bright colors popular in rural communities (e.g., Norwegian rural dress, Cf. bunad). Like rosemåling, acanthus carving has had a cultural revival in recent times as both a means of interior design (e.g., on furniture, picture frames, door and window frames, etc.) and as a personal hobby, although most modern day acanthus carving is left unpainted and unvarnished.

An anecdote about the Nazi occupation of Norway (1940–1945) is that at a time when the public display of the Norwegian flag or the State Coat of Arms could bring imprisonment or even death, the Norwegians discovered that they could display the 'H' overlapping the '7' of the Royal cypher of their exiled king, Haakon VII, at the center of a rosemåling design without the German occupation forces seeing anything but a colorful peasant design. Christmas cards with the Royal cypher at the center of a rosemåling design were especially popular; many have survived and their history documented.[citation needed]

Rosemaling is a Norwegian decorative art form, while Dalamalning and Kurbitsmalning are Swedish.

History in Sweden, see Kurbits[edit]

Decorative painting was also common in rural Sweden and called Kurbits (kurbitsmålning), and Dalamåling (Dalamålning). [6] As with its Norwegian counterpart, it was most popular from the latter half of the 18th century. [7] [8]

History in America[edit]

Norwegian immigrants brought the art of Rosemåling to the United States. The artform experienced a revival in the 20th century as Norwegian-Americans became interested in the Rosemåling-decorated possessions of their ancestors. The prominent rosemaling artist Per Lysne, who was born in Norway and emigrated to Wisconsin, was trained in the craft. Lynse is often considered the father of rosemaling in the U.S. [9] This revival began reaching its peak in the 1960's and continued through the 1980's. Still today, rosemaling classes can be found taught throughout the U.S., especially in areas of the country where Norwegians settled.[10]



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  5. ^ Schreurs, Olav. "Velkommen til rosemalingens hjemmeside". Universitetet i Oslo (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
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  7. ^ "Swedish kurbits paintings".
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Other sources[edit]

  • Blanck, Helen Elizabeth (1975) Rosemaling : the beautiful Norwegian art (Saint Paul, MN: Woodland Park Fine Arts) ISBN 978-1932043082
  • Edwards, Diane (1994) Design basics for Telemark rosemaling (Alamosa, CO: Diane Edwards and W.B. Brown) ISBN 978-1463734756
  • Edwards, Sybil (1994) Decorative folk art: exciting techniques to transform everyday objects (London: David & Charles) ISBN 978-0715307847
  • Ellingsgard, Nils (1993) Norwegian rose painting in America : what the immigrants brought (Oslo: Aschehoug AS) ISBN 978-8200218616
  • Martin, Philip (1989) Rosemaling in the Upper Midwest : a story of region & revival (Mount Horeb, Wis: Wisconsin Folk Museum) ISBN 978-0962436901
  • Miller, Margaret M.; Sigmund Aarseth (1974) Norwegian rosemaling : decorative painting on wood (New York City: Scribners) ISBN 978-0684167435

Related Reading[edit]

  • Bergan, Donna; Linda Alexander (1985) Rosemaling patterns for Christmas tree ornaments / contribution from American rosemalers (Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum)
  • Oram, Gayle M. (2001) Rosemaling Styles and Study, Volume 2 (Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum)

External links[edit]