Carl Olof Larsson was born in May 1853, in Stockholm, Sweden. He lived a harsh childhood, as his parents were extremely poor, occasionally living with three families in a room. However, when he was thirteen and studying in a poverty-stricken school, his teacher urged young Larsson to apply to the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, where he was promptly admitted.
During his first years at the Academy, he felt confused, dislocated, and socially inferior. Larsson was then promoted to the Academy’s antique school, where he developed his confidence and would even become a central figure in his student life. The young artist even won a medal for a nude drawing. In the meantime, Larsson would work as a caricaturist and graphic artist to local papers. His annual earning was enough to help his parents financially.
In 1877, Larsson moved to Paris, where he would spend several frustrating hardworking years without any success. He was not interested in establishing contact with the French Impressionists, choosing to cut himself from the radical movement of change, along with other Swedish artists. After he spent two summers in Barbizon, a known refuge of plein-air painters, Larsson would settle at a Scandinavian artists’ colony outside the city of Paris. Where he met the fellow painter and his future wife, Karin Bergöö, with whom he had eight children. This was a turning point in the artist’s life. In Grez, Larsson produced some of his most important artworks, which was now made in watercolor and rather different from his previous oil painting technique. His family became his favorite model. Several of the interiors depicted in his paintings were made by Karin, who was also an interior designer.
In 1888, Karin’s father gave the family a small house in Falun, named Little Hyttnäs. Carl and Karin would furnish and decorate according to their keen and particular artistic taste. This would turn their house in the future’s most famous artist’s home in the world, even becoming a major line in Swedish interior design.Larsson, in his late years, produced what is sometimes regarded as Sween’s most controversial painting, the Midvinterblot, or Midwinter Sacrifice, part of a major decoration Larsson made for the Nationalmuseum. The painting depicts a scene from a legend from Norse mythology, where the Swedish king Domalde is sacrificed in order to avert famine, the painting was initially rejected and was later placed where the artist intended.