translated by B.J.Epstein
The Swedish Artist Berta Hansson
The concept of this illustrated children’s book really appealed to me. It’s inspired and based on the childhood of the Swedish artist Berta Hansson (1910-1994) during the period in her life when she was 12 years old and wanted to be outdoors in nature or painting or making birds out of clay.
However, her father was strict and serious and her mother was frail and in bed very ill, so she was needed to help out in the home and on the farm, and all the more so when one of her older sisters was sent away to study domestic science, to learn how to become a better homemaker.
She initiates a form of protest.
That’s what Dad wants us to be –
Julia, Gunna and me –
because that’s how it’s always been
and that’s how it’s going to be.
A Role Model or a Muse
Berta wanted something else for her life, but had no role model or knowledge of how to make her dreams a reality. Her Uncle Johan whom she secretly admired, painted with oil paints and made fiddles instead of spending all his time on farm work, sadly he was looked down on and derided, referred to as the ‘theatre farmer‘.
Sometimes late at night she would sneak out and wander over to a copse of trees by the Doctor’s house, one of the few people who had ever complimented her art.
I peer in.
He sits in the armchair,
reading and smoking his pipe.
If he saw me, I would die.
Paintings hang on his walls from the floor to the ceiling.
They are so beautiful.
I can’t stop looking at them.
To think that someone has painted them.
It is a story of family and obligations, and of the longing a child has for something that is difficult to articulate or express in words, little understood by the world of adults who harbour expectations.
How to sustain and realise dreams when the way is not clear.
It’s a celebration of the exploration of art and observation in youth and of the struggle against the familial and cultural conditioning and expectations of girls.
A beautiful and thought provoking book for all ages.
You can find a copy of the book here.