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IT does not often fall to tants of the singularly bleak and rocky
the lot of artist coast region of Jædern. As a romping, unanimously to be ac romance-loving little maid of viking blood knowledged preëminent she listened eagerly to the sagas of the in the field chosen, but past, told her by old cronies among the this honor is conceded crags of her wild native coast. With the to Fru Frida Hansen, advancing years her interest in things
of Christiania, Norway. ancient increased, and, having finished the To obtain an idea by what means she has studies demanded of all young women of gained international fame as an epoch- her class, she decided to endeavor to recreator in the realms of art tapestries, a vive an art which, once flourishing in her few retrospective lines are necessary. native land, now had almost totally dis
Fru Frida Hansen comes from an old appeared. merchant family of Stavanger, the ances The art of pictorial weaving was known try of which is traced to the earliest habi in Norway even in pagan times, and the
ancient chroniclers relate that at the intro- her technic, Fru Hansen visited the prinduction of Christianity, about the tenth cipal continental art centers, only to come century, it was the custom on solemn back more than ever convinced that she occasions to hang the vast festal halls was destined to become the recreator of with wonderful specimens of tapestries, this well-nigh forgotten art, once the generally illustrating some valiant deed pride of Norway. One of the principal of the Viking-chief host. One of the most obstacles in the way to her success was the curious and best-preserved specimens question of colors. None of the modern dates from the twelfth century, and is dyestuffs gave satisfaction either in brilexhibited in the Museum of Industrial liancy or permanency to be compared Art in Christiania, among a collection of with those of the ancient, which even after others, none of later date than the seven- centuries retained an incomparable luster teenth century. With this invaluable col- and distinctness of shading. After havlection at hand, and possessing some minor ing tried in vain to get satisfactory results sperimens among the family heirlooms, from colors and materials ordinarily used she began an earnest study of the curious in tapestries, Fru Hansen decided to disarchaical treatment of motive and the cover, if possible, some old formulæ for remarkable combination of colors in which the dyeing of the wool. This was a far these old artisans excelled.
more serious undertaking than she had Before attempting any really serious expected. Wherever she had been told work and to perfect herself thoroughly in that a family possessed the searched-for secret, the oldest member replied to her loom in an old out-of-the-way farm house. query, that oldemor (great-grandmother) Fru Hansen lost no time but at once set had known, but that was generations ago. out for Gudbrandsdalen, where, to her Nothing daunted, she kept up her travels great joy, she found, in an almost perfect among the remote mountain villages, and state, a loom. of the like of which she had
THE FAIRY PALACE The maiden, searching for the fairy castle, asks the Northwind to carry her thither. Almost exhausted after his long
flight, he sinks into the water within reach of the shore
IN THE GARDEN OF ROSES
at last her efforts were crowned with suc- not even dared dream. Neither its enorcess. In Sogn she found an aged woman mous size nor its peculiar form was in any who not only had some of these old price- way similar to those in ordinary use less formulæ, but was familiar with the to-day. It must have been on such a loom old-fashioned method of weaving, though that Queen Astrid and her maids had too feeble to practice it. As the result of woven the tapestries with which the saga these researches she established, in 1889, tells us she decked her halls when she the first Norwegian dyehouse where vege- received the carved, runic budstikke, saytable dyes were exclusively used.
ing that King Olaf would visit her. Almost simultaneously she received Years had been devoted by Fru Hanword that a friend of hers, an antiquarian, sen to overcoming the many various obhad discovered a most marvelous ancient stacles to success, but she conquered all by
a tenacity of purpose and perseverance are extremely fresh and vivid, yet never that gained for her the gratitude and offensive. Their clarity and the totally honor of her native land and international unexpected combination of shades are but fame. A true artist, she refrained from a reflection of the marvelous vibratory exhibiting any of her work till she herself luminosity of the northern atmosphere. was satisfied that her own severe criticism The other striking feature is the very had found it worthy. Her first notable remarkable
remarkable sense of appreciation for work was exhibited in Christiania and decorative effect with which they are desold the first day it was shown. Curiously signed. enough this tapestry, called “Mermaids Most all Scandinavian artists are fond Lighting the Moon, gives in a measure of detail almost to a fault, but here we the keynote to all Fru Hansen's subse have a perfection of detail and withal a quent efforts.
sweeping, exhilarating broadness of exeAll her works show in their motives a cution and a Rubenesque richness of depth of poetic feeling in which there is palette which both charms and astonishes. blended a strong yet melancholy mysti. There is distinct individualism and charcism with a spiritual fervor that one only acter in Fru Hansen's creations, and while finds among the people of the Far North. she has been and remains an ardent adThere are two peculiarities that are par- mirer of the ancient tapestries, she has ticularly striking in these modern Norwe not permitted herself to copy slavishly. gian tapestries. First, the colors, which She has inventel what is now called the
"transparent method” in weaving by “And they shall be lights in the firmawhich she obtains some singularly beauti- ment of the heavens to give light to the ful effects.
earth. And it was so. As a specimen It was during the international exposi- of decorative art it left nothing to be tion in Paris, 1900, that Fru Hansen desired; it now belongs to the Staats became famous, and it is but just to say
Museum of Hamburg. that this fame has increased year after It goes without saying that Fru Hanyear. In my capacity as juror-expert of sen during the past years has reaped a the industrial arts at this exposition, my well-earned reward for her work, in relations with the jurors from all coun- always being adjudged the highest honors tries were quite intimate and it was very in her class of exhibits, and from the interesting to listen to their comments on pecuniary benefit derived from the sale the exhibit of the modern Norwegian of her works. She is now represented in tapestries. The French, German and almost all of the leading museums in Italian representatives were perhaps the Europe. Among the very latest examples most enthusiastic in their praise and all of her art are “In the Garden of Roses, agreed that this was a distinct and most “The Fairy Palace," and
Palace,” and “Semper happy departure from the up to that time Vadentes”; these were exhibited in the prevalent styles. The French connois- last Salon. In these three she again seurs, accustomed to the productions of shows her masterful blending of color the far-famed national manufactory of somewhat tempered by the introduction the Gobelins, which, through an excess of of neutral tints. technical perfection in color schemes and Of the three, “In the Garden of Roses" elaboration of detail, have degenerated was admired by a great many and even into a well-nigh hybrid sort of painting, the artist holds it in high esteem, but I hailed with delight the creations of this confess that to me it is not nearly so satisremarkable woman.
fying as are the two others or some of her The principal pieces exhibited at that earlier works. It lacks that peculiar time by Fru Hansen were “The Five vitality which is one of her chief charms, Wise and the Five Foolish Virgins, the composition is elegiac with a touch of “The Dance of Salome," and "The Milky pre-Raphaelism, and with its exquisite Way." The latter was by far the one though rather cloying colors, suggests the which received the most attention, both beautiful verses of “The Nightingale and from its commanding size and from the the Rose,” by a late erratic genius. wonderful treatment of the theme. The Totally different in character is “The composition as a whole is very impressive Fairy Palace.” Here we see the artist in its gracious simplicity, and the color in one of her happiest moods. The motive arrangement is so subtle in its richness for this tapestry is taken from Asbjörnthat one really does not know what to sen's charming fairy-tale, “Eastward say. In the depth of the azure heavens, from the Sun and Westward from the some maidens in diaphanous drapery, Moon.” The simple and poor little servtheir foreheads encircled with starry dia- ing maid, in eager search for the fairy dems, slowly tread their silent path, castle, goes to the wild and boisterous gracefully bearing aloft the filmy meshes Northwind and beseeches him to show her of a broad veil strewn with myriads of the way thither.
the way thither. He first gruftly refuses stars. The charmingly sad naïveté of but finally consents to take her on his their poise and expression recall Heine's back. High through the air he rushes lines:
with the tiny maid clinging in terror to Stars with golden feet are wand'ring
his back. Over moor and fen, over crag Yonder, and they gently weep
and dale, goes the wild flight; onward and That they can not earth awaken
upward, out over the fjords, out toward Who in night's arms is asleep.
the great, great sea, sweeps the NorthAn interesting bit of detail is that in wind, till finally, almost exhausted, he the seemingly confused mass of stars, the sinks into the waters within reach of the constellations are correctly traced. In shore on which gleam the turrets of the the border, woven in large Hebrew char- wonderful fairy castle wherein lives the