Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Fine Art Tuesday


Garden in Grez
Karl Fredrik Nordstrom born 1855 in Sweden. Died 1923 in Sweden.

I am drawn to the craftsmanship of the gardener portrayed in this painting.

Certain plants love heat. Vining plants like cucumbers and melons and tomatoes. Pears, peaches and even figs.

If you look carefully, you can see clips embedded in the mortar immediately beneath the eave and wires strung along the wall to support the vines.

The gardener also makes extensive use of stakes to lift plants into the sun and hold fruit off the ground.

On the Plain

Notable for the charming girl and the details of the fence. It is worth noting that the fence was made from poles too small to mill for lumber and barely large enough to be worth cutting for firewood. In other words, it is the highest value use for that kind of wood.

No, it could not physically contain a cow or a horse or a pig. But it is easy to rebuild and the animal gets the idea after it is whipped for breaking down the fence.

Vinterafton wide Rosiagstull

It is ironic that this image displays the kind of graininess one would get from taking a digital image in low light.

The houses are nestled in a slight valley to get them out of the wind.

Based on the light distribution on the tall brick building, the artist appears to be facing north and the time-day-might be early afternoon.

State-of-the-art Swedish central heating involved running the woodstove on the bottom floor and running the bare stack through an opening in the floors straight up. The openings typically had grating around them to keep toddlers from falling through. There were also large openings near the walls. Warm air rose up, parallel with the stack and then downward along the walls as it cooled. That is, convection. This system worked best with relatively tall, narrow houses.

The trees in the left foreground might be fruiting trees after pruning based on their twisted form (fruit bearing and parenthood will do that to you). They appear quite lanky and open suggesting they were pruned. They are south of the taller trees near the center of the frame so they would get maximum sunlight during the growing season. In Sweden, it is almost certain they were apple trees.

There is a hint of bushes (currents, perhaps) along the left side of the court.

The tall trees have an elm-like form and are very close together. Their purpose eludes me unless they are intended to slow down the wind when it comes from the southwest. There are shorter trees north of the tallest trees. They are stouter than the fruit trees in the foreground. 

I am sure I am missing things like cold frames for starting plants. Can M. R. Tumnus or Coyote Ken chime in.

Hat tip to Lucas Machias for calling this artist to my attention.


  1. Hard to believe these are paintings, as they look almost like photographs. That level of realism in paintings is rare, and demonstrates an equally rare talent of the painter.

    Not that anyone could ever replace ol' Remus, but you are sort of picking up the mantel, in your own way. Somebody needs to.

  2. South facing walls were the low tech green houses of the 19th century. They reflect heat and light onto the plants, and their large thermal mass keeps the frost away. You could grow a surprising variety of Mediterranean plants in northern Europe. Here's a peach orchard in suburban Paris.


  3. Picture #2 fence would contain sheep. The lambs would hop through it but wouldn't go far. Picture #3 looks to me like a 19th century mental or TB Sanitarium. The large trees with what looks like a perimeter hedge to provide outdoor time for the residents. The outbuildings for staff and cooking and maintenance.

  4. Perhaps the third pic is looking south with no windows on the north side. That puts the tall grove to the north of the yard and the foreground hill to block winter out-flow winds from the north.

    With Stockholm at 59+° (a degree farther north than Juneau Alaska) the winter sun would only get 7° above the horizon at midday on the solstice. To me those 'apple' trees look a lot like something that has survived an ice storm or silver thaw.

    We just finished an episode of Wallander, a rather dark series filmed in Sweden, and they had tall bushes of currants.

    1. It was a guess on my part, based on how bright the brick wall facing us was compared to the ones shown on the wall that was perpendicular to it and the wall much farther back.

      If anything, it might pull the time-of-day forward to late-morning as the short wall that I presume is facing south would be shaded by the perpendicular wall in the morning (if my guesses are right).

      As a matter of economy, I expect the entire building to be made from the same brick/brickyard. If there was variation, I would have expected it to show up as horizontal banding of color on the side facing us.

    2. That makes good sense. So the tree in front of the bright wall could be an espaliered apple. Still don't know why the tall grove is where it is.

    3. What I see is looking straight east with the sun low in the southwest. That illuminates the west wall of the large building and shadows the north wall and illuminates the house and the hillside in the distance above the lake. The shadows are on the left side of the buildings which is north. Street lights across the lake and on the far left are on which to me indicates night coming, not leaving. If the near side of the building were on the east side the upper side of the far north-south extension would be illuminated and the bottom of the near wall would be in shadow form the hill on which the viewer stands. But, could be any direction as far north as it is. ---ken

  5. Regarding heating, in this UP it was normal in multi story buildings to build the masonry chimney with openings on each floor to hook the wood/coal stoves into the same flue. My house chimney is that way. There are some with those Irish style, very shallow, coal/peat burning fireplaces built that way. One place with that is the Houghton County Courthouse where there are two, one in the Clerk's office and the other in the Treasurer's office that are still visible. Upstairs there were, I think, openings in the chimneys for stove pipe which were covered long ago.---ken

    1. One can often get a sense of the usual snow-load based on the pitch of the roofs. More pitch where there is more snow expected, steeper roofs more likely to shed the snow.

      Can you guestimate the pitch on the roofs of those two buildings?

    2. I looked at that and measured it with my protractor and the building in front has two pitches. Left side is about 8/12 and the right side is 12/12 approximately which also indicated to me that the front of the building is to the right and the trees are in the back yard.. As you say we think in terms of snow load here, but most old buildings in Europe that you see pictures of and the ones in Ireland that I have seen have a lot of pitch. I expect that is probably because they didn't have asphalt shingles and tar paper but wood or slate [and lead on castles and churches] which all would need at least an 8/12 pitch to shed rain well. I looked for snow drifting in the picture and didn't see any and for tree inclination but didn't see any of that either. So I donno. ---ken


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