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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, rosmålning[1] or kurbits[2] are the names of a traditional form of decorative folk art that originated in Scandinavia. Rosemåling is a style of Norwegian decorative painting on wood that uses stylized flower ornamentation, predominantly primary and secondary colors, scrollwork, lining and geometric elements, often in flowing patterns. Landscape and architectural elements are also common. Many other decorative painting techniques were used such as glazing, spattering, marbleizing, manipulating the paint with the fingers or other objects.


Norwegian for "decorative 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.

History in Norway[edit]

Rosemåling in Norway originated in the low-land areas of eastern Norway particularly in the Telemark and Hallingdal, but also in Numedal and Setesdal and in other valleys in Vest-Agder, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Rogaland. It came into existence around 1750, when Baroque and Rococo, artistic styles of the upper class, were introduced into Norway's rural culture.[3]

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.[4]

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]

History in Sweden[edit]

Decorative painting was also common in rural Sweden (Swedish: rosmålning) where it is also[1] called kurbitsmålning[2] or simply kurbits, where kurbits refers to depictions of Cucurbita. As with its Norwegian counterpart, it was most popular from the latter half of the 18th century[5] and until the 1860s.[3]

History in America[edit]

Norwegian immigrants brought the art of Rosemåling to the United States. American Rosemåling developed little in the 20th century, going out of style starting in 1860.[6]

The artform experienced a revival in the 20th century as Norwegian-Americans became interested in the Rosemåling-decorated possessions of their ancestors. A prominent artist during this period was Per Lysne, who was born in Norway and trained in the craft.[7][8]



  1. ^ a b "Likheter och olikheter: En exkursion genom tre län och fyra landskap i gränstrakterna Jämtland, Härjedalen, Dalarna och Värmland" [Similarities and differences: An excursion through three counties and four provinces in the border areas Jämtland, Härjedalen, Dalarna and Värmland]. (in Norwegian). October 2005. p. 17. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Folk Art and Folklore in Sweden". Dala Folk Art.
  3. ^ a b "History of Rosemaling". Illinois Norsk Rosemalers Association. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Schreurs, Olav. "Velkommen til rosemalingens hjemmeside". Universitetet i Oslo (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  5. ^ Lammers, Viveca (20 February 2012). "Swedish kurbits paintings". Swedish Dala Paintings.
  6. ^ "The Norwegian Art of Rosemaling". Sons of Norway Atlanta Lodge. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
  7. ^ Nelson, Emily (20 October 2014). "The art of rosemaling". Recollection Wisconsin.
  8. ^ Keune, Christina. "What is Norwegian Rosemaling?". Rosemaling by Christina.

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]