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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home:

European cultures and the people that emigrated

looking for a better life in a continent across the Atlantic

Norwegian/Scandinavian Dakotan

Art Expressions of their people

Norwegian Art of Rosemaling

Rosemaling (“rose painting” or “decorative painting”) is a traditional folk painting developed in the 1700s in the valleys of Norway. The three main styles are Telemark, Hallingdal and Rogaland, named for the regions where they formed. The painters were often poor and traveled between counties, painting churches, rooms in houses and furniture. While the original style focused on flower motifs and geometric shapes, people also incorporated people and animals, landscapes and biblical scenes.

Rosemaling is a relatively young form of folk art, developing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was influenced by other popular European art styles of the time, including Baroque, Regency and Rococo, which is evident in the paintings’ colours and use of “S” and “C” curves. The origins of rosemaling motifs stem from earlier European decorative painting, but local variations developed uniquely in Norway’s isolated rural communities.

In the eighteenth century, people that did these motifs tended to be trained professionals from the cities. They would travel around Norway, providing their services where needed. People in rural areas would then try and copy this art, but did not have the training - nor the restrictions- that came with it. So as it happens in may examples of folk art, they were able to be much more creative with their designs, which allowed rosemaling to evolve into its own distinct style.

In the beginning, rosemaling was used to decorate everyday items but, like the vines and flowers they depict, the designs soon spread around the room to cover ceilings, doors, and walls.

Original rosemaling painters in Europe were considered more craftsmen than artists, basically because they painted ordinary objects. Traditionally, the people who created them had no formal training; instead, the skills were handed down through generations. Emigrants brought these objects with them to North America, from large chests to simple wooden bowls. They carried a beautifully decorated heritage, passed from generation to generation as heirlooms.

Rosemaling went out of fashion in Norway in the late 19th century. However, it has since become increasingly popular among Americans with Scandinavian ancestry. If you want to see original rosemaling for yourself in Norway, you should pay a visit to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, which holds many buildings and objects decorated in this way. Locally, the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead offers the opportunity to see some of their art as well.

In this video, you can see an example of what Rosemaling is, and how it's done.

Locally, some people decided to beautify the most overlooked of objects with Rosemaling. Something that most people would not consider even approaching: a dumpster. There has been a renaissance over the last couple years involving street art and dumpster revitalization that goes along with encouraging the use of alleyways and providing an uniqueness to downtown Fargo-Moorhead. The thought was that art can be anywhere. Even a receptacle for garbage. If you want to see it, this art piece completed by people associated with Sons of Norway and their rosemaling club for the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau is in the parking lot at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.

You can also buy cards with these motifs here. More information on this type of art is also available here. Objects and textiles using this type of decorations can also be found in stores around town, most notably at Pride of Dakota and several stores in downtown Fargo.

Next week we'll continue this series with more information on the Norwegian Dakotan Art traditions, such as Hardanger Embroidery, Hardanger fiddles and wood carving.

Stay tuned for more information on more cultures in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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