The Art of Jenny Nystrom

Jenny Nystrom was a talented artist who illustrated many greeting cards and postcards. She is best known for her implementation of the tomte on Christmas cards and magazines.

The tomte is a Scandinavian mythological creature similar to a gnome, but it is also considered a version of Santa Claus. Nystrom played a part in that: thanks to her use of the tomte on Christmas paraphernalia, she created its association of Santa Claus with Scandinavian gnomes.

Nystrom had an impressive career. She was born in 1854 in Kalmar, Sweden. At eleven years old she started studying at a Gothenburg art school; she was a good student, and eight years later the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts accepted her. She studied there for eight years.


After all these years of studying, Nystrom was a pro. She used her business savvy to catch on to the booming postcard business of the late 19th century. This is where the tomte came in. The creature became quite popular in Nystrom’s art and was one of her favorite subjects.

But Nystrom was not done growing her career. Paris was calling her name, and she would answer. With her painting “Gustavus Vasa as a Child before King Hans”, she won the esteemed Royal Medal along with 2000 Swedish crowns. With this achievement, she was able to follow her dream to move to Paris. After much hard work, she finally reached a lifelong dream: having an exhibit of her work in the famous Paris Salon with her self portrait done with oil.

The Illustrations of Frederick Richardson

Frederick Richardson illustrated books during the great illustration boom of the late 20th to early 21st centuries. He’s best known for his illustrations of L. Frank Baum children’s books. (Baum was the author of the Wizard of Oz books, though Richardson did not illustrated these.) He also worked with Frank Baum and Georgene Faulkner.

Richardson started his illustration career when he went to school at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris.

Richardson's rooster from a Mother Goose tale.

Richardson’s rooster from a Mother Goose tale.

After his education, Richardson taught at the Chicago Art Institute. Later, he created illustrations for a Chicago newspaper and helped record history with his illustrations of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. People were so impressed with his work that they sent him to the next world’s fair in Paris, the Exposition Universelle Internationale. He even published a collection of his newspaper illustrations in 1899.

From The Wee Wee Woman, available for purchase here.

From The Wee Wee Woman, available for purchase here.

After his stint in Chicago, he moved to New York City to make a career move to book illustration. The first book he illustrated was Queen Zixi of Ix, published in book form in 1906. This was his first break into the book publishing industry.

Coyote and persimmons, from a traditional Native American tale.

Coyote and persimmons, from a traditional Native American tale.

Richardson had a diverse illustrating style and worked with many authors to create pictures that fit the style and tone of their books.

Richardson even parodied Vincent van Gogh in a book called The Revolt Against Beauty.

When Richardson died in 1937, he was honored with a book of classic stories paired with his bright illustrations.

Traveling with Art: Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

We take a trip once again to Paris, where history and modernity intermingle in a perfect balance of past and present.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France is a piece of rich history near the middle of the famous city, standing as the hub of radiating avenues like spokes of a wheel. It’s been an important landmark to Paris for many years, ever since the beginning of its construction in 1806, despite numerous setbacks on its design.

The painting you see above is an oil painting by Antoine Blanchard titled “Le Champs Elysees”, showing the famous street in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.

An illustration of Victor Hugo's tomb under the Arc. Many were devastated at the famous author's death.

An illustration of Victor Hugo’s tomb under the Arc. Thousands were devastated at the famous author’s death.

The Arc was commissioned as a representation of a victory by Emperor Napoleon. The foundations alone took two years, foreshadowing a construction schedule that would take a while. In the following years, it witnessed further setbacks: the first architect, Jean Chalgrin, died; construction was halted during the Bourbon Restoration until 1833, then switched between two more managing architects until its completion, finally, in 1836.

Many famous people have passed under the arch, both alive and dead. The body of Napoleon passed under the arch on the way to his final resting place, and Victor Hugo’s body was viewable under the arch before his burial in the Pantheon.

For France’s Bastille day on July 14th, the military parade begins at l’Arc de Triomphe, although parades now avoid marching through the arch out of respect for the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

In 1916, an idea was presented to suggest creating a tomb for an unknown soldier. The idea was picked up quickly, and a tomb underneath the arch was created, saying only “A Soldier” and dating it “1914 – 191?”. In 1920 the first eternal flame in Western and Eastern for over a thousand years was lit in honor of the soldiers who were never identified after dying in the midst of war.

A picture taken right during the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

A picture taken right in the midst of the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

In 1919, the pilot Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the arch for a victory parade marking the end of WWI hostilities. This was following the death of Jean Navarre, the pilot first chosen for the ceremony who crashed his plane and died while practicing for the flight.

The arch has clearly been the site of many important events, and today it still stands at its impressive 164 feet (50 meters) high. The bustling lanes in the roundabout circling around the arch are a driver’s worst nightmare, but for those visiting the arch itself, the top offers a spectacular view, looking out over its spot in the famous Champs Elysees.

Don’t forget to visit our other post about Paris. Have you visited the Arc de Triomphe in Paris? What did you think of it?

Traveling with Art: Le Quai des Grands-Augustins, Paris

Le quai des Grands-Augustins is a wharf that sits on the left bank of the river Seine in Paris. Residents know the district in which it lies, the sixth arrondissement, for its bohemian and intellectual reputation as well as inclusion of some of the most famous monuments of Paris: the Jardins du Luxembourg and the Pont des Arts.

Along the bank, vendors set up covered stands full of postcards, art and books, ready for the tourists or locals to admire.

Is that five dollar postcard really worth it?

Is that five dollar postcard really worth it?

Excepting the usual Eiffel Tower key chains hanging by every stand, the products in the stands have more diversity and better quality than the touristy T-shirt and hat shops that take advantage of the centrally located Notre Dame cathedral.

What a treat to stroll along the sidewalk and admire the river and watch people’s eyes light up as they find that special something along the bank.

Dufza Full

This etching by the artist Dufza transports the viewers to a scene of people walking along the river bank, admiring the items or simply going about their day while the famous Notre Dame stands watch on the other side of the river. Judging by the fashions in the etching, the date is in the 1940s or early 50s.

What do you think these pedestrians are thinking about as they go about their day? Perhaps the man in the chair is a self-portrait of the artist himself, sketching the scene and taking in the grand Parisian view.