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.

Traveling with Art: The Island of Capri, Italy


Capri is a stunning island in Italy on the south side of the Gulf of Naples. The island was especially made known in the 19th century through its favorable depiction from artists and writers.


The painting you see above shows the brilliant teal waters surrounding the island. It was painted by Giuseppe Salvati, an artist born in Naples in 1900. Capri has a rich history, including settlement in the Roman era and possibly before then in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. In the Middle Ages the island experienced various pirate raids.


Capri especially gained popularity from a mid-1800’s book called “Discovery of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri” by August Kopisch, in which Kopisch favorably describes his stay on the island. Various artists and writers soon came to stay on the island, creating an artist culture that also helped promote the place through works of art and stories.



Portrayal of the Blue Grotto by Jakob Alt.

Today, Capri is a popular destination visited by both Italian and foreign tourists.Capri’s Blue Grotto is its most visited attraction. The Grotto is a sea cave that sunlight shines into from an underwater cavity and through the water, making the cave glow with blue light. Roman sculptures of Neptune and Triton have been found inside the cave, likely from the time of Emperor Tiberius. The discovery of the sculptures made the cave an especially significant emblem of Capri.


Tourists swarm Capri during the summer over its peak times of May through September, and locals have the island mostly to themselves for the rest of the rainy year.

Traveling with Art: Shrewsbury, Ireland


A town with mostly medieval architecture, Shrewsbury, Ireland’s rich history includes being founded around 800 AD and being the center of wool commerce. Evidence also suggests that Shrewsbury had its own mint in its early days, making it an especially important area. The site also saw a number of battles and conflicts in the Medieval era.


The postcard image you see above is a color photo lithograph of some of Shrewsbury’s mansions, a view from around the 1900’s showing a building that was built in 1596.



Shrewsbury Castle Keep in Ireland. (Via Rev Dan Catt CC 2.0)

If you want to see a piece of royalty first hand, the town’s Shropshire Regimental Museum at Shrewsbury Castle has a locket with a lock of Napoleon’s hair. (Yes, THAT Napoleon.) To add to the list of famous names, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury and grew up there.



A grave for the character Ebenezer Scrooge even exists in a Shrewsbury graveyard, made for a movie version of “A Christmas Carol” and never taken out.



A watercolor scene of Shrewsbury, signed ‘Louise Rayner’.

The town also contains “the grandfather of skyscrapers”, the Ditherington Flax Mill, the oldest iron framed building in the world.



Shrewsbury has many more claims to fame than you can really keep track of! Today the town has a refined culture and plenty of architecture from various time periods, especially the Medieval era, that make the town a sight to behold.

Traveling with Art: The Erechtheion Temple in Athens, Greece

It’s no longer in one piece, but just by looking at it you can tell the Erechtheion was once a grand, majestic Greek temple. Ancient Greeks went there to worship Athena and Poseidon.

Built somewhere between 421 and 406 BC, this temple’s ruins still stand for visitors to admire.

The whole of the structure has had an elaborate attention to detail paid to it, especially on the doorways, windows and columns. The marble that makes it up comes entirely from Mount Pentelikon, a mountain famous for its marble. Decor details once included highlights of gilt bronze and multicolored glass beads.

Another view of the Erechtheion Temple in Athens, Greece.

Another view of the Erechtheion Temple.

The temple had different areas of dedication for different Greek gods and goddesses; Athena in the eastern part and Poseidon in the western part, along with altars to Hephaestus and Voutos (brother of a hero and the temple’s namesake, Erichthonius).

A postcard of the Erechtheion Temple in Athens, GreeceA Caryatid is a sculpted female figure standing in place of a column as architectural support.

One of the most prominent features on this ancient architecture is the Porch of the Caryatids, or “Porch of the Maidens”. This porch hides the 15 foot beam supporting the southwest corner standing over the metropolis.

In 1801 Lord Elgin, perhaps a little overeager about Greek statues, moved one of the Caryatids to his Scottish Mansion. According to Athenian legend, if you listen closely at night you can hear the remaining five Caryatids crying for their lost sister.

Lord Elgin later attempted to remove another of the statues; when it wouldn’t budge, he put a saw to it, trying to break it into pieces, but this smashed the statue and it was left in pieces at the site.

Today, the Caryatids stand in the New Acropolis Museum, replicas replacing the originals at the site of the temple. The originals had been damaged over time and are currently being cleaned and restored with lasers at the museum, a process that’s visible to visitors through a camera.

Check out some of our other travel posts:

Mount Vesuvius and Naples in Italy

New York City Architecture

Bray, Berkshire, England

Traveling with Art: The Flatiron Building, New York City

There’s so much to say about New York City and its history that we wouldn’t know where to start. Thankfully, this vibrant painting by an artist named Lin guides the way to a more directed discussion: it shows the Flatiron Building on the corner of 175 Fifth Avenue. This skyscraper, completed in 1902, gets its name from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothing iron.

If you had to pick a U.S. city for its architecture, New York City would win hands down. The city’s architecture gives a romantic view of city life with its skyscrapers and impressive skyline. And so many of its skyscrapers are known by name – the Chrysler building, the Empire State Building, etc.Flatiron Building001

And the Flatiron Building deserves a mention of its own. It was declared a New York City landmark in 1966, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and named a National Historic Landmark in 1989.NYSkyscrapers001

The building was constructed despite the decline of the nearby neighborhood at the time. Citizens insisted on calling it the Flatiron despite its given name, the Fuller Building, so-called after the “father of the skyscraper” George A. Fuller.

Originally after its construction, NYC citizens placed bets on how far the building’s debris would go after it collapsed from the wind. They thought that Daniel Burnham’s design would make the building susceptible to easily blowing over. However, its steel bracing was designed to withstand up to four times the amount of wind force than could be expected to ever pass through the area. The bets were off, and the Flatiron stayed.


The full painting by the artist Lin, available here.

Today, the building functions as an office building, although its unique shape creates odd, cramped offices, with walls cutting through rooms at angles. Also, a second elevator has to be taken from the 20th floor to reach the 21st, thanks to the floor’s addition three years after the rest of the building was completed.

It has its oddities, but the Flatiron Building has firmly rooted itself in NYC soil as an integral part of the city. Keep an eye out for its use or appearance in multiple TV shows and movies, like Godzilla (1998) and Spider-Man movies.

Traveling with Art: Mount Rainier, Washington

Mount Rainier is a familiar Pacific Northwest landmark not too far from Seattle, Washington that is potentially one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, just waiting to erupt.

We’ve written about a volcano before – the legendary Mount Vesuvius – but for the Washington state readers, here’s one that hits a little closer to home.

The painting you see above is by E. R. Barchus, a true-to-life landscape with beautiful muted, natural colors.

The painting may display a serene facade of the mountain, but underneath the tranquil beauty is a volcano just waiting to erupt.

The main summit, Columbia Crest, is at the center. (via Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia Commons)

The main summit, Columbia Crest, is at the center. (via Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Rainier is the fifth highest mountain in the United States, and the highest mountain in Washington state.

Mount Rainier’s most recent recorded eruption was in 1854. It has been listed as a “Decade Volcano” (as has Mount Vesuvius), meaning that it’s one of the 16 volcanoes most likely to cause great loss of life.

Experts say that if Mount Rainier erupted as powerfully as Mount St. Helens did in 1980, it would have a worse effect because of its large amounts of glacial ice and the more heavily populated areas surrounding it.

Mount Rainier over Tacoma, Washington.

Mount Rainier over Tacoma, Washington.

But Mount Rainier is not just a potential death threat waiting in the background. It’s also a mountain enjoyed by hikers and nature-lovers, as well as a well-known landmark in the Western region of Washington. Thousands of people attempt the climb every year, with about half being successful.

President William McKinley created Mount Rainier National Park in 1899, the fifth established national park at the time. Congress wanted to preserve the area for its natural beauty and “…for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park.”

Despite being considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, Rainier has shown no recent signs of awakening.

And it’s a beautiful mountain, to be sure.

Traveling with Art: Avalon Harbor in Catalina Island, California

The stunning Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island is a tiny, tourism-centered town with a rich history where visitors can go today for excellent boating and other seaside adventures.

The painting you see above is by Marie Antoinette Ney, an artist who helped popularize many California missions and landscapes through her art. This watercolor of the harbor features small sailboats next to colorful orange and brown reflections in the still water.

The history of the bay starts with a Native American tribe of Gabrielino/Tongva people who inhabited the island for almost 7,000 years. They developed a marine-based culture, living a life dependent on the bay.

But when Spanish explorers came to the island, the fate of the tribe changed for the worst. Most of the native inhabitants moved to the mainland when the Spanish began to colonize the California coast. Whether that was by choice was another matter.

A 1903 postcard of Avalon Bay.

A 1903 postcard of Avalon Bay.

By the 1830s, all members of the native tribe had either migrated to the mainland or died off.

Early developers decided the fate of the island. A German immigrant named Augustus William Timms ran a sheep herding business on Catalina Island and would also ferry tourists to the bay. The settlement was from then on referred to as ‘Timms’ Landing’.

Later, one man named George Shatto took advantage of a real estate boom and privately purchased Catalina Island. Though the settlement was at first referred to as ‘Shatto’, he and his family took great care over choosing the name of the island.


The full width of the painting by Marie Antoinette Ney.

Mr. and Mrs. Shatto and myself were looking for a name for the new town, which in its significance should be appropriate to the place, and the names which I was looking up were ‘Avon’ and ‘Avondale,’ and I found the name ‘Avalon,’ the meaning of which, as given in Webster’s unabridged, was ‘Bright gem of the ocean,’ or ‘Beautiful isle of the blest.’
—Etta Whitney

George Shatto originally introduced the island to the public as a tourist destination, but the island has had many owners over the years, all of whom helped shape the island to become what is today’s pleasant resort location.

With a population of just under 4,000 people, the town is dedicated to its visitors. Its beach is the main attraction, with opportunities for boating and sunbathing. Other attractions include the world’s largest circular ballroom and chances to walk the footsteps of the island’s famous residents and visitors, including Marilyn Monroe.

Have you ever been to Avalon Harbor, or are you planning on taking a little trip to this seaside destination? Let us know in the comments!

Other articles in the ‘Traveling with Art’ series:

Mount Vesuvius and Naples, Italy

Le Quai des Grands-Augustins in Paris, France

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge

Traveling with Art: Mount Vesuvius and Naples, Italy

The legendary Mount Vesuvius sits nearby Naples, Italy, and has inspired both horror and awe in its nearby residents.

The painting you see above shows a Southeastern view of Naples, with the Vesuvius volcano in the background behind the Tyrrhenian gulf.

In the mythology of the labors of Hercules, Hercules finds a place called “the Phlegraean Plain” or “plain of fire” “from a hill which anciently vomited out fire … now called Vesuvius.” Historians suggest that Hercules may have been considered a patron of the volcano.

Someone's having a bad day

An 1872 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Despite the cheeriness of the painting, Mount Vesuvius is the volcano famous for its eruption in 79 AD that buried and destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in layers of ash. Since then, it has erupted 50 more times.

The city Herculaneum was buried in 75 feet of ash!

Pliny the Younger provided a valuable first person witness of the 79 AD eruption. Twenty-five years after the eruption, he wrote an account to his friend describing Pliny the Elder, his uncle’s, death through the burying of Pompeii. Pliny the Elder commanded a fleet of warships and attempted to use the ships to save the people on the shores of Pompeii. But his attempt was unsuccessful, as Pliny the Younger describes:

“. . . the flames and smell of sulphur which gave warning of the approaching fire drove the others to take flight and roused him to stand up . . . then [he] suddenly collapsed . . . his body was found intact and uninjured, still fully clothed and looking more like sleep than death.”

At the time, Pliny the Younger was 18 miles away and fled with his mother as far away as possible from the eruption.


A modern view of the sunset over Mount Vesuvius and Naples.

Vesuvius had erupted before 79 AD, about every century until 1037 AD, when it quieted for 600 years. But it woke up once again in 1631 and, since the area had grown around the sleeping mountain, killed about four thousand people.

How’s that for some cheerful history?

Today, the city of Naples, Italy looks out on its beautiful gulf. The city has issues with homelessness and keeping clean, but inhabitants will tell you that it’s like no other city in Italy in its environment and culture. Naples does not have a huge influx of tourists, thereby allowing visitors to really get to know the place by admiring the beautiful gulf of Naples and exploring its many pizzerias. 745px-Partenope_Street_Naples_Italy

Naples has a special population, too. Many stray dogs live there, but they are better cared for than any stray dogs you’ll find elsewhere. The tour guides to the ruins of Pompeii regularly pool together money to feed the dogs. And the dogs have reportedly fine-tuned their begging performance to tourists in restaurants. Visitors report that the dogs seem happy and friendly, and that they have become a part of the city’s culture.

Naples truly has an aura unlike any other city in Italy, and with Mount Vesuvius looking down on the city, it’s an unforgettable place.


Pliny the Younger’s account

Naples tourism

The Wiki

Traveling with Art: Prague Castle and Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge and Prague Castle are prime examples of Prague architecture and contain rich histories within their walls.

Let’s start with Charles Bridge: The bridge crosses the Vltava River and has two bridge towers, one of which is the Old Town bridge tower famous for its Gothic style and the thirty baroque statues lining the balustrade, creating a stunning effect.

Construction on this beauty started all the way back in 1357. A rumor surrounding its construction says that the Emperor Charles IV ordered the bridge builders to mix egg yolks into the mortar to make it stronger. Allegedly one village decided to go all out in impressing the emperor and sent carts full of hard-boiled eggs to the construction site. Who wants to bet that more than a few bridge builders snuck some extra protein into their lunches that day?

The artist Mekhti Mezentsev painted this beautiful watercolor piece showing the  of the bridge. Mezentsev lives and teaches watercolor classes in Prague.

The artist Mekhti Mezentsev painted this beautiful watercolor piece of the bridge tower. Mezentsev lives and teaches watercolor classes in Prague.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world at about 570 meters in length and 130 meters wide.


A shot of Charles Bridge.

The first of Prague castle was built around the 9th century, where the first walled building was the Church of the Virgin Mary, and throughout the decades the castle was worked on. The last major rebuild was in the 18th century by the hand of Empress Maria Theresa, and in 1848 the former emperor made Prague Castle his home. Royalty and presidents have kept their offices in Prague Castle, and the Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept in a hidden room inside.

In 1995, the Rolling Stones played a concert to over 100,000 audience members in Prague. They then gave the ultimate gift to the Czech Republic president (also a big Rolling Stones fan) Vaclav Havel: $32,000 toward the revamp of lighting in four of the castle’s grand halls. The band members presented Havel with a remote control for operating the chandeliers and spotlights. If you see the lights flickering in the halls, someone’s having a little too much fun.

This etching takes you right to the scene on a calm, peaceful day, using neutral colors with accents of yellow and green in the scenery to show the bridge in the foreground and the castle in the background.

This etching takes you right to the scene on a calm, peaceful day, using neutral colors with accents of yellow and green in the scenery to show the bridge in the foreground and the castle in the background.

That’s just a taste of the history behind these stunning Prague buildings.

What more would you like to know about these historical sites?

Have you been to Prague? Share your stories in the comments!

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.