Monday, 28 February 2011

Maja Fjaestad, Swedish Spring

Kerstin Maria (Maja) Fjaestad (neé Hallén)
(1871 – 1961)

Swedish textile and graphic artist, (portrait) painter and woodblock printer

Spring in Sweden.

For a long time I’ve had a strong admiration for the flower prints of Swedish Maja Fjaestad. She is most and almost exclusively known and loved in here home country. To this day. Her prints wandering hardly out of Scandinavia.
Maja Hallén attended the Artists’ Association School in Landskrone in 1890–92 and exhibited for the first time in 1897. Later in London presenting her skills as a portrait painter.

She created a style very much of her own carving out the complete outline of the composition (all but the later blacks) from the block and colouring this background block "the Japanese way". With a wash of soft pastel colors. Secondly printing color components with additional blocks. This is why you never see two the same prints.

She didn’t number editions so a good guess is there must be hoards about. Very recognizable prints. Bread and butter prints. If you’ve seen one you’ll never miss another. She is most remembered by these simple but strong compositions high in emotional decorative value. In Sweden.

A promoter of fine craftsmanship, she helped found the Arvika Konsthantverk handicraft association.

On many occasions the wearing of the prints (or blocks) is showing. Probably she didn’t use very good quality paint or inks or printing papers. Many of the prints I've seen have faded dramatically. This maybe also due to domestic Swedish circumstances (the light, wood fires). Maybe a Swedish reader (there are !) can enlighten me.

This selection showing you end of winter and the international harbingers of spring. Besides the flower compositions (I collected some 50 different from old auction catalogues) the two bigger winter scenes and the titmouse print showing she was quite capable of rendering a landscape in a woodblock print.
Maja married Gustav Fjaestad (1868-1948), a loved and very respected Swedish painter of mostly classic winter landscapes. Gustav is represented in most Swedish museums.

I found this wonderful and idyllic picture of two amorous starlings (also a token of spring) attributed to her husband Gustav. It says mixed medium, but my guess is it is possibly also a print.
Owning one or two of these small flower prints by Maja Fjaestad is a long cherished wish (any one of these springflower prints will do just fine).

I'll happily comply with any readers request to do a follow up on the art of this Swedish couple. Just ask and leave a comment.


  1. Love these, especially the third image - I can't read the pencil title, do you know what flower this is?

  2. Hello Neil, I suppose you mean the blue ones ? Well, it took me some researching and the answer wasn't that easy. The little print is called Värblommor, meaning springflowers. Not very helpfull. I was sure Maja was accurate enough to depict the two subjects of the print flowering at the same time. After some research I decided it's Scilla Sibirica Andr. or starhyacint, also called Spring Beauty a very early flowering bulb. Which explains the Swedish name. Full circle.

  3. As a Swede I like very much what you have discribed about Maja F. "Vårblommor" certainly are springflowers.
    Recently I have made some research about her because I inherited a lovely, rather big, piece of art called "Sommarblommor" (summerflowers). From what I can tell this has not faded at all! It was given to my parents for Christmas 1941. Not numbered and not dated.
    One of my best old friends is related to Maja or more accurate to her grandfather on her mother´s side.

  4. Thank you very much for stopping by and leaving a note. You are lucky to have such a fine print. I am still waiting to find one. I have seen many pictures of her prints and believe me many are not very colorfull anymore. Don't hesitate to email me if you know a print for sale !