Karl von Rydingsvärd was a Swedish immigrant whose passion for woodcarving made him influential within the Arts and Crafts movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. His story is one of Swedish nobility and American success. Well-educated and trained as a sculptor in Stockholm, Rydingsvärd eventually pursued a career in the United States in 1883. Here, he became a prominent teacher who imbued nearly everything he created with ‘Swedishness’. Viking motifs, Swedish figures, and floral patterns from his childhood decorate his meticulously hand-carved furnishings. Rydingsvärd also spread the ideal that everyone, including women, could carve wood and make useful household furnishings. Rydingsvärd eventually taught at Columbia, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences, the Rhode Island School of Design, among others. Additionally, he ran summer woodworking classes from his home near Brunswick, Maine. Countless American students found lessons and inspiration in Rydingsvärd’s ornate style and personal approach to shaping wood into functional art.
The American Swedish Historical Museum’s original exhibition, Flowers and Monsters: Hand-carved Furniture by Karl von Rydingsvärd, showcased a rare collection of von Rydingsvärd’s furnishings never before on public display. On loan from the private holdings of a single family, this exhibition of 20+ works demonstrated the relationship between von Rydingsvärd’s Swedish woodcarving style and his passion for the dynamic American Arts and Crafts movement. The exhibition featured a stunning dining table with six chairs, a large desk, a bookcase, and a storage cabinet for kitchen sundries among other many pieces.
Exhibition no longer on display.