Rosemaling in the Upper Midwest

Rosemaling in the Upper Midwest

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Rosemaling in the Upper Midwest: A Story of Region and Revival
by Philip Martin
Wisconsin Folk Museum, 1989, 94 pages

This book was essentially developed as an expanded exhibit catalog, documenting a Norwegian-American folk painting tradition of rosemaling that became popular across parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the greater Upper Midwest region.

It covers a wide spectrum of evolving traditional approaches to this decorative painting style, originally from Norway, brought over by immigrants, then adapted, and then revived and retaught in more strictly Norwegian styles by visiting guest instructors from Norway.

The result was a fascinating cultural stew of Midwestern rosemaling, from ultra-traditional/revival approaches to uniquely Midwestern hybrid forms.

Featured artists in the book include Per Lysne and Ethel Kvalheim of Stoughton, and many others. The artifacts range from traditional Norwegian wooden chests, bowls, and chests to odder items found in the Midwestern Norwegian-American communities like fireman’s hats, tobacco hoes, and bowling pins.

As director of the Wisconsin Folk Museum (then in Mount Horeb, now a part of the Wisconsin Historical Society collections), Philip Martin interviewed rosemalers, while Martin and Lewis Koch photographed them and their work, while assembling a rosemaling exhibit that represented the work of more than 50 rosemalers. The exhibit ran from 1988 to 1995 at the Folk Museum.

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