Finding Frida Hansen in the Nasjonalmuseet Archives

I contacted the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo before my trip to Norway and Sweden in June. I wanted to see the extent of Frida Hansen materials they have in the Archives, so that I could plan a longer research visit later on. Would there be any open warp wool transparency patterns? When I was led to a small research room off the stacks of the library, I saw a cart stacked with archival boxes. I nearly sobbed when I opened a box and removed tissue from the first of many beautiful watercolor patterns.

There were boxes of catalogs and other print material, much of which I had seen already, in person or digitally. There were a few interesting news clippings, but most amazing were the watercolor patterns. They were not large, around the size of sheets of paper, but they gave so much more information than the small black-and-white photos from Anniken Thue’s 1973 comprehensive catalog of Hansen’s works. I didn’t have much time, so I took several photos, but didn’t evaluate the true extent of the patterns. This is an example. 

This is the information on the back of the watercolor.

At the top is the name of the studio, “The Norwegian Coverlet and Tapestry Studio,” followed by Pattern #9 (farmer’s rose). It is listed as a transparency, 1.5 meters wide and 3 meters long. 140 is listed — perhaps that was the cost of a completed portiere? I assume that the typewritten note, “34 Farmer’s rose, portiere,” was added by Anniken Thue, as that is the number she uses for that pattern in her catalog of Hansen’s works.

In Anniken Thue’s 1973 catalog, the photo below is the only one shown. And even though records show there was a transparency in that pattern shown at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900, there is no record of an existing example. So sad!

From Oeuvrefortegnelse og biografisk innledning [Descriptive Catalog of Works and Biographical Introduction], by Anniken Thue, 1973, p. 42

In the last month, I have been weaving a sample adapted from that design using a small floor loom, a Baby Wolf. People have asked whether the open warp transparency technique can be woven on a floor loom. There are some students who may want to weave on a loom like this during my upcoming workshops this fall, and I wanted to be ready with my comments about the difference between weaving the wool transparencies on a floor loom versus an upright tapestry loom. My guess was that either type of loom would work fine, and that was my experience. 

I’ll write more about this piece when it comes off the loom.

Not all of the watercolor sketches in the boxes were for transparencies. This was the first, top-of-the-box, one I saw. So elegant.


Anniken Thue lists this as a pillow and it would have been woven in billedvev, or tapestry technique, not with exposed warps. It was intended to be .8 x .8 meters (app. 31″ x 31″), and there are no known woven examples.

I want to thank Anita Kongssund and the staff of the library at the Nasjonalmuseet for their help. I hope to see them again!

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