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Jenny Eugenia Nyström Self Portrait With Son Curt

Jenny Eugenia Nyström The Extraordinary Artist Who Loved Painting Children


“…The reason I mainly illustrate children’s books is probably because I have always loved children and have always wanted to show children something of the fair sunny land east of the sun and west of the moon, beauty which has remained in my memory from my childhood in Kalmar. Maybe now you can also understand why I prefer to draw beautiful images…”


Girl in Native Swedish Dress By Jenny Eugenia Nyström

Jenny Nyström was a Swedish artist and an illustrator. She was the first woman in Sweden to be awarded a royal medal for her historically themed paintings. She was a prolific painter and illustrator. Her fame was built on the popularity of her Tomte, Elf, Gnome themed illustrations (a mythological creature often associated with Christmas) illustrations. However, her joy came from her illustrations of children enjoying their lives. Her popularity to this day is built on her illustrations that depict everyday family life in books, magazines, and cards as well as her holiday themed illustrations.

Girl With Ducks by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

Jenny Nyström was born in Kalmar, Sweden. She was a creative artistic child. The daughter of a schoolteacher Jenny Nyström was the third of five children. When she was reminiscing about her happy childhood, she recalled it as idyllic. Jenny had a large extended family and when she was young, she lived in a house her maternal grandparents, two maternal aunts and her maternal great grandmother. Jenny’s father a schoolteacher managed her education while her mother concentrated on Jenny’s creative and artistic upbringing.

3 Girls and a Secret by Jenny Eugenia Nyström


In 1863 the family left Kalmar and moved to Gothenburg Sweden.  This was a very sad time for Jenny who felt that leaving the security and warmth of her family, friends left her adrift. Jenny recalled that images of the people and the area were indelible stored in her memory and fueled many of her future illustrations.


Tomte as Drawn by Fredrik Wohlfart Jenny’s Teacher 1864

In 1869 Jenny began to study at the Gothenburg Museum Art School. Her teacher, Fredrik Wohlfart, inspired her to paint images of “Tomte”. To perfect her illustrations Jenny researched Tomte folklore by reading a children's story by the Swedish Author and Poet Viktor Rydberg called “Little Vigg’s Adventure on Christmas Eve”. In it the boy Vigg was taken for a ride through space by a friendly “Tomte” on his visit to children to bring presents. (The “Tomte” is a Nordic mythological figure, who protects and watches over humans, animals, and homes usually in the country. At Christmas time he is usually awarded with a dish of white Christmas rice porridge). Jenny was a budding artist, and she was fascinated by the story that she sat down and drew a “Tomte” riding through space in a sleigh drawn by eight horses. With these illustrations the Swedish Christmas Tomte (a cousin to Santa Claus) was born. Jenny drew him as a small, tousled old man with a white beard, gray trousers and tunic and a red conical pointed cap. When Viktor Rydberg saw the drawing, he was so pleased that he asked Jenny to illustrate his 'book about Vigg’s adventures and the new version with Jenny’s illustrations was published the following year.





Self Portrait Paris 1884 by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

In 1871, Jenny’s illustrations were noticed by regional governor Albert Ehrensvärd. He invited her to Stockholm to visit art galleries and to go to the National Museum there. By 1873 Jenny had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm where she studied for eight years. To support herself she sold magazine subscriptions and sold her paintings to the magazine Ny Illustrerad Tidning. Jenny travelled to Paris in November 1882 and enrolled at the Académie Colarossi, two years later, in 1884, she joined the Paris salon and had her first exhibit of her work.


The Convalescence by Jenny Eugenia Nyström


In the autumn of 1884, she became engaged to a medical student, Daniel Stoopendaal, whom she had met when she was studying.  In 1887, Jenny married Daniel Stoopendaal, and they moved into a large apartment on Tegnérgatan. Daniel caught tuberculosis and was never able to finish his studies and work.  This left Jenny Nyström as the sole support of the family.  Their only son, son, Curt Nyström-Stoopendaal, was born in June 1893.

Young Boy on His Dala Horse by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

Being the main support of the family was hard work cobbling together a living selling her illustrations and art works to several magazines, different book publishers and other employers. From the 1880s onwards until her death she illustrated many children’s books and historical novels. She also painted cover images for newspapers and journals.

Tomte With Baby and Presents in Backpack by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

 In 1911 she signed a contract to draw greeting cards for a publishing house. This meant that she needed to produce a certain number of watercolours each month as a background illustration for the cards. These illustrations gained great exposure for her name and art.

Young Girl Feeding Birds in Winter by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

Jenny Nyström was creative and productive her whole life.   She died peacefully in her home in Stockholm on 17 January 1946. Now 75 years after her death her cards are still being printed and enjoyed throughout the world.

Young girl and Mother on a Shopping Trip by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

Jenny Nyström became the mother to the Swedish Christmas Tomte, she also introduced the Swedish Christmas Card. Her colorful watercolors of friendly Tomte in red caps, usually watching over the family in red farm home set in a white winter landscape, has become classic. While her art was classic it was also modern and whimsical at the same time.  You might see a “Tomte” flying an airplane, driving a car, a truck, a motorcycle or even a train.

Tomte Delivering Presents from Airplane by Jenny Eugenia Nyström

She mixed exotic animals like elephants and giraffes as “Tomte” assistants for delivering Christmas presents across Sweden. She mixed these entertaining elements with classical traditional Christmas imagery such as Christmas goats, Christmas trees, sleighs, toboggans and more.


A Tomte Winter Scene by Curt Nyström Stoopendaal (1893-1965)


Jenny’s son Curt followed in her footsteps and also became a popular postcard and poster artist, staying very close to his mother’s artistic style. Even his signature, “Curt Nyström”, looks similar to his mother’s. Jenny’s brother-in-law, Georg Stoopendaal, painting in the beginning of the 19th century found postcards and Christmas Cards to be a good source of income, to augment his sales of landscapes and his more serious paintings.

A Tomte Relaxing by Curt Nyström Stoopendaal (1893-1965)