The term “Swedish Grace” was used to define the products of the Swedish applied art industries in the 1920s, highlighting the Scandinavians’ unique ability to infuse grace into the everyday routines of life.
This movement seamlessly blended the decorative expressiveness of Art Deco and Neoclassicism with the characteristic Scandinavian restraint (or minimalism, as it would be coined in the early 20th century. Icons such as Eileen Gray, artist Fernand Léger and Francis Bacon adorned floors with vibrant geometric compositions. Before the emergence of the more defined Swedish minimalist designs between then and post-war era, there was the development of Swedish Grace, which ran parallel to the better-known Art Deco movement. It stands as a significant chapter in modern design history, representing the Nordic branch of the Art Deco style. Swedish Grace represented a shift towards geometric stylization, streamlining and a focus on the essential elements of line and form. Still, it further distinguished itself from Art Deco by often incorporating playful Nordic folk art motifs, neoclassical elements and a particularly refined sense of color — characteristic of Swedish art.
The term Swedish Grace was coined by British critic Philip Morton Shand after he visited the Arts and Craft Pavilion at the 1923 Gothenburg Exhibition. This was an exhilarating period in Swedish art and design, with many public buildings being designed in this new aesthetic. One of the most renowned buildings in this style, also known as the National Romantic Style, is architect Ragnar Ostberg’s City Hall in Stockholm. This building remains cherished for its unexpected and playful amalgamation of eclectic style.
Many of the carpets designed by Sweden’s most celebrated textile designer, Märta Maas-Fjetterström (1873-1941), can be considered exemplary of Swedish Grace. Essentially, she was a trailblazer in the modern style of textiles and carpets in Scandinavia. She revolutionized the craft and served as an inspiration for subsequent generations of designers. Her designs often drew upon folk craft motifs and were crafted using traditional techniques, yet exuded the refinement and elegance characteristic of Swedish Grace.
The influential Paris exhibition of 1925 marked an international breakthrough for Swedish design. This event showcased elegant engraved glassware crafted by Edward Hald and Simon Gate for Orrefors, as well as Anna Petrus’ cast-iron pieces for Näfveqvarn, Nils Fougstedt’s pewter artifacts for the newly established Svenskt Tenn company and Carl Malmsten’s exclusive wood species furniture. The exhibition held at the National Museum offered a comprehensive overview of the visual arts in 1920s Sweden. It featured art, design, film and fashion from a period of transition that laid the groundwork for modern society.
Explore our own Scandinavian collection to read more about our understanding of Swedish Modernism, and view a preview of some of our rugs and flatweaves inspired by these sensibilities below.