History painting – fact or fiction?

Work with history painting in Nationalmuseum's collections. Use our material with tutorial guides, exercises and pictures för Swedish teachers and pupils abroad.

When you visit Nationalmuseum and take the stairs up to the second floor, you will see two paintings, The Entry of King Gustav Vasa into Stockholm by Carl Larsson, Bringing Home the Body of King Charles XII by Gustav Cederström. Both works are usually categorised as history paintings. This type of painting of historical subjects were usually created long after the depicted event took place, and are strongly influenced by the historical perspective of their own era.

History painting was very popular in the 1870s. The Academy of Art encouraged and taught history painting in the 19th century. Competitions were held every year on various historical themes, and the winners were given awards and scholarships.

The popularity and development of history painting can be seen as an expression of national romanticism’s focus on origin and national identity. It was the history of the great, heroic kings that was taught in schools and conveyed to the general public.

Many novelists, artists and poets at the time were inspired by the historian Anders Fryxell and his Berättelser ur svenska historien (1823-79, Stories from Swedish History). When the Academy announced its competitions on historical themes in the late 1800s, the subjects were often taken from Fryxell’s works.

History paintings as a learning resource

Today, our history is written by other historians, and, like before, we can ask whose history they describe. Based on older history paintings, students can be encouraged to study the relationship between fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, with a critical eye.

This theme's paintings

Two history paintings are provided under this theme, Bringing Home the Body of King Charles XII by Gustav Cederström, and Valdemar Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom in 1361 by Carl-Gustaf Hellqvist. More images are available in the illustrations folder.

Picture: Valdemar Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom in 1361, Carl-Gustaf Hellqvist

Valdemar Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom in 1361, Carl-Gustaf Hellqvist

Teacher's guide and pictures

Each theme is accompanied by a teacher's guide with facts, exercises and pictures. There is also an illustration folder. The images can be printed out in A4 format or shown in the classroom, for instance by using an LCD projector. You will also find a separate illustration folder containing the images from all four themes

pdf Teacher's guide
ikon power point Pictures, History Painting theme
ikon power point All pictures


The production of this educational material was made possible thanks to generous funding from SWEA.



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