Nyström’s painting was shared on the Female Artists in History Facebook page not too long ago, and I just had to share it here too. Jenny Eugenia Nyström (1854-1946) was a Swedish painter and illustrator, and Röda Korset (‘Red Cross’) was originally painted as a Christmas card design. In fact, Nyström apparently painted a number of Christmas card illustrations over the years, and her style (although possibly not her name) became well-known in Sweden as a result.
As a Red Cross volunteer myself this picture represents a cause close to my heart, and the fact that it features children at play gives it an added appeal, given that I work with children of around this age. But it is the serious undertone to this innocent picture which makes it stand out: war is always traumatic for the children who are caught up in it, and imaginative play is a way to process events which at the time were overwhelming. Although Sweden was a neutral country and no fighting took place there, Swedish children would nonetheless have been well aware of the horrors engulfing much of the rest of Europe. While the scene itself is likely imaginary, the feelings and events it portrays would have been all too real.
What do you think of Nyström’s painting?