The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, awarded Eldrid Skjold Arntzen the Gold Medal for rosemaling (literally rose or "to decorate" and maling or "to paint" in Old Norwegian) in 1987, the highest form of recognition for this art form in the U.S. Rosemaling flourished in 16th and 17th-century Norway as a form of decoration on wood and was used on utilitarian objects and furnishings in rural churches and homes. Many practitioners were local craftsmen, without land, who became itinerant painters, accepting commissions by wealthy farmers or patrons.
A daughter of Norwegian immigrants, Arntzen grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. She started to paint at the age of 10 and later traveled to Norway many times to study with masters of rosemaling. In addition, she took lessons from master artists at the Vesterheim Museum. Arntzen usually paints on wooden objects such as ale bowls, tankards, chairs, or trays made by Scandinavian craftsmen in the Midwest. The decorative designs, many with a floral theme, are identified by regions within Norway. She specializes in three styles: Telemark, Hallingdall, and Valdnes. Arntzen's work has received much acclaim and has been featured in numerous exhibitions including Living Legends: Connecticut Master Traditional Artists. In 1996, her paintings were selected for an exhibition Norwegian Folk Art: Migration of a Tradition that traveled throughout the U.S. and Norway. An inveterate teacher, in 2004 she was one of three American painters to participate in an international symposium, The Art of Rosemaling: Tradition Meets the Creative Mind.
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