Ottilia Adelborg (1855-1936) was born in Karlskrona in 1855 as the fourth daughter of five to Navy Commander Bror Jakob Adelborg and Hedvig Adelborg (née af Uhr).
Despite scarce economic conditions, Ottilia managed to gain a solid education in the arts, first at The Technical School (now Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design) 1875-77 and then at Sweden’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts 1878-1882. During her years studying, she began her career as an illustrator for children’s magazines.
Artistry and happy antics characterised her childhood, particularly through her father Bror Jakob who was also a driven illustrator. After the death of her father in 1865, the family first moved to Uppsala and then to Stockholm.
Ottilia herself expressed that she never felt at home in the Stockholm art world. “I never found my place at the Academy, as I never did where you are at competition with others and you have to do the same thing. The only thing possible is to be permitted to do the only thing you can do and that pushes ahead and wants forward. Anything else is simply hard and impossible.” What was pushing ahead was the rich colourways she found in Gagnef during her first longer visit there in 1902 and 1903.
Author and Illustrator
As an author in her own right, Ottilia made a debut in 1884 with the Children’s Christmas Book for Mother and the Little Ones (original Barnens julbok för mamma och småttingarne) which was hailed as the first quality children’s book in Swedish. Her later production of children’s books, Children’s Little Christmas Book (Barnens lilla julbok), Meadow Flowers (Ängsblommor), Flower Numbers (Blomstersiffror), The Princes’ Flower Alphabet (Prinsarnes Blomsteralfabet) and not least Pelle Snygg och Barnen i Snaskeby are considered innovative in Swedish children’s literature both content- and image-wise. Ottilia gave the children’s book in Sweden a new educational touch. Not least Elsa Beskow, another children’s book author in Sweden and a good friend of Ottilia’s, was inspired by Ottilia’s production in her later editions of children’s books.
Read more about Ottilia’s books in the section The Creator of the Swedish Children’s Book here on our website.
The Move to Gagnef
Ottilia’s artistry is, aside from the children’s books, strongly connected with the people and environments of Gagnef. She settled down together with her sisters Maria and Gertrud in Gagnef where their own house was finished in 1907. The surroundings of Gagnef redeemed her artistic talent and struck the right chord in many ways.
Ottilia, her sisters and friends dedicated a lot of their time in Gagnef to cultural history that is preserved to our day. The old culture of the farming community with all of its customs, traditions, handicrafts and folklore was in Ottilia’s work carefully preserved for future generations. With the lacemaking school that was founded in Gagnef in 1903, the lacemaking tradition has been preserved. To this day there is a lacemaking school for children in Gagnef, all according to Ottilia’s intent. The over 700 pieces of lace that were collected and purchased are today the backbone of the lace collections of the Ottilia Adelborg Museum. Ottilia and her friends also collected and preserved for posterity traditional costumes, buildings and objects.
Read more about the collections of the Ottilia Adelborg Museum here on our website.