RICKLUNDGÅRDEN WAS BUILT OUT OF DREAMS AND WAS INTENDED TO BE A NEW BEGINNING FOR A COUPLE WHO ONCE WAS IN LOVE.
BUT IT CAME TO BE THE RESULT OF A STRONG, DETERMINDED WOMEN’S VISION.
TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE NOW, WE FIRST HAVE TO LOOK BACK ON THE PAST.
Kristina Johansson was born in the small village Saxnäs on December 4, 1897. She grew up in a simple timbered cottage located where the current Saxnäsgården stands today. Emma lived an eventful life and when she died in 1965, she left a, in many ways, different life behind her.
Together with her father, the multifaceted farmer Axel-Aron, and her “Mother Anna”, they built up a business that consisted of an inn, shop, post office and telegraph. At that time there were no roads in the area, but many mountain hikers came to spend the night with the family.
Passion for knowledge
Emma had early a burning interest for knowledge, but in the mountains there was a shortage of education. Instead, she educates herself through Hermod’s correspondence courses. She started studying shorthand and then continued with several different courses in mathematics. As well as courses in Swedish, geography, history and accounting. She also took the opportunity to take a housewife course in Helsingborg and has received the title Doctor of Hospitality from the University of USA in 1940.
Alone and free
The homesteads many activities contributed to a large number of visitors from both mountain dwellers and tourists. Which led to that Emma at a young age got many contacts with the world outside Saxnäs. She also made many trips herself. In her detailed travel stories it is clear that she enjoyed the freedom to travel on her own.
In time, Emma toke over the inn from her parents and she began to fantasize about building a new one. It was during this time that she met and fell in love with the young artist Folke Ricklund.
Ricklund is considered as one of the great Lapland painters. He was born in Anundsjö in Ångermanland in 1900 in a nature-loving home. His father was a stateforester and he taught Folke early on how to appreciate nature and how to handle fishing gear and rifles. Folkes fascination for the mountains brought him to the Sami. For a long time he lived with the Sami people in their everyday life, with reindeer separation and reindeer slaughter.
Together with the first generation of artists in Västerbotten, he helped to start up Västerbotten’s artists’ club. The new generation sought artistic freedom and chose color and form based on their own experiences.
Folke received his art education at the Higher School of Art and Design in Stockholm. He also spent some time in Italy where the classically, beautiful art attracted and inspired him.
Rickety and tangled
The various shapes of nature, especially the harsh, rickety, tangled, windswept landscape fascinated Folke. He was not particularly interested in the beautiful panoramic images that the mountains also can offer. He wanted to depict the landscape that the people in the area encounter in their daily lives. Where the sun does not always shine but it blows and rains, it snows and drifts, it is cold and wet. The landscape that challenges and fascinates through its wildness and untouchedness.
The nature around Saxnäs captivated Folke but also the innkeeper Emma Johansson. Her good care during his wilderness time left its mark. And it was that determined, ambitious, mature woman, that the artist Folke eventually fell in love with.
THE COUPLE RICKLUND
got engaged in the autumn of 1934 and they got married in the beginning of 1936. Together Emma and Folke designed the new Inn building, which was called Saxnäsgården. When that building was finished, Folke realized that an artist needed a studio. So on the hill above Saxnäsgården, Folke built his studio from hand-made bricks.
The Inn, Saxnäsgården, was Emmas territory and also where she lived. As there were often a lot of people visiting, the Inn was messy and a bit crowded. So Folke spent much time in his studio and it came not only to function as his workplace but for a long time also as his residence. The couple’s various occupations therefore also affected their coexistence. The marital happiness wasn´t helped by the fact that Emma and Folke’s marriage remained childless. Folke who really wanted to have children also got a child out of wedlock with the district nurse Ragna Sunby in 1945. The couple nevertheless decided to give the marriage a second chance. Ragna Sundby moved alone to Umeå to take care of the child and the contact between her and Folke ceased.
Repair and construct
In an attempt to patch up the marriage, Folke and Emma decided to build their own home, the current Ricklundgården. The former studio with its fantastic location and magnificent views over the lake and mountains, was built in and became the starting point for the new house. No professional floor plans seem to have existed. Craftsmen who worked in the house have described how Folke stood with a simple drawing, a sketch, in his hand and instructed how he wanted it. If the result was not completely successful, they simple had to tear it down and start over. Folke was not a trained builder or architect, but had gained a lot of experience from previous constructions on the Inn and in Saxnäs.
According to the functionalist ideas of the 1930s, the simple geometric basic shapes, such as the circle, the cube and the square, would form the basis of the architecture. These ideas certainly influenced Folke in the design of the studio and the exterior shape of the house. In the exterior there are, however, no features of the traditional Västerbotten architecture. Instead, there are clear traces of Italian building tradition. Folke had great love and fascination for Italy. Perhaps it was his dream to build his house as an Italian villa, as an exclamation mark in the middle of the mountain world. Folkes creativity and artistic spirit can be seen in the exterior, the design, the vaulted ceiling and the beautiful fireplace.
Emma’s character and versatile creative joy took instead shape in work with textiles and her work adorns walls, beds, floors and sofas in form of hand-woven creations. Their colors liven up and creates a warm and cozy home. Emma and Folke complemented each other well and together they created a unique home on “The mountain”, as they called it.
Artists, travels and marital happiness
Artists continued to come to Saxnäs and many famous artists have moved through the small village. Perhaps the most internationally important artists that has visited Saxnäs are the Danes Asger Jorn, Else Alfelt and Carl-Henning Pedersen. But they are only a small part of all the artists who came to stay with Emma and Folke, partly at Saxnäsgården and partly, later, in their home on the hill.
When Emma a little later decided to lease out Saxnäsgården, the couple had the opportunity to leave Saxnäs and travel the world. In the late 40’s and early 50’s Emma and Folke took a couple of longer trips. For instance in 1948 they visited London and the Olympic Games.
Despite radically changed living conditions with their own common home, no responsibility for the Inn and many trips in Sweden and abroad. The couple did not succeed in regaining the marital happiness. The marriage ended in a divorce and Folke left Saxnäs in December 1952 to marry Ragna. Folke and Ragna later settled in Norrköping.
bought out her ex-husband and continued to run Ricklundgården on her own and many talented artists came to find refuge in her studio. It was Emma’s wish that the creation in the studio would continue even after her death and that the art collection would also be visible to the public.
Emma died of a short illness on December 2, 1965. The Emma Ricklund Foundation was formed, in accordance with Emma’s wishes on January 11, 1971. Ricklundgården was opened up once again and became a museum and guest studio.
As the creator of a completely unique art house in the mountains and as a developer of tourism – and not least culturalism, Emma’s efforts were both significant and groundbreaking. Her good food, captivating personality and friendly charm are described by many who visited and lived at her Inn. It is said that for Emma there had been nothing that was impossible to arrange for her guests. The Inn was not very luxurious. Rooms small but admittedly cozy. But it is well documented that the guests did not come for the luxury but for the environment, nature, food and Emma’s (and Folke’s) unique ability to take care of and entertain their guests.
Emma was an amazing woman in many ways, a great role model who showed what women’s power can achieve. In her foresight, her deeds as a collector and promoter of art and culture, she was admirable. She had a way of supporting and in every way assist and help the talents and artists she believed in and cherished.
For Vilhelminas cultural heritage, Emma Ricklund was extremely valuable, with her versatile talent and her life’s work. By fulfilling the intentions that Emma expressed during her lifetime, this legacy will hopefully be nurtured.