Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon

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Irja Kerstin Frykstrand


Artist, illustrator

Kerstin Frykstrand was an artist and an illustrator. She produced illustrations for children’s and youth books, postcards, and school textbooks. Her motifs often took the form of children, birds, and insects.

Kerstin Frykstrand was born in the small village of Vederlaks, in Karelia, Finland in 1901. Her parents were Nina and Ernest Westling, the latter of whom was a legal practitioner and an enforcement officer. Kerstin Frykstrand was the youngest in a family of four girls. As a child she used to draw flowers and berries for her mother’s friends, in her friend’s autograph books, and in the school magazines. She was home-schooled for the first few years of her education until she began to attend a Swedish-language school in Fredrikshamn. The children only came home to Vederlaks during the summer holidays, Christmas, and Easter and their travel home occurred on horse and carriage, or sleigh.

Kerstin Frykstrand gained top-marks in drawing class at school and when she was 16 years old she earned her first payment for one of her drawings. She had drawn elves for a window display at the local fashion shop which she felt needed a bit of decoration in the lead up to Christmas. She then began attending a Finnish-language secondary school in Kexholm where she was forced to learn Russian for six years. After Finland gained its independence it was possible to avoid studying Russian and Kerstin Frykstrand then opted to learn French.

Kerstin Frykstrand gained her school-leaving qualifications in 1919 and then began to train as a drawing instructor at Ateneum in Helsinki. She also took painting lessons from Professor Eero Järnefelt at Helsinki university. Once she had completed her training as a drawing instructor she worked at her old school in Kexholm for one term. She met the Swedish forester Gösta Frykstrand at the school and following their marriage they moved to Sweden. Their daughters Britt and Ulla were born during the 1920s and it was not until they were old enough to begin attending pre-school that Kerstin Frykstrand was able to return to her artistic pursuits.

Kerstin Frykstrand sent examples of her illustrated and painted work to the Åhlén & Åkerlund publishing house and one of her images was immediately accepted for use as the cover of Husmodern in 1931. She became increasingly sought-after as a children’s illustrator and also undertook freelance work for various publishers including Norstedt, Natur & Kultur, Sagaförlaget, and several religious publishers. She also produced large school posters and illustrated the months which still can be seen in use in classrooms and pre-schools.

Kerstin Frykstrand also wrote her own books, the first of these being Trollungar in 1938. She was still being employed as an illustrator, as evidenced by the first edition of Min skattkammare in 1947 for which she was almost entirely responsible for all the illustrations. She also received public commissions such as that for the triptych Altartavlan for Djursholm parish hall and De fyra årstiderna for the Stocksund school. In 1955 she began to illustrate the one thing she became most well-known for, namely the first wall-calendar for the Scouts. This was something she continued to work with for over 40 years. She also held many solo exhibitions throughout Sweden.

During the 1960s Kerstin Frykstrand began to paint freestyle and began to enjoy working with whatever came to mind. Although she and her husband were still living in Stocksund they had owned a plot in Tiveden since the 1950s. There Kerstin Frykstrand found the inspiration for many of her later paintings based on themes of enchanted lakes, flowers, friendly trolls, and “living” tree stumps. She was widowed in 1979 but carried on drawing in her studio every day. Her favourite motifs were chubby, happy children, birds, insects, and smaller animals, such as squirrels and hedgehogs.

Kerstin Frykstrand was awarded the Danderyd municipality culture prize in 1979. That same year she participated in the Sagan i bild exhibition at Solna Galleri along with other well-known children’s book authors such as Ilon Wikland, Hans Arnold, Inga Borg, Ulf Löfgren, Ingrid Vang Nyman and others. She also participated in many smaller exhibitions, including one at Galleri Victor in 1983 along with Cecilia Frisendahl and others, and on three separate occasions she exhibited alongside her daughter Britt Fajersson Frykstrand and her grand-daughter Annika Fajersson.

By December 1993 Kerstin Frykstrand had completed the almanac for 1995 and was then more than 92 years old. Eventually age caught up with her and she ended up spending her final years in a hospice. She died in 1997, aged 96. Her remains lie at the cemetery in Djursholmen.

Ulla Åshede
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)

Published 2020-03-02

You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Irja Kerstin Frykstrand,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Ulla Åshede), retrieved 2024-07-19.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Westling

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Mina Irene Westling, född Gahmberg
  • Father: Ernest Werner Westling
  • Sibling: [Tre äldre systrar, uppgifter saknas]
more ...


  • Läroverk, Finland: Studentexamen (finsk)
  • Läroverk, Helsingfors, Finland: Teckningslärarutbildning, måleri för Eero Järnefeldt, Ateneum


  • Profession: Teckningslärare
  • Profession: Konstnär, frilansande illustratör


  • Mentor: Eero Järnefeldt
  • Friend: Elsa Beskow


  • Konstnärernas Riksorganisation (KRO)
  • Svenska Tecknare
  • Föreningen Svenska konstnärinnor


  • Birthplace: Vederlax, Finland
  • Vederlax, Finland
  • Kexholm, Ryssland
more ...


  • Dagens Nyheter 1979-10-06, 1983-10-27, 1986-11-29, 1987-12-17, 1990-04-14, 1997-10-27

  • ’Frykstrand scoutjubilerar : gulligt i 35 år’, Dagens Nyheter 1986-11-29

  • Lindberg, Noomi, Lindberg, Erik, ’Målarinna i massupplaga’ [Nekrolog], Dagens Nyheter 1997-10-27

  • Lindberg, Noomi, Lindberg, Erik, ’Kerstin Frykstrand, barnens målarinna’ [Nekrolog], Svenska Dagbladet 1997-10-25

  • Linder, Pernilla, ’Tre generationer konstnärinnor’, Dagens Nyheter 1990-04-25

  • Lövkvist, Pia, ’Generationer minns hennes tomtar . för Kerstin, 86 är teckningen ännu en lycka’, Dagens Nyheter 1987-12-17

  • Sjökvist, Elisabeth, ’Danderydskonstnärer på Galleri Viktor’, Dagens Nyheter 1983-10-27

  • Svenska Dagbladet 1997-10-25

Further References