Past – Helge Artelius


This heirloom fold-out Nativity scene once belonged to my grandmother. A beautiful work of art, the scene is filled with wonderful details. Turned around, the reverse of the painting can be found on the opposite side. Amazing!


The Nativity was painted by Swedish artist, Helge Artelius (1895-1989).


I found many examples of Artelius’s work on the web, but there were few details about his life. If anyone can fill in the blanks about this artist please leave a comment. Thanks!

Postscript: When I wrote this post I thought the artist was a woman. If you read the comments below under the name of Anna Borsey you will discover amazing information about this artist.

14 thoughts on “Past – Helge Artelius

    1. The illustrations are very familiar to me. I must have seen them in the books also. I hadn’t thought of them for years also. I wish that I could find out more about her life. There is very little on the web. Thanks for the comment.


  1. Anna Borsey

    Ummm … Helge Andreas Artelius was a man, not a woman. He was Swedish, born 28 October 1895 in the northern town of Sundsvall, and he died in 1989. In 1927 he married Gullan Artelius who was also a Swedish artist.
    He studied at the Royal Academy of Art (Kungliga Akademien för de fria konsterna) in Stockholm (the capital of Sweden) 1919-1925. During his time there he was awarded a medal for his art work.
    His serious art consists of portraits and still lifes in oil, tempera or watercolour.
    For most of his life he worked as an illustrator of books, articles, magazines as well as special edition Christmas magazines, and he also painted many thousands of greetings cards, especially Christmas cards, as well as paper scraps and paper “posters” which Swedes put up at Christmas (called Jul, in Swedish). He sold his first illustration at the age of 15 years! When he died in 1989, he had worked as an artist for 80 years.
    There is a profusely illustrated book about him, publ. in 2015, written by two Swedish women, but it is available only in Swedish, unfortunately.


  2. Anna Borsey

    P.S. The name HELGE is a man’s name, and the name HELGA is a woman’s name.

    Helge is a man’s name of ancient Nordic origin with the meaning “holy”, possibly originally in the sense “lucky, fortunate”. This name was common in the late 19th C and the early 1900s but is very rare nowadays.

    Helga is a woman’s name and a feminine form of Helge. It means “holy” or maybe “lucky, fortunate” or possibly “dedicated to the gods”. It was a common name in Viking times and survived through the centuries. A century and more ago Helga was a very fashionable name and it remained popular till 1920. Nowadays it is not so common.


  3. Timelesslady

    Thank you so much for the great information. I could find little on this artist, as you can surmise by the gender mix-up, on the web when I wrote the post. In fact, some of the information was, and is, as I just checked again, in other languages. Thanks so much for letting me know and for the great information in your comment. I will edit my post and add a postscript to read your comments. Please stop by again.


    1. Anna Borsey

      You are most welcome.

      Yes, all the available information about Helge Artelius is in Swedish, I am afraid. As this is my native language, this does not pose a problem for me, but obviously it will do for most of the global population.

      By the way, he had a daughter, Ulla – Ulla Artelius is her full name (Ulla is a Swedish form of the Hebrew name Huldah, which is a Biblical name). I have been unable to find out anything about her on the internet. She owns quite a collection of original artwork by her famous father, evidently.
      Artelius was, according to his daughter, not religious as such, but he painted a great many Christian motifs, e.g., Mary on the donkey, the Christ in the crib (manger).
      He is best known, however, for his many angels, which appear on Christmas cards, scraps and in illustrations in special edition Christmas magazines.

      There is a long, complex fold-out card nativity scene in this link, also painted by Helge Artelius. Scroll down the page a bit to see it.


  4. Anna Borsey

    Link to a Pinterest page with plenty of examples of Christmas art, (Xmas is Jul / Yule) by Helge Artelius. Mostly it is of a secular kind, with plenty of the special Swedish Xmas Robin Goodfellow creatures (tomtar), but there are some of his lovely angels to be seen too. Certain of his blond angels were based on his own daughter, more or less, although I think the corkscrew curls some of the angels sport were artistic licence.

    His daughter Ulla was a frequent model from a baby and toddler and through the years until she was grown up. Even the orange wooden armchair she sits on in a few paintings exists in real life – it now lives in her house.


Thanks so much for your comments. They fill my life with sunshine.

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