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21. Life in a Circus Tent

This is a continuation of 20. Antonis Tivoli so if you missed it you may want to recap.


When I grew up in Sweden my father worked as a carpenter and my mother stayed mainly at home and both provided a wonderful environment for me and my brother to grow up in. ( I will tell you about my maternal grandparents another time but this is about my father’s family.)

This particular work “The Acrobat” is one of my dads, Ted Jonsson and made entirely from cardboard which he has cut up and painted and glued like a mosaic effect and as you read on you will soon discover how he  became an artist.   This artwork of my fathers was  no doubt was inspired by my grandfathers early career as an acrobat.

Artist Ted Jonsson's artwork; The Acrobat, made from cardboard in a mosaic fashion.

My father did not want to work in showbiz as he wanted to join the” establishment” that he saw around him and not wanting the circus life.  So he went out to sea with the merchant navy first and then went to trade school and qualified as a chef, before settling in as a carpenter.

During the summer months when my grandparents would take their Tivoli around Sweden we would go and visit them from time to time.  During the day we would find my grandfather fishing in some stream (stress release) and at night we would help out with the sideshows and it was all very exciting.

I would usually be allowed to pick something out from the prizes in sideshow ally, and that was a big treat.


In this painting my grandfather is throwing knifes at my grandmother but he wore many hats and also had the stage name as DEVIS-THE LIVING VOLCANO,  eating what appeared to be burning meatballs,  this trick he would also do for us kids at family gatherings and me and the cousins just loved it.

Naive painting of Marie Jonsson-Harrison's grandparents circus

My knife throwing Grandfather never missed!

My Grandfather Anton also appeared as Nilo the comical juggler, dressed as a clown, and juggling to the delight of the watching audience.  My aunty Eyvor is the lady with the cigarette and she would do a disappearing act and also a dance with feathers and fans, later on Eyvor and her husband also travelled the country side with their own Tivoli.  I have just found out that my cousin Sonja was also left at home alone for months at a time, although she was around 13 years old when that first started.

Uncle Willy sitting on the camel did lots of behind the scenes jobs, before being in charge of the lights in several Swedish Theatres and later on worked for one of the TV news channels in Sweden and was part of breaking many exciting news stories.

Uncle Charles became a civil engineer and was revered as the one who went to University, and joined the elite so to speak.


My Aunty Gun Jonsson (dressed as a ballerina) won Miss Lucia in 1947 and was a most sought after beauty of her time, making headlines in all the papers,  she got a life supply of Palmolive soap (never had to buy one again!)  She then went on to dance in an international dance troupe called “The Cassel Girls “and later became a famous actress.  She was in several plays directed by Ingmar Bergman and Gun is also a much admired director and producer, something which she still does today.  (‘Bad Javlarna’,’ Hem till Byn’ and ‘Sova rav’ are just some of her Swedish movies and TV shows, you Swedes know what I am talking about.)


My father decided after working as a carpenter both in Sweden and in Australia and doing painting and sculpting in his spare time, it was time to bite the bullet and he now dedicates his time to the arts either by helping my brother or me or doing his own fabulous sculptures out of  found objects and if you feel like checking out his art go to Ted Jonsson Junk Art on face book or use this link Ted Jonsson Junk Art.

This is a detail of a painting and shows my Dad (he is climbing a tree house and flying a kite, one of those blokes that is forever young and refuses to grow up! Good on you Dad! )

However most of his work could not be more different than mine, I think perhaps he chases away the demons from his door still today through his art.  My dad creates art from other peoples discarded objects, is a keen connoisseur of junk and an ace rubbish tip scrounger.  He has had a great deal of success and exhibits with Greenaway and BMG Galleries in Adelaide and is represented in the National Gallery in Canberra.  My father has been instrumental in my own career, always there to encourage and urge me on and always ready to lend a hand and most importantly love me unconditionally.  Thanks Dad

Here is a quote by James Russell Lowell that I think my knife throwing Grandfather would have agreed with:

“Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.”

Happy painting and sculpting everyone,

Love Marie xx  (c)

Why not come and have a look at Marie Jonsson-Harrison’s PAINTINGS FOR SALEGICLEE PRINTS FOR SALEand SCULPTURES for sale or WALLBASED SCULPTURES.  Enjoy an original artwork on your walls or perhaps one on your bed ARTnBED.

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