Ragnhild Kaarbø was a Norwegian artist who was born into a wealthy family in Harstad. While attending boarding school in Hanover, she decided to become a painter. After taking classes at the Statens Håndverks- og Kunstindustriskole and with Harriet Backer, she continued her education in Paris, where she was a pupil of Kees van Dongen, André Lhote and Pedro Araujo, among others.
In the mid-1920s, Kaarbø studied under Fernand Léger, and her work from this time was characterized by a strictly constructive style. The motifs, which were most often simple arrangements, were abstracted in a Cubist style, so that only stylized single elements suggested the starting point. She also worked with non-figurative compositions, and the coloring was often quite ascetic.
Together with Scandinavian colleagues, including Otto G. Carlsund, Franciska Clausen, Ragnhild Keyser and Charlotte Wankel, Kaarbø exhibited Cubist works at the Kunstnerforbundet in 1927, but the exhibition was not a success. Henrik Sørensen, a friend of Kaarbø from her younger years, acted as the exhibitors' defender against the uncomprehending press, and the result was a press boycott by the Artists' Association.
In the 1930s, Kaarbø developed his colouristic abilities, especially in landscape painting. She lived mainly in Oslo, spent the summers in northern Norway and undertook several study trips abroad. She also painted copies of the old masters in Italy.
Kaarbø's later art was based on direct observation of nature, and only exceptionally did she work in a more abstract direction. At the end of her life, she was forced to paint with her left hand due to paralysis.
Kaarbø participated in a number of collective exhibitions, including the Autumn Exhibition and the Salon d'Automne in Paris, and her work is represented in public collections such as the National Gallery in Oslo and Oslo Municipality's art collections.
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