In 1771, the future Gustav III returned to his native Sweden from the French court of Versailles to ascend the throne as king after his father’s untimely death. The young monarch had been inspired by French architecture and decorative arts and saught to create the "Paris of the North" within the borders of Sweden. Trips to France and later to Italy gave further impetus to Gustav’s passion for the classical. During his reign (1772-1792), Sweden experienced an artistic flowering, never known before. The king transformed this once removed European country into a cultural forerunner within Europe, setting a standard of style that continued well into the 19th century. Though the introduction of the Gustavian style actually predates Gustav III's reign, it was the young King that was responsible for disseminating the new style throughout the country.
Early Gustavian decoration was clearly inspired by the French Rococo and later the Neo-classical movements, but the late Gustavian style was more closely identified with Italy, after engravings from the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii began to circulate in Sweden. The return from Italy, of Swedish court architects and artisans such as Rehn, Adelcrantz and the Masreliez Brothers, is often seen as marking the transition between the morer romantic Early Gustavianstyle and the stricter lines associated with the furtniture of the Late Gustavian period.
Following these foreign impulses the Swedes created a more restrained or austere style of decoration more suitable for Sweden than the over embellished continental Baroque and Rococo styles.
Today it is the Gustavian that is most closely connected to Swedish style internationally and continues to inspire designers world over.