Art of Denmark  

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Golden Age of Danish Painting

Danish art goes back hundreds of years. Earlier work is often manifested in churches, for example in the form of frescos such as those from the 16th century artist known as the Elmelunde Master. Thereafter for an extended period art in Denmark was either imported from Germany and the Netherlands or Danish artists studied abroad and produced work that was seldom inspired by Denmark itself. From the 19th century on, the situation changed radically and Danish art as such began to prosper and has continued to do so until today.

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The Golden Age

It was at the beginning of the 19th century that the Golden Age of Danish Painting emerged with a marked increase in truly Danish art inspired by the country itself with its lifestyle and traditions. Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg was an important influence on the following generation’s study of nature, in which landscape painting came to the fore. He had many successful students, including Wilhelm Bendz (1804-1832), Christen Købke (1810-48), Martinus Rørbye (1803-1848), Constantin Hansen (1804-1880), Jørgen Roed (1808-1888), Wilhelm Marstrand (1810-1873), Constantin Hansen (1804-80), C.A. Jensen (1792-1870), J.Th. Lundbye (1818-1848), and P.C. Skovgaard (1817-1875).

Modernism and expressionism

Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann (1819 - 1881) was born in Zoliborz (Jolibord) a borough of Warsaw but moved to Denmark when she married Danish sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau in 1846. She is best known for her portraits and was commissioned by the Danish Royal Family to paint their portraits to the annoyance and jealousy of local artists. The mild eroticism of a few of her paintings was looked upon unfavourably by many at the time but she remained aloof, perhaps reassured by the fact that some of her husbands sculptures were erotic in nature.

Theodor Philipsen (1840-1920) through his personal contact with Paul Gauguin became the sole Danish impressionist of his generation.

Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933), famous for his involvement in Danish symbolism, specialised in paintings of village life and landscapes in the south of Zealand.

Paul Gustave Fischer (1860-1934) was a romantic impressionistic painter specialising in city street scenes and bright bathing compositions.

Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916) was considered something of an enigma in his lifetime but is now remembered mainly for his subdued paintings of interiors, usually empty spaces but occasionally with a solitary figure.

Danish expressionist landscape painting developed between the world wars with Jens Søndergaard and Oluf Høst as its main representatives. In parallel, younger artists such as Niels Lergaard, Lauritz Hartz and Karl Bovin adopted the light French colours and formalism of modernism, founding the Corner group of artists in 1932. Around the same time, Edvard Weie, the Swedish artist Karl Isakson, Olaf Rude, Kræsten Iversen, Oluf Høst and Niels Lergaard were attracted by the natural beauty of the Baltic islands of Bornholm and the much smaller Christiansø. Together they initiated the so-called Bornholm School providing the basis of the permanent exhibition at the Bornholm Art Museum near Gudhjem. Painters of nature and everyday life such as Erik Hoppe and Knud Agger initiated the highly successful Grønningen association which provided a platform for exhibitions in Copenhagen.

Sigurd Swane (1879-1973) was initially influenced by the work of the Fauves in Paris when he began a series of paintings of woodlands rich in greens, yellows and blues. He later painted a number of light-filled landscapes while living on a farm in Odsherred in north-western Zealand.

Harald Giersing (1881-1927) was instrumental in developing the classic modernism movement in Denmark around 1910-1920.

Vilhelm Lundstrøm ( 1893–1950), one of the greatest modernists, brought French cubism to Denmark. He is remembered for his still-life paintings with oranges and for cubistic scenes with nudes. His later work developed into much looser modern art with contrasting colours and form.

Richard Mortensen (1910-1993) was an important surrealistic painter, inspired by Wassily Kandinsky. He was a joint founder of the "Linien" group of artists and also a member of the Grønningen group. His later expressionist works exhibit large, clear, brightly coloured surfaces.

Asger Jorn (1914-1973) was a Danish artist, sculptor, writer and ceramist. Looking for inspiration outside Denmark, he traveled widely. After meeting artists such as Benjamin-Constant, Appel and Dotremont, he became the driving force behind the Cobra group where he excelled in ceramics but also continued to paint in oils.

The Skagen and Funen movements

In 1871, Holger Drachmann (1846-1908) and Karl Madsen (1855-1938) visited Skagen in the far north of Jutland where they quickly built up one of Scandinavia's most successful artists' colonies. They were soon joined by P.S. Krøyer (1851-1909), Carl Locher (1851-1915), Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927), the Norwegian Christian Skredsvig (1854-1924) and Michael (1849-1927) and Anna Ancher (1859-1935). All participated in painting the natural surroundings and local people. The symbolist Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958) also visited the Skagen community.

A little later, a similar phenomenon developed on Funen with the encouragement of Johannes Larsen (1867-1961) and the inspiration of Theodor Philipsen. The Funen artists included Jens Birkholm, Karl Schou, Harald Giersing, Anna Syberg, Christine Swane and Alhed Larsen.

Contemporary art

Collections of modern art enjoy unusually attractive settings at the Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen and at the North Jutland Art Museum in Aalborg. The National Museum of Art and the Glyptotek, both in Copenhagen, contain treasures of Danish and international art.

Merete Barker (b. 1944) uses sketches and photographs from her many travels as the basis for highly expressive paintings where it is often difficult to distinguish between nature and culture.

See also




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