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Den kongelige Malerisamling/ Statens Museum for Kunst (The Royal Collection of Paintings/The National Museum for Art)
Danish monarchs have collected art ever since the Renaissance, though many of the early works
were lost in the first Christiansborg fire in 1794. The Royal Collection of Paintings was made accessible
to the public in a new palace in 1827, given the status of a museum and continued to be expanded.
With the end of absolutism in 1849, most of the collection became public property, although the
kings retained some pieces for themselves. The second Christiansborg palace was destroyed by
another fire in 1884, when again part of the collection was lost. A new national gallery named The
National Museum for Art (Statens Museum for Kunst) was then built in Sølvgade in Copenhagen and
opened in 1896. Subsequently redesigned and expanded, this museum still serves its original purpose.
Statens Museum for Kunst, Den Kongelige Kobberstiksamling (National Museum for Art – Department of
Prints and Drawings)
Until 1835, the royal collections of prints and drawings formed part of the Royal Library. Subsequent
to a reorganization, the collection was opened to the public in 1843, first in the Prince’s Palace
(Prinsens Palais) in Copenhagen, and later as part of the National Museum for Art (Statens Museum for
Den Moltkeske Malerisamling (The Moltke Painting Collection)
This large collection of chiefly Dutch paintings was brought to Denmark by Count Adam Gottlob
Moltke (1710-1792), a prominent Danish politician and landowner in the service of King Frederik V.
From 1804, this art collection was displayed in Thotts Palæ at Bredgade 15 in Copenhagen, with
admission to the public once a week. The catalogue pertaining to the collection appeared in several
versions, some with a foreword by the art historian N.L. Høyen (1798-1870).
Although the collection was of great cultural significance, it was auctioned off by Winkel & Magnussen
in Copenhagen in September 1931. Unfortunately, Statens Museum for Kunst was able to
acquire only a limited number of the paintings.
Thorvaldsens Museum (Thorvaldsen’s Museum)
In 1837, the world-famous sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen decided that his works and collections
should belong to the City of Copenhagen. The temple-shaped building, designed by G. Bindesbøll,
has since served this purpose on a site donated by King Christian VIII.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek 1 (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek)
In 1877 the brewer Carl Jacobsen began to acquire a large private collection of paintings and especially
sculpture, initially modern French and Danish works. In 1888 he donated the collection to Denmark.
A museum designed by architect Vilhelm Dahlerup (1836-1907) was built near Tivoli in Copenhagen
and completed in 1897.
Jacobsen continued to expand the collection for the museum with antique artifacts and in 1906 he
quadrupled the museum area. Thanks to the large endowment he left, the museum has continued to
expand the collections of, for instance, Golden Age paintings and French Impressionism. The building
has been expanded several times.
1Ny Carlsberg is the name of the brewery and cannot be translated. “Glyptotek” is Greek for “collection of sculpture.”
Den Hirschsprungske Samling (The Hirschsprung Collection)
During the 1860’s, the tobacco manufacturer Heinrich Hirschsprung began to collect Danish art,
especially that of the Golden Age. In time he also turned to the young French-inspired Skagen
painters as well as the Symbolists and the Funen artists. Hirschsprung took especial interest in P.S.
Krøyer and actually supported him for a time.
When the collection was put on public display in 1902, it was considered to be daringly modern,
and Emil Hannover wrote of its national significance: “To my knowledge there is nowhere in the
world a private collection that gives so extensive and clear a picture of the art of a single country.”
That year, Hirschsprung donated the collection to the Danish nation which, as part of the agreement,
built a museum that is now a listed monument. It was opened in 1911.
Charlottenborg udstillingen (Charlottenborg Exhibition) – from 1807
From the end of the 18th century, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts arranged exhibitions in
Charlottenborg Palace, which was the home of the Academy. These were the so-called “Salons” and
were held in 1769, 1778, 1794 and 1815. From 1807 on, a spring exhibition was held every year. In 1883, a
large exhibition building linked to Charlottenborg was opened, and the annual spring exhibition continued
to be called the Charlottenborg Exhibition. An autumn exhibition was introduced in 1922. The
annual spring and autumn exhibitions are still being held.
From 1871 to 1895 an unjudged December exhibit, known also as the Christmas Exhibition, was
organized by the artists themselves. Some of the income went to social objectives, including help for
elderly painters who had participated at one time in the Charlottenborg exhibition.
The Charlottenborg Exhibition building was frequently used for art auctions, and today is a center
for all types of art exhibitions.
Den Frie Udstilling (The Free Exhibition) – from 1891
As a result of censorship by the art judges in the Charlottenborg Exhibition, young artistic rebels
felt a need for an alternative venue, independent of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Organizing
as an association, they founded the Free Exhibition in 1891. Subsequent to the establishment of
Den Frie Udstilling (The Free Exhibition) a large number of artists’ associations arose among likeminded
artists, such as Foreningen for National Kunst (The Association for National Art) – from 1913;
Grønningen – from 1915; Decembristerne from 1928; Corner – from 1932, Linien 1934-37 and 1939, Kammeraterne
from 1935; Arme og ben (Arms and Legs) – 1976-1980, Ny abstraktion 1976-88 and Den gyldne (The
Golden) from 1991.
Kvindernes Udstilling (The Women’s Exhibition) – 1895
In 1895, inspired by the success of their participation in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Danish
women arranged a major exhibition demonstrating their abilities in many areas, including art. The
exhibition was a victory for the incipient women’s movement, and starting in 1920 female artists have
arranged similar exhibitons, though less ambitious.
Raadhusudstillingen (The City Hall Exhibition) – 1901
This first major retrospective exhibition of Danish art was arranged in the large new City Hall in
Copenhagen, still in use today. The exhibition provided an overview of the development of Danish
art, which came to be of great importance to the history of Danish art.
Grants and Prizes
Fonden ad Usus Publicos (Foundation for the Benefit of the Public) – 1765
This foundation was established under absolutism in 1765 and in time was given the task of supporting
the arts and sciences. It achieved its greatest importance after 1814 when, for a long time, it
enjoyed the favor of the art-loving Prince Christian Frederik (later King Christian VIII). During this
period painters received preferential treatment, and the funds provided by the foundation were of
great importance in supplementing the scholarships awarded by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine
Arts. By the time the foundation was terminated in 1842, support for the arts was relatively greater
than at any time later, though it continued under another aegis.
De Neuhausenske Præmier (The Neuhausen Prizes) – 1812
The will of master painter Jens Neuhausen provided for these prizes in 1812, but were not awarded
until 1837. Originally distributed by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts as a prize in a competition
arranged every second year, they were discontinued in 1976.
Thorvaldsen Medaljen (The Thorvaldsen Medal) – 1837
Also known as Udstillingsmedaillen (The Exhibition Medal), this award was established in 1837 to
commemorate the return of Thorvaldsen’s works from Rome to Copenhagen. It is awarded by the
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts as the Academy Council’s supreme token of recognition for
painters and sculptors.
Ingenio et Arti (Science and Arts) – 1841
This award was created in 1841 by King Christian VIII as a mark of distinction for both Danish and
foreign scientists and artists. It is awarded by the King (now Queen) on his/her own initiative and is
the most rarely awarded royal medal in Danish history.
Among the recipients have been the Danish painter Anna Ancher (1913), Russian ballerina Anna
Pavlova (1927), Danish sculptor Anne Marie Carl Nielsen (1927), Danish painter Agnes Slott-Møller
(1932), Danish-American opera singer Lauritz Melchior (1936), Danish author Karen Blixen (Isak
Dinesen)(1950), Danish-American actor Jean Hersholt and British actress Margaret Rutherford (1955),
Danish producer Sam Besekow (1961), Danish film director Carl Th(eodor) Dreyer (1963), Danish ballet
master Harald Lander (1969), American choreographer Martha Graham (1986), Louisiana Museum
founder, Danish Knud W. Jensen (1986), Danish art historian Erik Fischer (1990) and Danish
artists Bjørn Nørgaard (1999), Per Kirkeby (2001). There have been no medals granted since 2001.
Eckersberg Medaljen (The Eckersberg Medal) – 1883
Originally called Akademiets Aarsmedaille (“The Annual Academy Medal”), the award was created
February 2, 1883, the 100th birthday of C.W. Eckersberg.
Statens Kunstfond (The Danish Arts Foundation) – 1964
With the establishment of this foundation, state support for the arts was provided with more money
and more consistent rules for awards. The three-year working grants are of particular importance
to young talents. The foundation is administered by non-political specialist committees whose members
are regularly replaced.
Institutions and Schools of Art
Det kongelige danske kunstakademi (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) – 1754
This school of art was founded in 1754 and was housed in the Charlottenborg Palace on Kongens
Nytorv at the heart of Copenhagen. Under Danish absolutism, French art was considered the desideratum
so King Frederik V commissioned French artists to direct the Academy, formulate the curriculum,
the rules and in general, emulate the French Academy of Fine Arts. For the first decades the
biannual examinations took the form of competitions, first for silver medals and at the end of the students’
classwork, for gold medals. This procedure was changed in 1863.
Kunstforeningen i København (The Copenhagen Art Society) – 1825
The Society was established in 1825 with the aim of “disseminating a sense of art and encouraging
the artists.” Among the founders were Professor C.W. Eckersberg, J.P. Møller and art historian N.L.
Høyen; Prince Christian Frederik, subsequently King Christian VIII, was its patron. The Society
arranged exhibitions of Danish and foreign art, including older art. Competitions were arranged for
young artists who sold their works to the Society in the exhibitions, after which the Society sold them
in an annual lottery. For several years the Society published graphics and biographies of important
Danish artists. It celebrated its 175th anniversary in the year 2000. Since then many art societies were
established throughout Denmark. From 2004 this institution is called “Gammel Strand” referring to
its residence in the center of Copenhagen.
De Frie Studieskoler (The Free Study Schools) – 1882
In the 1870’s, young artists rebelled against the regimented, traditional Academy teaching and
started attending private schools of art in France, where they learned different methods and techniques.
From 1882, a group of young painters belonging to the “Modern Breakthrough” were given
state support for alternative teaching methods, and The Free Study Schools, later to be called The
Artists’ Free Study Schools were established by P.S. Krøyer, Laurits Tuxen and Frans Schwartz (1850-
1917). Here the novice students had the opportunity of being able to paint from life when they first
enrolled. The schools ultimately achieved great importance, with Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) and
Johan Rohde (1856-1935) as teachers.