Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 17

he year was
. President Reagan had recently appointed me to serve as the United
States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, and I had just moved to Copenhagen to
begin my service. The Danish government was strongly objecting to NATO’s decision to
place intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Western Europe. It was NATO’s position that this
was necessary to counterbalance the threat from the Soviet Union’s arms buildup. Although the
issue of arms control was paramount to my mission, as an ambassador, it was also important for
me to gain an understanding of the culture of Denmark. Thus, when I was invited to the fore-
most gallery of contemporary Danish art by the owner, Jacob Asbæk, I was delighted to accept.
Jacob became my first Danish art mentor, and my first acquisitions were contemporary paintings
from his gallery. These acquisitions helped to brighten the basement of Rydhave, the official
ambassadorial residence. In that basement I created a small gallery of contemporary Danish art.
(The basement had previously been converted into a bomb shelter to protect Dr. Werner Best,
the infamous Nazi ruler of Denmark during World War II, and who had lived in Rydhave during
the German occupation.)
As time went by I fell more and more in love with Danish art, especially that of the late
th and early
th centuries. In fact my enthusiasm resulted in what I am told is the largest col-
lection of Danish art outside Denmark, a total of
works representing
My passion for collecting art is not surprising. One could say it is even in my genes. I had the
pleasure of being surrounded by great art my whole life. Over the years of their long lives, my late
parents assembled one of America’s greatest collections of Impressionist art. The collection was
ultimately sold on behalf of the John Loeb Family Charitable Foundation at Christie’s in
the then-record sum of $
. Also, my mother’s cousins Philip and Robert Lehman, and
my great-grandfather Adolf Lewisohn, gave their respective collections of some of the world’s
greatest paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and I knew those collections well.
Interestingly enough, it was my great-grandfather Lewisohn who provided me with an ances-
tral Danish connection. His ancestors lived in the town of Rendsburg until
. Rendsburg was
then in the duchy of Holstein, of which the Danish King Frederik V was the duke. Rendsburg is
now part of Germany, namely the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.
I had no specific intention of creating a major collection of Danish art. Nevertheless I found
myself spending week-ends after week-ends at Copenhagen’s art museums and galleries. I soon
discovered Denmark’s most outstanding collection of
th century Danish art, assembled by the
great tobacco merchant, Heinrich Hirschsprung (
). He systematically collected the art of
his contemporaries over the course of
years. This remarkable and beautiful collection is housed
in a lovely Copenhagen building, known as the Hirschsprung Museum. Mr. Hirschsprung’s com-
mitment to Danish national art was inspirational to me, especially when one considers that most of
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