Danish Paintings from the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough: Selections from the Collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr., an exhibition of masterworks by leading Danish

painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries, opens atScandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America, in New York City, on October 12, 2013. The selection of 37 works traces key developments in Danish painting from the late neoclassical, to the romantic, to the early modern eras--a period of unprecedented artistic creativity that saw the emergence of a distinctive national school of Danish painting.

Organized by The American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF), the exhibition is drawn exclusively from the private collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr., regarded as the finest collection of Danish paintings outside Scandinavia. Highlights include an outstanding group of works by Vilhelm Hammershøi, the most celebrated of all early Danish modernists, as well as important paintings by Nicolai Abildgaard, Anna and Michael Ancher, Christen Købke, P.S. Krøyer, and L.A. Ring, among others. Scandinavia House will be the exclusive venue for this exhibition, which remains on view through January 18, 2014.

Edward P. Gallagher, ASF president, states: "It is only in the past few decades that Danish painting has begun to receive the international recognition and study it so richly deserves. In America, there is today no more enthusiastic and astute admirer of the glories of Danish painting than Ambassador Loeb, whose superb collection of Danish masters we showcase in the present exhibition. We are extremely grateful to the Ambassador for sharing these treasures with our public, and for enabling the ASF to further its mission of celebrating the cultural achievements of the Nordic countries in such an important way."

Historical Background

The period covered by this exhibition-roughly the end of the 18th- through early 20th centuries-was one of enormous political and social upheaval in Denmark that saw dramatic changes not only in the character of Danish painting, but in the country's sense of national identity. The relative peace and prosperity of the 18th century was brought to an abrupt end by Denmark's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, which left the country bereft of its once-powerful navy and global prominence. Ensuing decades of political and economic instability, driven by economic collapse and then a rising middle class and rural proletariat, saw the demise of Denmark's 1,000-year-old absolutism and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Artists, writers, and political thinkers alike participated in a new nationalistic fervor and the perceived need to redefine what it meant to be Danish.

Exhibition Overview

Danish Paintings from the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough: Selections from the Collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. focuses on the extraordinary outburst of artistic creativity that occurred in Denmark from the 1790s to the 1920s, as successive generations of Danish painters sought to create a national school that would rival those of France, Germany, and England. The works on view document the full richness and variety of this period, beginning with important examples of neo-classically inspired history paintings and portraits from the 1780s and 90s by artists such as Nicolai Abildgaard and Jens Juel. Christen Købke's portrait of Bertel Thorvaldsen (c. 1828) pays homage to Denmark's greatest neoclassical sculptor, while an exuberant still life (c. 1833) by J.L. Jensen is an early example of the enduring importance of Dutch 17th-century painting in the development of Danish art.

Works from the 1810s to 1850s, the so-called "Golden Age" of Danish painting, reflect the Vilhelm Kyhn, Evening Atmosphere, 1861. Oil on canvas, 27 ¼ x 37 in. conscious rejection of academic neoclassicism in favor of a new nationalistic art that celebrated the land and its people. Its legacy includes Christen Dalsgaard's charming image of a young girl writing (1871) and romanticized views of the Danish countryside by Vilhelm Kyhn and J. Th. Lundbye epitomize the idealizing and unabashedly patriotic approach typical of the Golden Age painters. By contrast, L. A. Ring's Harvest (1886), in which a rural laborer (the artist's brother) wields his heavy scythe in the hot sun, presents a markedly less idyllic view of rural life, presaging the social realism embraced by many turn-of-the-century Danish painters.