The Evening Land
With the museum's opcoming exhibition, Danish landscape painting from c. 1770 to c. 1810 will be seen in a quite new light. It is during this period that we begin to see signs of an independent Danish landscape tradition emerging. And paintings of landscape from this very time are far more important and substantial than has previously been believed.
A New Perspective on the Period
The exhibition reveals that the art of this period had meanings and statements that have so far been overlooked and never been the subject of research. The years immediately around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries mark a vast transformation in western culture - not least in Denmark. A notable change takes place towards the end of the 18th century in the established picture of the world and the old world order. The French Revolution is the great, visible expression of the breaking down of older forms of government and the social pattern. The wars during and after the Napoleonic era assume great significanse for all the countries of Europe. In Denmark, absolutism is moving towards its close. The aristocracy is losing its privileges; agricultural reforms are being carried through, and a new bourgeoisie is becoming established. At the same time, as a result of Denmark's policy of neutrality during the European wars, trade is blossoming as never before.
Perhaps the Happiest Periode in the History of Denmark
The period from 1784, when Crown Prince Frederik (later King Frederik VI) assumes power, to 1797 (when the wise and gifted Prime Minister A.P. Bernstorffs dies) is called "perhaps the happiest period in the history of Denmark". It is a period that corresponds largely with Thorvaldsen's youth in Copenhagen - from his admission in 1781 to the Royal Academy of Fine Art until the autumn of 1796, when he leaves Copenhagen and goes to Rome. This "happy age" is given visual expression primarily in paintings of the landscape by Jens Juel and Erik Pauelsen. But landscapes by the early C.W. Eckersberg, Elias Meyer, Peter Cramer and S.L. Lange will also be included in the exhibition.
This period of Danish history comes to an abrupt end as a result of the failed Danish policies relating to the Napoleonic wars, the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and the Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. However, it is as though this limited good fortune has already been heralded in landscape painting with its portrayals of storms and sunsets and its pictures of evening scenes. An age and a world are coming to an end and are illuminated in one final, glowing moment before everything turns black.
A Cultivated Landscape in a Golden Light
In 1810, C.W. Eckersberg goes off on his grand tour, which first takes him to Paris and later to Rome, where on the one hand he becomes a close friend of Thorvaldsen and on the other starts painting the series of small sketches that reflect his own recent experiences in Rome, which he then takes back with him to Copenhagen in 1816.
That study of nature becomes the starting point for a new approach to reality on the part of Eckersberg's many students. And the period in the history of Danish art that was much later to be known as "The Golden Age of Danish Art" comes into being. But the exhibition will show that there was in fact a golden age before the Golden Age, so to speak, an age during which the countryside was displayed in the paintings in a golden glow. It was a time when art clearly had roots going back to the archaic tradition in European painting and thus all the way back to Antiquity and the idea of an original golden age enjoyed by all mankind.
The exhibition is arranged by director Stig Miss, Thorvaldsens Museum.
The exhibition will be shown at Thorvaldsens Museum from 3 March to 29 May 2011.
Funen Art Museum
DK-5000 Odense C