Skagens Museum 15 October 2021 – 30 December 2022


Krøyer, Carnival and Artists’ Portraits

When, in 1885, the Casino Theatre in Copenhagen hosted a grand carnival for artists, Krøyer was tasked with portraying some of the best-known actors of the time in their star roles. The idea being that the portraits would serve as decorative elements for the festivities along with other decorations, of which several were made by artists. Krøyer had previously worked with portraits in specific formats when he painted the portraits for the carnival, as it was he who conceived the idea for the portrait frieze in the dining room at Brøndum’s Hotel.
The carnival was a major event and, according to contemporary press coverage, some 1200 people took part. The carnival was a ticketed event and there was a strict dress code. Capes or ball gowns or -suits were not permitted, only proper disguises. Part of the Casino Theatre was laid out as a seabed with fish, sharks, dolphins, and corals and Krøyer’s portraits adorned the theatre’s pergola along with works by other artists. The whole thing was accompanied by orchestral music and there was a huge dance floor where guests could dance the night away.
The round carnival portraits distinguish themselves from Krøyer’s other portraits in several ways. For example, they are done using the relatively fragile materials of pastels, charcoal, and watercolour on card. Their fragile nature probably indicates that they were not originally intended for permanent preservation. Krøyer’s portraits, decorations, and costumes from the carnival were auctioned that same year. The portraits ended up in the collection of the Theatre Museum at the Royal Court Theatre in 1922. This exhibition includes eleven portraits of contemporary actors portrayed by Krøyer and used as decorative elements for this specific carnival.
Today, the majority of the portraits belong to the Theatre Museum at the Royal Court Theatre in Copenhagen; the museum is closed at present while undergoing major renovation and modernisation. The museum will reopen in December 2022. Learn more about the project here: