In 1912 he was dubbed the ’lover of light’ by critics, the works of the internationally acclaimed Danish painter P.S. Krøyer took Paris by storm last year. These masterpieces are now back in Denmark, appearing in a very different exhibition where an impressive array of loaned works and French world-class masterpieces are presented to a Danish audience alongside the works of the Danish master.
Krøyer and Paris. French Connections and Nordic Colours is the museum’s greatest and most prestigious international exhibition to date. Krøyer’s paintings are presented together with an impressive line-up of the most influential nineteenth-century French painters and artworks . From Claude Monet’s imposing masterpiece, Impression, soleil levant (Impression. Sunrise) from 1872, to a total of seven rare artworks by one of Krøyer’s greatest idols: Jules Bastien-Lepage.
The exhibition offers the audience a unique insight into P.S. Krøyer’s artistic development and career with a sensational presentation of the heavyweights of naturalism. The exhibition shows many of Krøyer’s major artworks along with a series of spectacular loans from a number of international museums. With names including Bastien-Lepage, Léon Bonnat, Paul-Albert Besnard, Léon Pelouse, Jules Breton, Aimé Morot, Auguste Rodin, and Alfred Philippe Roll – beside Krøyer himself – this is an exhibition entirely in a class of its own. Viewers also have the opportunity to experience the realist Jean-François Millet, much admired by Danish artists, along with several artists whose importance to Krøyer had been substantial. In addition to this, a group of French impressionists represented by e.g. Monet, Caillebotte, and Sisley are also featured.
The greatest international venture ever at the Art Museums of Skagen
The exhibition Krøyer and Paris. French Connections and Nordic Colours traces Krøyer’s artistic development from the Academy’s golden-age tradition to naturalism and the modern breakthrough. It shows how inspiration from France is traceable in his painting technique and in the plein-air paintings from Skagen, indicating how French naturalism left its marks on Krøyer’s unique style.
Krøyer first went to Paris in 1877 and his numerous letters relate the importance attributed to French art not just in relation to Krøyer’s personal development as a painter but also to the artists’ colony in Skagen and to Danish cultural history in general.
The exhibition is an opportunity to follow Krøyer during the important years from 1877 when he travelled to Paris as a young artist until 1900 when his French adventure reached its climax. Krøyer was deeply engaged in the French art scene, both as a practising artist and as a member of various exhibition committees as well as via relations to a vast number of artists and cultural figures. Krøyer’s French connections were significant and lasting.
At the same time, he had something exotic to offer the French art scene: Skagen’s ‘blue hour’ above a calm sea by the luminous sandy beach, featuring fishermen or women clad in white turning their gaze inwards while twilight envelops the land. The bright light on a sunny day with children joyfully playing and bathing in the water or the moonlit moorland at midnight. The Nordic colours were a palette much enjoyed by the international audience. Both then and now.
The exhibition Krøyer and Paris. French Connections and Nordic Colours gives the audience a unique opportunity to enjoy, important excerpts of the things Krøyer saw and was inspired by and on which he offered a running commentary during his travels to France. Artworks which would influence his own motifs, colours, and techniques as well as his overall artistic development.
Even the ’Jaundiced Fairy’ returns to Denmark
Not since 1888, when the brewer Carl Jacobsen, assisted by Krøyer, initiated the first major exhibition of French art in Denmark, has it been possible to experience so many of the major late nineteenth-century French artworks of art of special importance to Krøyer gathered in Denmark at one and the same time.
This includes a number of ‘old friends’ from the 1888 exhibition in Copenhagen. For example, Besnard’s portrait of Madame Roger Jourdain revisits Denmark once again to take part in, and keep close tabs on, her civilised company of contemporary art.
The artwork was much admired in contemporary France, but, in 1888, an anonymous Danish critic wrote rather harshly about her: ’Here, you’re faced with a yellowish-green lady in a pink dress on a nondescript blue background. This is Paul Besnard’s portrait of Mme R. J. This lady, rising from her seat as if to welcome you, then smiles derisively as if saying, “You really don’t like me, but who cares, since you know next to nothing about modern art”. Fortunately, this Jaundiced Fairy only runs her own small department where the impressionist artworks are gathered.’ (The newspaper Illustreret Tidende, 27 May 1888)
As part of the exhibition, a significant group of impressionist artworks have once again come together to present French impressionism to a Danish audience.
There is no denying that the impressionists also played an important role on the French art scene experienced by Krøyer during his time in Paris. It is therefore a unique honour to be able to show these artworks along with the other French masterpieces from this time, not least Monet’s very important artwork, Impression. Sunrise.
Although Krøyer is very much an artist in his own right and the French inspiration should be viewed across the artworks presented here, the motif depicted in Monet’s masterpiece establishes a mystic harmony between the two painters, Monet and Krøyer: there was little interest in sunrises in France whereas it constituted a wholly inevitable theme to the Nordic painters.
It is therefore an entirely unique situation to be able to see this artwork at a museum where both P.S. Krøyer and the Scandinavian sunrises are so generously represented.
The exhibition Krøyer and Paris. French Connections and Nordic Colours marks the conclusion of a three-year research-based collaboration between Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris and the Art Museums of Skagen. The collaboration was a successful introduction of Krøyer to the French audience with the exhibition L’heure bleue de Peder Severin Krøyer (The Blue Hour of Peder Severin Krøyer) at the Musée Marmottan Monet in 2021 and produced interesting new research in, for example, the view on Krøyer, on the French connections and the Scandinavian presence in Paris.
The research initiatives were headed by the French art historian Dominique Lobstein and Mette Harbo Lehmann, art historian and curator at the Art Museums of Skagen.
Through sixty-six works loaned from museums in France and the rest of Europe, the exhibition presents three decades of the French art scene at the end of the nineteenth century and Krøyer’s artistic development during the same period to give the audience a general sense of Krøyer’s Paris.
Krøyer and Paris. French Connections and Nordic Colours can be experienced at Skagens Museum from 13 May – 18 September
Do note however that Monet’s masterpiece will only be on display until 4th of July. Opening times have been extended throughout the period from 9:00 AM –7:00 PM to accommodate the greater numbers of visitors expected.
Under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Margrethe II of Denmark