NORDIC INTEREST AT LONDON ART WEEK
In a troubled world, it is encouraging to notice that the global interest in Nordic art continues to develop. Over the last few years monographic exhibitions on different artists - for example C.W. Eckersberg, Nikolai Astrup, Peder Balke, Helene Schjerfbeck and Anders Zorn - have paved the way for a larger interest in Nordic art also outside the region. A major show on the Danish Golden Age Painters, originally scheduled for the Petit Palais in Paris this summer, has been postponed until September. Those of us who saw it in Stockholm and Copenhagen can assure you that this is a highlight that cannot be missed.
Other exhibitions have also been rescheduled, but in the meantime we can enjoy the different Nordic works presented by some of the dealers during London Art Week - which this summer mostly takes place online.
The Danish fin de siècle painter Vilhelm Hammershøi is known for his contemplative interiors, often seen as a link between naturalism and modernism. Agnews presents The White Door (1888), which is recognised as the artist's first known painting of an empty interior. The motif is taken from the house of the art historian Karl Madsen, whose books on the Skagen painters as well as J.Th. Lundeby contributed to the fame of these artists.
The Munich based Daxer & Marschall has a long tradition for introducing important Scandinavian artists to European collectors. During this year's London Art Week, they present examples of the works of two leading painters of the early 19th century; the Norwegian J.C. Dahl and the Dane C.W. Eckersberg. They also show paintings by two modernist pioneers, Finnish Helene Schjerfbeck and German-Swedish Lotte Laserstein. While the former three all have an established place in the art histories of their countries, it is only during the past decades that the production of Laserstein has caught the attention of scholars and curators.
It is a pleasant surprise that Ben Elwes Fine Art shows a painting by Anna Boberg - a Swedish artist who at the beginning of the 20th century painted from the Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway and who also was a designer. The time is probably due for more scholarship as well as a monographic exhibition on this pioneering artist.
The increased attention for Nordic art is due not only to the work of museums, art historians and curators, but also to the long-term interest taken by dealers and collectors, which we have seen reflected at events like TEFAF and London Art Week both this and the previous year.
Collecting Nordic Art:
The focus on Paris as the centre of the artistic avant-garde in the 19th and early 20th centuries has blurred art historical and collecting awareness for the quality of contemporary artistic production in other parts of Europe. In the USA, where museum collections to a great extent depend on private donations traditionally also focusing on French art of the period, this trend was most obvious. It only came to be broken in the last 25 years as institutions started collecting specifically Nordic, German, Austrian art. Marcus Marschall of Daxer & Marschall says: "We are proud to have pioneered this trend in recent decades and we continue to actively promote it today. For a collector, Nordic art still holds plenty of opportunities and surprises. Outstanding pieces could be admired in the major international museum shows of recent years - other great works still await discovery. Today Nordic art is one of the most exciting collecting fields."
Spotlight on two dealer highlights and their exhibition history:
Agnews is showing the oil on canvas The White Door by Vilhelm Hammershøi (Copenhagen 1864 - 1916) from 1888 - a painting that had been included in the first ever retrospective of Vilhelm Hammershøi's work in the UK and Japan in 2008 (at the Royal Academy of Art, London and the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo) and then again in 2019, at the first exhibition of the artist's work in Paris for over twenty years at the Musée Jacquemart-André. During the lifetime of this great Danish artist, the painting was exhibited on several occasions, including at an exhibition of contemporary art organised by the famous impresario and founder of the Ballet Russes, Serge Diaghilev in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1897.
Another Nordic art highlight is a work by Helene Schjerfbeck (Helsinki, Finland 1862 - Saltsjöbaden, Sweden 1946), Maisema - Landscape at Hyvinkää, from 1914 at Daxer & Marschall. It was probably bought from the artist's brother Magnus and had been in the Lüchou family in Helsinki for generations. The painting was included in the Helene Schjerfbeck exhibition in Helsinki in 1917. Last year the Royal Academy held the UK's first major exhibition of her work.
Anthony Crichton-Stuart of Agnews comments: "Helene Schjerfbeck is one of Finland's best-loved artists, but little known in the UK and elsewhere. Although sometimes described as "Finland's [Edvard] Munch", she perhaps has more in common with the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, sharing his melancholic grace. Her extraordinary series of self-portraits, so well displayed at last year's Royal Academy exhibition, arguably put her in the same company as Rembrandt, Goya, Bacon and Freud."
Dr. Knut Ljøgodt is a Norwegian art historian and the director of the Nordic Institute of Art. He is the author of the upcoming monograph Peder Balke: Sublime North (Skira), and is also working on the catalogue raisonné on this artist.
Nordic Institute of Art is an independent organization with the mission to stimulate interest in and research on art history from the Nordic region in an international context.