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The Van Gogh Museum Opens From Abildgaard to Hammershoi: Danish Drawings
Vilhelm Hammersh°i 1864-1916, 1892, The Kongevejen (King's Road) near Gentofte, north of Copenhagen, pencil on paper Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection, Paris.

AMSTERDAM.- The Van Gogh Museum presents today From Abildgaard to Hammersh°i: Danish drawings from the Fondation Custodia, on view through April 5, 2009. The presentation From Abildgaard to Hammersh°i: Danish drawings from the Fondation Custodia will be on display in the print cabinet of the Van Gogh Museum’s Rietveld building. The Fondation Custodia in Paris owns a celebrated collection of around 200 Danish drawings dating from the 19th century – a cultural highpoint in Denmark also referred to as Denmark’s Golden Age. The presentation comprises a selection of some 80 works, including landscapes, portraits and figure studies. The drawings were executed by successive generations of artists and offer a unique overview of the Danish 19th century, from the early neoclassical work of Abildgaard to the more modern drawings by Hammersh°i. It is the first time that these drawings are on show in the Netherlands.

Danish landscapes As elsewhere in Europe, young artists in Denmark undertook a grand tour in order to complete their education. This cultural journey tended to culminate in Italy, where they would study classical art. Like Abildgaard and others before him, Christoffer Eckersberg was a source of inspiration to his fellow artists with his renditions of the natural beauty of the Roman countryside and its distinctive light and atmosphere. Imbued with a new sense of national consciousness and inspired by Eckersberg’s nature studies, Danish artists began to record their immediate surroundings. In addition to the landscape around Copenhagen, they familiarized themselves with the large Jutland peninsula and various islands. It was Johan Thomas Lundbye, in particular, whose drawings set the tone for the national romantic landscape.

Portraits The drawings by the Danish artists include an extraordinarily large number of portraits. Some were intended as a preliminary study for a painting, like the portrait of Belle van Zuylen by the portrait painter Jens Juel and the group portrait of Mrs Hage and her children by Wilhelm Marstrand. But a great number of these drawings were executed as independent works. Often friends and acquaintances are portrayed. A separate group within this category are the portraits of artists, including the self-portraits.

Figures The Danish artists mostly used their figure drawings as preliminary studies, incorporating them in paintings to form part of a larger composition. Good examples are the sketches of traditional dress the Danes recorded on their travels. The artists also made sketches as a means of self-study, as can be seen clearly in the study of an Italian pastor by Ernst Meyer and that of a sleeping young man by Christen K°bke.

Fondation Custodia From Abdilgaard to Hammersh°i has been organized in cooperation with the Fondation Custodia. This institution is in charge of the Frits Lugt Collection and the related scholarly research, the publishing programme and for the organization of exhibitions. Fondation Custodia is also a partner of the Institut NÚerlandais in Paris, founded in 1956 on the initiative of Frits Lugt together with the Dutch government.

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