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Large donation brings Matisse masterpiece to National Gallery of Denmark
Henri Matisse, Nymph and Faun, c. 1911.

COPENHAGEN.- With a substantial million-euro donation, the New Carlsberg Foundation and the Augustinus Foundation have made SMK – National Gallery of Denmark the new home of a truly remarkable painting by the French artist Henri Matisse, Nymph and Faun. A painting, that SMK has been trying to locate since the 1990s.

SMK – National Gallery of Denmark owns one of the largest collections of Henri Matisse’s art found anywhere outside of France. Now the museum adds yet another important work by Matisse to its collection, which now numbers 25 paintings and sculptures and a large number of works on paper. Back in 1928, Johannes Rump – an engineer, politician and art collector – gave his collection of modern French art to the museum, and even today his generous gift makes up the majority of the museum’s collection of Matisse’s art.

With Nymph and Faun from c. 1911, the Matisse collection of SMK not only grows by one picture; it also grows more complete: this particular piece has a special connection to Denmark and relates directly to the SMK collection and history in many ways. Nymph and Faun is among the largest single donations made to SMK in recent times.

The Danish connection
Nymph and Faun originally came to Denmark in 1919, having been purchased by the prominent Danish art collector Christian Tetzen-Lund. Up until 1924, Tetzen-Lund owned one of the world’s largest and most important Matisse collections, which he kept at his private residence in Copenhagen. Several of the works now found in the French collection at SMK were originally owned by Tetzen-Lund before being bought by Johannes Rump and subsequently donated to SMK.

With the acquisition of the painting Nymph and Faun, the museum can now offer a more complete and nuanced presentation of Tetzen-Lund’s famous collection, which constitutes an important chapter in the history of Danish art and culture. The painting was acquired via Christie’s private sales service.

‘Because it was part of a Danish collection in the early 20th century, we have been on the lookout for this painting since the 1990s. Back then, we didn’t succeed in tracking it. Indeed, it is very rare to see early works by Henri Matisse on the market. So we feel extremely privileged to have been offered the opportunity to acquire the work. We look forward to sharing this beautiful and tremendously interesting painting with our many guests from Denmark and around the world,’ says Mikkel Bogh, director at SMK.

An important picture
Nymph and Faun offers an important key to our understanding of Matisse’s art during a period where he experimented with new modes of expression. The subject itself, two bathing figures in a landscape, connects this picture to other figure compositions in the SMK collections. But with its loosely applied, vibrant brushstrokes and sketch-like nature, the picture also exemplifies an important dimension to Matisse’s experiments that has hitherto remained unrepresented at SMK.

The work was of key significance to Matisse himself, as is clearly demonstrated by the fact that it appears among other key works from the period in the large, revolutionary painting The Red Studio, 1911 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), which also happens to include other important works from the SMK collection.

One of the great masters
Matisse (1869–1954) is considered one of the leading masters of 20th century art. He is particularly well known for powerful, vibrant pictures executed with a keen sense for the beauty of colour and line. Throughout his life, Matisse maintained an explorative approach to his art, always challenging his own idiom and trying out new modes of expression.

Nymph and Faun will be on display at SMK from 27 March 2018.

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