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Largest retrospective exhibition ever staged about Anna Ancher on view in Copenhagen
Anna Ancher, Harvest Time, 1901, Fuglsang Kunstmuseum. Photo: Ole Akhøj.

COPENHAGEN.- Anna Ancher was one of the central Danish artists active around 1900. She brought inspiration from international art movements home from her travels, incorporating it into her paintings from Skagen. From 8 February 2020 SMK presents the largest retrospective exhibition ever staged about Anna Ancher.

In 1929, the Swedish painter Oscar Björck described his friend, Anna Ancher (1859–1935) in the following terms in a letter to museum director Karl Madsen: “Anna Ancher has my sincere admiration, both as a person and as an artist. She is like a burst of sunshine, and her paintings have something that no-one else among us possess to any similar degree: a quiet devotion to the task and a palette so succulent and luscious that you savour it like ripe fruit”.

Today, Anna Ancher is still celebrated for her boundary-breaking use of colour and her astounding ability to capture a ray of sunlight. But her reach extends far beyond that. SMK is taking a fresh look at Anna Ancher’s work in a major retrospective produced in close collaboration with the Art Museums of Skagen. The exhibition seeks to lift Anna Ancher out of Skagen, unshackling her from her ties to the artist’s colony in order to place her within the wider – international – context her art merits.

Local and international
Anna Brøndum was born in 1859, the daughter of Ane and Erik Brøndum, who owned Brøndum’s inn in Skagen. In this most remote of all corners of Denmark, which was not connected to the railway grid until 1890, Anna Brøndum became acquainted with young artists and writers from a young age when they visited her parents’ inn and, later, hotel. Major figures of the Modern Breakthrough in Denmark, such as Michael Ancher, Holger Drachmann, Georg Brandes and Agnes Henningsen all sought out Skagen to be part of the progressive community of artists and writers gathering there. Her interest in drawing and painting, nurtured ever since she was a child, was encouraged by several artists – one of whom was her future husband, Michael Ancher.

For several years in a row, 1875–78, the young Anna went to Copenhagen in winter to attend Vilhelm Kyhn’s school of drawing and painting for women. Not until 1908 did women gain access to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts on an equal footing with men. Later, in 1889, she travelled to Paris and supplemented her training by seeking out one of the most celebrated artists of the time, Puvis de Chavannes, who ran a greatly sought-after art school. This interplay between international impulses and her immediate surroundings in Skagen helped shape Anna Ancher’s distinctive imagery: the simplified pictorial space, the radical choices of colour and the intense use of light. Anna Ancher is not only the most ‘modern’ of the Skagen painters; her art extends its reach well into the twentieth century.

Anna Ancher’s special gift for portraying light and colour is unfolded in the exhibition, but so too are other themes that account for a surprisingly large portion of her total production – including landscapes and religious subjects. Overall, the exhibition seeks to present a more nuanced and diverse image of Anna Ancher.

The exhibition
The exhibition Anna Ancher comprises some 150 paintings and pastels as well as thirty drawings. The display will also incorporate archival material such as letters, sketchbooks, photographs and cultural artefacts. The exhibition is on display at SMK during the period 8 February – 24 May 2020. It will then go on to be displayed at Skagens Museum (13 June – 18 October 2020) and Lillehammer Kunstmuseum (14 November 2020 – 15 March 2021).

The exhibition is made in collaboration with The Art Museums of Skagen.

New publication about Anna Ancher
The exhibition is accompanied by a large, lavishly illustrated publication consisting of 240 pages that takes a fresh look at the artist’s production. The publication will be featuring articles by literary scholar Lilian Munk Rösing, art historian Elisabeth Fabritius and others. Price: 250 DKK. The book will be available at SMK shop when the exhibition opens.

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