A major exhibition on art in Denmark in the first half of the 19th century - the period described as the Golden Age of Danish art - has just opened at Statens Museum for Kunst / The National Gallery in Copenhagen.
It sets the paintings in the context of the political history of a period bookended by war and looks at the influence of the Royal Academy; at teaching; at the influence of travel as Danish artists went abroad, to Italy in particular, and looks at how the artists lived and worked … with paintings and drawings of artists at work in their studios.
The exhibition is an opportunity to look at paintings as a record of life in the city through that period, with paintings that record interiors and streetscapes that have gone or have been changed dramatically.
This painting by Martinus Rørbye from 1827 shows his teacher, The Painter Christian August Lorentzen and is on loan for the exhibition from the Nivagaard Collection.
Note the old arm chair that appears to have been covered originally in green silk but by the time it has been moved to the studio of the artist it appears to be permanently covered in its gingham slip covers.
In England, through the 18th century and at this period in the first half of the 19th century, wealthy landowners spent time away from their main houses in the country and, often for many months, lived in houses in London or they travelled “for the season” to cities like Bath or Harrogate or even to the seaside at Brighton, and when they were elsewhere, their homes were shut up and expensive furniture was usually protected with slip covers in calico or heavy cotton - often in gingham. There could even be long thin bags in the material that were drawn up around heavy silk curtains and secured at the top with tapes or plain ribbons. Presumably, in Denmark, the wealthy followed the same or similar habits of housekeeping but as silk covers got dirty or frayed - silk splits or breaks apart with strong sunlight - then these temporary covers that had been made to fit the specific chair, would have become more practical as permanent covers.
Note the construction of the chair with low-set and staggered stretchers between the legs … set higher at the front, where you tuck your feet back under as you stand up, and at the back than at the sides so the legs are not made weaker by putting the mortices for the ends of the stretchers too close together. The L-shaped arm rest is a crude precursor of the ‘classic’ mid 20th-century chair by Ole Wanscher.
The fur-lined leather slippers are fantastic.
Danish Golden Art - World-class art between disasters continues at
Statens Mueum for Kunst in Copenhagen
until 8 December 2019
detail of the painting by Matrinus Rørbye of The Painter Christian August Lorentzen
Gingham is a distinct material with a small pattern of squares that is created in the weave and is generally in strong simple colours so red and white or blue and white or strong, deep yellow and white squares. It is popular throughout Scandinavia and, along with simple stripe patterns, gingham is probably most often used for curtains and covers in rural homes such as summer cottages or farmhouses.