July 29, 2021

The Danish painter Kroyer, between day and night, at the Marmottan-Monet Museum, in Paris

Parisians never stop discovering Scandinavian painting. The older ones may remember the “Lumières du Nord” exhibition offered by the Petit Palais museum in 1987. It was followed in particular by “Visions du Nord” at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1998. including the first section, which featured five painters – the Finns Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) and Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946), the Swedes Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911) and August Strindberg (1849-1912), and especially the Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863-1944) – was entitled, after the philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, “Light of the world, light of the sky”.

The particular light of the northern regions is still discussed with the Danish Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909 – too young therefore to appear in the exhibition “The Golden Age of Danish Painting” at the Petit Palais in September 2020 , which interrupted its investigations in 1864) which shows, for the first time in France, in 67 paintings, the Marmottan-Monet Museum in Paris. It is surtitled “The Blue Hour”, an expression which designates an atmosphere particular to the Scandinavian twilights where the day seems not wanting to give way to the night, and especially those of the fishing village of Skagen, in the peninsula of Jutland , in the far north of Denmark, where Kroyer had a workshop.

From there to making an impressionist – he has the oily touch, the brush stroke removed, often paints in the open air and adores playing the effects of the sun on his models – the temptation is great, especially as he has a time studied in Paris. But it was in the studio of Léon Bonnat (1833-1922) in 1877, three years after the official birth of the movement. Bonnat was rather to be classified in the camp of realists – naturalists, Zola would have said. He was especially passionate about Spanish painting and, curiously, Kroyer’s paintings, especially those of young children frolicking naked in the sea, have false airs of paintings by his younger brother Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923).

A look at the people

Its interest for the people and the workers of the sea? Perhaps it is a reminiscence of his own childhood: he was born in a fishing port, to a mother suffering from mental disorders (he himself will have an unstable psyche at the end of his life) and to an unknown father. There is better as a start in life. He grew up in Copenhagen without being educated, but very early on – at age 9 – revealed a real gift for drawing. Ten years later he completed a full training as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and sold his first major canvas, depicting blacksmiths at work, to a tobacco merchant who would later become his main patron. .

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