At the National Gallery of Denmark

Dear Readers, we decided to start the day off with a visit to the Torvehallerne Food Market, just around the corner from where we’re staying. Grød is a porridge café, and why we don’t have such things in the UK I have no idea. We had a huge bowl of porridge with apples, almonds and caramel sauce, and it’s nearly 4 p.m. and I’m still not hungry. No wonder the Vikings were so successful, I bet they started off the day with porridge. You can get all day porridge with a variety of toppings, but as lunchtime approaches they start to do other grain-based bowls such as tomato risotto, along with dahl and chicken congee. Just my kind of food! I’m noticing that a lot of restaurants also do their own soft drinks – there was elderflower and strawberry on offer yesterday, along with lemon and thyme and gooseberry and rhubarb.

The food market is in two halls, one selling porridge and chocolates and salads and bread, and the other more meat and fish, with the fruit, veg and flowers in the middle. I was especially impressed with the range of wild mushrooms.

And then it was on to the SMK or Statens Museum for Kunst, otherwise known as the National Gallery of Denmark. After all the weapons of war yesterday it felt good to take in some art, and there’s plenty here to look at. We decided to stick with the Danish art, which we’re less familiar with, although there are 20 Matisses too. The Museum itself is a very fine, large, airy building with a modern wing tacked on at the back to house, appropriately enough, twentieth-century Danish art.



The bridge between the old and new buildings

There were a few artists that I definitely wanted to check out. One was Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864 – 1916). After several days of drizzle, I was immediately taken by his use of shades of grey, but there’s something very enigmatic about his paintings – his characters always seem lost in thought, and there’s a feeling, captured also in Hopper’s paintings, that something has just happened, or is about to happen. See what you think.

On the other hand, lest you think all the Danes paint are muted interiors, we have Carl Bloch (1834 – 1890). He clearly loved colour, and he painted 23 pictures for the chapel at Frederiksborg Palace between 1865 and 1879. The palace was originally home to King Christian IV in the seventeenth century and is the largest Renaissance palace in Scandinavia. The paintings have been used repeatedly by the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), both in reproduction and as inspiration for films and artworks. A couple of them are shown below.

Christ Healing the Sick (Carl Bloch)

The Sermon on the Mount (Carl Bloch)

But what caught my eye was this painting – ‘In a Roman Osteria’ from 1866. Just look at the way that all the diners are looking at us, and then there’s the cat (a bonus animal is always a good thing in my view). There were even flies and wasps on the table, to satisfy my entomological leanings. You could write a fine short story about this painting, I’m sure.

Carl Bloch (1866) – In A Roman Osteria

Upstairs in the new wing there were some more recent artists. Emil Nolde (1867-1956) was a German/Danish painter, one of the first Expressionists. Ironically, although his work was considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis (he was banned from painting after 1941), he was himself a Nazi sympathiser and anti-semite. Recent exhibitions have highlighted this fact, and the description of this painting ‘Last Supper’ includes reference to Nolde’s politics.

On a more pleasant note, how about this? This is by William Scharff (1886-1959), one of the leading proponents of cubism in Denmark, though what attracted me to this painting was the spring-like colours, and the little critter in the corner. The picture is called ‘Three Boys Looking at a Toad’. I especially like the toad.

So, all in all I had a great time at the SMK and learned a lot of things about Danish art that I hadn’t appreciated before. There is something about the light here, and the long, dark winters and brief, bright summers that seems to filter through into much of the art, though the work of someone like Nolde also exposes a darker side.

And to finish up, here’s a photo of the Hauser Plads, just round the corner from us, with its mix of medieval architecture and new buildings, quite a few bicycles and an enormous flower stall. And for once, it’s dry!


3 thoughts on “At the National Gallery of Denmark

  1. Sarah

    I’m enjoying sharing your trip. Thank you for making time to write among all the enjoyable distractions of a holiday. Are the bright summers really shorter than the dark winters, or is that just how it feels?

  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    I love that painting of the Osteria… The expressions could’ve been a photograph taken yesterday – with the guy looking particularly miffed that his picture (or rather situation with two damsels?) had been taken/painted. And the young lady at the far side looks particularly ‘guilty’. Intriguing story for sure behind that one. 🤔


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