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Beyond the Light: Identity and Place in Nineteenth-Century Danish Art

January 26–April 16, 2023
Previously on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Galleries 691–693
Free with Museum admission

Denmark in the nineteenth century experienced the disastrous fallout of the Napoleonic Wars, the devastating bombardment of Copenhagen, bankruptcy, and mounting antagonism with Germany. Yet, this sociopolitical and economic tumult also gave rise to a vibrant cultural and philosophical environment for nineteenth-century Danish artists. Beyond the Light places the drawings, oil sketches, and paintings created by these artists firmly in this period, one that witnessed the transformation of a once-powerful Denmark into a small, somewhat marginalized country at the edge of Europe. Danish artists forged a close-knit community during this time, and the artworks they created explore notions of place, identity and belonging, and what it means to travel and return home.

The exhibition features approximately 100 works from The Met collection, SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark, and several American collections, and highlights such artists as Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Christen Købke, Constantin Hansen, Martinus Rørbye, and Vilhelm Hammershøi as well as lesser-known figures like Anton Melbye, Johan Thomas Lundbye, Peter Christian Skovgaard, and Heinrich Gustav Ferdinand Holm, among others.

The exhibition is made possible by Gilbert and Ildiko Butler.

Additional support is provided by The Schiff Foundation.

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum, in collaboration with SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark.

Accompanied by a catalogue published by The Met.

The catalogue is made possible by the New Carlsberg Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Drue E. Heinz Fund and the Tavolozza Foundation.

Exhibition Objects

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The Bay of Naples with Vesuvius in the Background, Christen Købke  Danish, Graphite
Christen Købke (Danish, Copenhagen 1810–1848 Copenhagen)
Sailing Vessels at Wilders Plads, Copenhagen, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg  Danish, Pen and black ink with brush and brown and gray wash
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, Blåkrog 1783–1853 Copenhagen)
The English Fleet Anchored at the Town of Beykoz, North of Istanbul, Anton Melbye  Danish, Graphite and charcoal
Anton Melbye (Danish, Copenhagen 1818–1875 Paris)
View from the Citadel Ramparts in Copenhagen by Moonlight, Martinus Rørbye  Danish, Oil on canvas
Martinus Rørbye (Danish, Drammen 1803–1848 Copenhagen)
The Harbor of Copenhagen from the Esplanade between Langelinie Park and Toldboden or the Customs House, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg  Danish, Pen and gray ink, brush and gray wash, over graphite; verso: graphite; framing line in pen and black ink
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, Blåkrog 1783–1853 Copenhagen)

Latest Reviews

A luminous, move-close exhibition whose paintings and drawings render a volatile world with purity of heart and line.

New York Times


Financial Times

A fuller picture of Danish visual culture during the period.

The New Criterion
Marquee: Martinus Rørbye. View from the Citadel Ramparts in Copenhagen by Moonlight (detail), 1839. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Eugene V. Thaw, 2007