Exhibitions/ The Age of Impressionism

The Age of Impressionism: European Painting from the Ordrupgaard Collection, Copenhagen

June 18–September 8, 2002
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Overview

This exhibition presents some eighty superb paintings—by Cézanne, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Delacroix, Eckersberg, Gauguin, Købke, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley, among others—from the renowned Ordrupgaard Collection, located just outside of Copenhagen. The collection was assembled by Danish insurance magnate Wilhelm Hansen (1868–1936), who in 1918 constructed a country house with a large picture gallery in which to display his French art. When his wife, Henny, died in 1951, she bequeathed the collection—and the home from which it derives its name—to the Danish government.

The exhibition is organized chronologically with works by French and Danish artists presented separately. Eugène Delacroix's Portrait of George Sand (1838) and Honoré Daumier's Street Scene, Paris (1845–48) are among the earliest French works included in the exhibition. Eight pictures by Edgar Degas include several pastels, such as Three Dancers (ca. 1898) and the pastel and gouache Study for "The Bellelli Family" (1859), an early version of the famous canvas in the Musée d'Orsay.

Landscapes, river views, and scenes of urban life are especially well represented in the Ordrupgaard Collection. From Alfred Sisley's Factory on the Banks of the Seine, Bougival (1873) to Camille Pissarro's Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris (1897), many corners of the French countryside and capital are on view. The brilliant, dappled sunshine of an early Monet, The Chailly Road through the Forest of Fontainebleau (1865), contrasts in terms of technique and atmospheric mood with the artist's later painting, Waterloo Bridge, Overcast (1903).

Paul Gauguin is represented by eight works spanning nearly his entire career and most of his voyages. They range from the tender depiction of his daughter in Paris, The Little Dreamer, Study of the Artist's Daughter Aline, Rue Carcel (1881) to Landscape at Pont-Aven, painted in Brittany (1888); Blue Tree Trunks, Arles (1888), from his stay with Van Gogh in the south of France; and Adam and Eve (1902), painted in the South Pacific just a year before the artist's death. Gauguin's engaging, unforgettable, Portrait of a Young Girl Vaïte (Jeanne) Goupil (1896), who was the daughter of a French merchant in Tahiti, is the only known portrait commission ever undertaken by the artist.

The paintings in the exhibition by Danish artists of the Golden Age reflect a different sensibility and technical virtuosity from that of the Impressionists, though the Danes were just as interested in the depiction of sunlight and other atmospheric effects. An early work by C.W. Eckersberg, View of the Colonnade, St. Peter's Square, Rome (1813–16), was painted during the artist's three years of study in Italy and underscores the allure that Rome, with its classical architecture and golden sunlight, held for Eckersberg and many other artists of the era.

Nineteenth-century Danish artists were no less enamored of the landscape than the French Impressionists, as seen in such works as Christen Købke's View of Dosseringen, Copenhagen, Study of Willow Scrub in the Foreground (ca. 1837) and L.A. Ring's Motif from Melby, Early Spring (1901). Five paintings by Vilhelm Hammershøi, including Young Woman Sewing, the Artist's Sister Anna Hammershøi (1887) and Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunlight, Interior of the Artist's Home (1900), reveal the impact that the "rediscovery" of Vermeer had on many late nineteenth-century artists.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Janice H. Levin Fund.

An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.