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Feature: Danish National Gallery shows important part of world art heritage

English.news.cn   2013-06-04 05:41:08            

by Gunnar Blaschke, Yang Jingzhong

COPENHAGEN, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Around 200 years ago, fine art was only for the royalties of Denmark and the noble visitors from abroad to enjoy. Today the Danish National Gallery makes it possible for all people to gaze upon the great masters and to learn about the country's history and cultural development.

The Danish National Gallery is one of Copenhagen's best known landmarks. The current museum building was finished in 1896 and served as a replacement of the former national gallery at Christiansborg Castle, seat of the current national parliament.

"The old museum building was built at a time where knowledge and art was thought to be the basis of the society and it had to be pompous to show the importance of what's inside," Kasper Monrad, senior research curator with the national gallery, told Xinhua.

The original collection at the National Gallery stems back from the Danish King Christian the Second in the 15th century.

The artwork was then not only something to be enjoyed for the royal family and members of the court, but was also supposed to impress the noble foreigners and other royalties coming to visit from outside Denmark.

"The Danish kings wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things, but they also wanted to show their power by being able to show art of an international class," Monrad said.

The collection had been closed to the public, but when democracy was launched in Denmark in 1848, it was decided that the collection should not be the king's property but the property of the Danish people.

The huge collection of Danish art takes the viewers back several hundred years back. In this way the spectators get a glimpse of the old Danish culture and way of living, which can tell the modern people something about the specific Danish identity.

"We have the greatest collection of Danish art that there is in any museum. Much of the works of the Danish artists have been a part in establishing a national Danish identity," Monrad said, adding that by seeing these works people can understand the Danish people's identity better.


Visiting the Danish National Gallery will also give you an impression of how art has developed in Europe and other parts of the world, how the painters and sculptures turned from solely picturing actual scenery such as nature, portraits, motives from religion or inspirations from big historic battles and began making nonfigurative and more abstract paintings.

Even as it was still the king's property, the public could actually get access to the royal collection before 1848 when it was placed at a museum at Christiansborg Castle. And ever since that time the collection has been a mix of old and new works.

"When the museum opened to the public in 1827, the collection also had modern masters' works -- contemporary Danish art -- and ever since that time it has been an obligation for the museum to collect contemporary art. It means that we have the old masters but we also have the present-day art by Danish and international artists," Monrad said.

Visitors will find here works by all the best known Danish artists like Ancher, Hammershoi and Eckersberg. In the contemporary department people can enjoy works by Mortensen, Nolde, Kirkeby, and Jorn -- one can add to the list any Danish artist of some significance.

Moving to the international collection, the gallery has Picasso, Monet, Titian, Matisse and Munk and so forth on the walls -- paintings worth millions of U.S. dollars for everyone to enjoy. Also the gallery makes a special effort to attract the younger generations.

"We collaborate with the schools. We put a lot of energy in attracting the students -- of course they are our future guests at the museum -- but also because we think that it will make the teaching of the pupils more interesting when they are able to talk about art in the classes," Monrad said.


Besides the permanent collection, the National Gallery often holds special exhibitions with certain themes or borrows art items from other museums.

This spring the theme of a painting show on display is flowers and among the works at the exhibition are some drawings and paintings of the Danish flora almost 300 years old. A special exhibition gives some quite unique possibilities to show to the public what have not been shown for many years.

"A special exhibition can pick up some hidden paintings, which have not been exhibited for long because it became too fragile,"curator Annette Rosenvold Hvidt told Xinhua, standing in front of some carefully preserved watercolor drawings of flowers and plants so rich on details that one can almost feel the sweet fragrance from the past.

"It's like a treasure what we can show to the public in a special exhibition, but not in the permanent collection, because it would be damaged,"she added.

From being something that could only be seen in the royal chambers, art is today for all people to enjoy. For the Danish National Gallery, giving as many as possible the opportunity to learn about their common history and get new inspirations in daily life, is the most important objective and the most important purpose of the gallery.

"We want to share all the wonderful works of art with as many people as possible. We believe that enjoying art and contemplating what you see in the works of art give you a richer life. And we try to present the art in a way so that people will want to come here more times," said Monrad.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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