The Ordrupgaard collectionThe creator of the Ordrupgaard collection, the Dane Wilhelm Hansen (1868-1936), was a farsighted man: he collected works by the French Impressionists and Danish Golden Age painters back in the days when they were much less well known and sought after. This autumn the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will show a great many works from this unique collection. It will be the first time that these paintings by artists like Cézanne, Degas, Courbet, Købke and Hammershøi will be on collective view outside the walls of the country house where they normally hang. The Gemeentemuseum will recreate this intimate, domestic setting in the exhibition. Wilhelm Hansen
In 1892, Wilhelm Hansen bought his first painting at the age of 24. It marked the beginning of a lifelong passion for collection. Initially, he mainly bought works by contemporary Danish artists, without focusing on any particular movement. During Denmark’s ‘Golden Age’ of art, between 1820 and 1850, Danish painting flourished as never before. The Ordrupgaard collection is comprehensive, ranging from realistic scenes of city life by Christoffer Eckersberg to tranquil interiors by Vilhelm Hammershøi and romantic landscapes by Johan Lundbye.
Hansen’s love of French art dates from frequent working visits to Paris, where he spent as much time as possible in art galleries and museums. He became fascinated by the Barbizon School and the Impressionists (at that time still avant-garde) and bought his first Impressionist works – by Sisley, Pissarro, Monet and Renoir – in 1916. Whenever he returned to Paris, he purchased more paintings, and the Ordrupgaard collection grew impressively. By 1918 it was regarded as the most significant European collection of French 19th-century art outside France.
The collection is named after the village of Ordrupgaard, which lies just outside Copenhagen, among parks and fine gardens. Hansen opted to live in this romantic spot, and to show his collection in natural surroundings. His ambition was to make French 19th-century art known in Denmark, and if possible, throughout Scandinavia. He made his collection accessible to art enthusiasts and in 1922 set up the French Art Association, which held traveling exhibitions in a series of Scandinavian cities.
Nowadays, in the 21st century, it seems that he has achieved the opposite of his original goal. After decades of focusing almost exclusively on French 19th-century art, European art lovers are increasingly turning their gaze northwards. The exhibition Ordrupgaard. From Courbet to Købke ties in with this growing interest in Scandinavian art. A century ago, the Ordrupgaard collection was introducing the Danes to French 19th-century art; today it acquaints the rest of Europe with the Danish Golden Age and a previously unknown Impressionist oeuvre. The Ordrupgaard collection comprises a fine selection of both French Impressionist and Scandinavian works, thanks to the unique vision of the collector Wilhelm Hansen.
A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition (Waanders € 29,95)