LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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PETER VILHELM CARL KYHN (Copenhagen 1819 – Copenhagen 1903)

A Summer’s Evening near Ry, Jutland

signed Vilh Kẏhn in the lower right

oil on canvas

47 3/4 x 72 3/16 inches          (121.4 x 183.6 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Niels Lindeskov Hansen (1899-1979) who founded

Lindeskov Hansens Kunstsamlinger, Pedersholm, Vejle, Jutland, 1976-1998 when deaccessioned by the museum

Lindeskov Hansens Kunstsamlinger sale, Bruun Rasmussen Vejle, August 14, 1998, lot 17

Private Collection, New York, circa 1998 until 2013

 

EXHIBITED

Possibly Charlottenborg Palace, Copenhagen, 1873, no. 109, titled After Sunset (Efter Solnedgang)

 

Painted at all hours, during every season, encompassing virtually every region in Denmark, Peter Vilhelm Carl Kyhn’s landscapes constitute an incomparable national legacy. He began his training as an apprentice to a copperplate engraver and architect. By 1836 until 1844 Kyhn was at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, where he studied with Johann Ludwig Lund who espoused German Romanticism. At the same time he received private lessons from Christoffer-Wilhelm Eckersberg who believed that all landscapes should be based on complete topographical accuracy and whose teachings helped formulate the so-called “Golden Age” in Danish paintings. Throughout Kyhn’s career, he strove to be faithful to both ideals. He first showed at the Charlottenborg Palace Exhibition in 1843 and continued to do so for the next sixty years. In 1845 he won the coveted Neuhassen Prize for his painting Skovparti, hvori Foraaret karakteriseres (Forest View in which Spring is characterized), which brought him into the public eye. From 1850-1851 he traveled to Holland, Belgium, Paris, Rome, Pompeii, Capri, Florence and Venice as well as some of the major German cities. Unsurprisingly, upon his return numerous Italian and French subjects were produced. The 1850s also marked the start of his extensive travels through Denmark. In 1853 he played a key role in the founding of the Danish Society for Etching (Den danske Radeerforening). Remarkably in the 1860s Kyhn founded a private school for female artists, as they were denied entry into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. At this time almost every woman who worked professionally in Denmark studied with Kyhn including Ann Archer, Marie Luplau, Johanne Krebs and Emilie Mundt. In 1874 he even tried to batter down the Academy’s door by submitting test drawings for admission from three of his pupils. Women would not be allowed to study at the Academy until 1888. From 1871-1879 a group of young male students disenchanted with their training at the Academy regularly gathered at his studio, which came to be nicknamed The Cave Academy (Huleakademiet). In 1878 and again in 1900 Kyhn exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. In commemoration of Kyhn’s hundredth birthday in 1919 an exhibition of 374 of his paintings, drawings and watercolors were shown at Charlottenborg Palace.[1]

In 1864 a conflict with Prussia resulted in the loss of the Grand Duchy of Schleswig, which borders southern Jutland, as well as Holstein. Compounded by earlier military defeats as well as bankruptcy, Danish morale at this stage was exceedingly low. Shrunk to the smallest territorial size in its history, the country reacted with intense isolationism and a revived sense of nationalism. In turn, Danish artists embraced their homeland as the only appropriate subject matter. It was a course from which Kyhn would never veer.[2]

 A Summer’s Evening near Ry, Jutland, thought to have been painted in 1873, coincides with the first time Kyhn spent an entire summer in Ry. Afterwards he would continue to do so for the rest of his life and erected an outside studio to enable him to paint there year round.[3] Danish artists of this period routinely spent summers outdoors producing sketches and studies to be employed in the execution of large landscapes destined for the Spring Exhibition at Charlottenborg Palace.[4]

Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers summed up Kyhn’s career by stating, “He had no rival in his presentment of the wilder aspects of Danish scenery.”[5] In Vilhelm Kyhn & det danske landskabsmaleri Henrik Wivel characterized Kyhn’s work as having the ability “more than anyone, to look behind the landscape, into the depths, into the spirit of nature and up to the mirror of the heavens, for which he should be remembered.”[6] The veracity of both statements is on view in this work. At sunset in an expansive landscape under a boundless sky defined by passages of blue, purple, pink and white highlights, a lone man drives a herd of long-horned cattle knee-deep in mist homeward. Near a farm in the distance a woman watches over four cows still grazing. In the tree closest to the foreground a flock of birds gather to roost for the night. The portrayed moment that coincides with the cessation of activity and onset of darkness creates an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. Perfectly blending Romanticism and Realism in the glorification of his homeland, this work typifies and defines Kyhn’s entire career.

The monumental paintings Kyhn created were intended for exhibitions, as well as acquisition by the Royal Collection, the aristocracy or wealthy landowners.[7] Documentation on many of Kyhn’s works does not exist, and although we do not know the history of our painting prior to its purchase by Niels Lindeskov Hansen for his museum in Jutland where it took pride of place, it was obviously executed for this type of venue. From 2012 until early 2014 the Randers Kunstmuseum, Randers; Fuglsang Kunstmuseum, Toreby Lolland; Ribe Kunstmuseum, Ribe; and Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning mounted consecutive exhibitions and produced a scholarly catalogue devoted to the work of Vilhelm Kyhn titled Vilhelm Kyhn & det danske landskabsmaleri (Vilhelm Kyhn and the Danish landscape). The painting used for the cover of this exhibition is Sommeraften ved Ry (A Summer’s Evening near Ry, Jutland, 1873, oil on canvas, 25.5 x 41 cm., inventory no. KMS1686, acquired 1901) from the National Gallery of Denmark. Kasper Monrad, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Denmark, has suggested that their work could be one of the studies that Kyhn based our painting upon, stating “Your painting probably shows the same landscape seen from another angle, and it was most likely executed at the same time.” Small oil studies such as the National Gallery’s were routinely done as “private” sketches for the artist on which to base large compositions. Monrad has further suggested that our painting is perhaps the one exhibited at Charlottenborg Palace in 1873 under the title Efter Solnedgang (After Sunset).[8]

We are indebted to Kasper Monrad, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Denmark, for his invaluable assistance in the writing of this entry.

 

 

[1] Biographical information taken from Karina Lykke Grand, Gertrud Oelsner and Holger Reenberg, “Biografi Vilhelm Kyhn” in Vilhelm Kyhn & det danske landskabsmaleri, exhibition catalogue Randers Kunstmuseum, August 17-January 6, 2013 and traveling, Aarhus Universitetsforlag, p. 203; Gertrud Oelsner & Karina Lykke Grand, translated by James Manley, “Introduction to Vilhelm Kyhn” in Vilhelm Kyhn & det danske landskabsmaleri, op. cit., pp. 217-218, 220; Patricia G. Berman, “The Eccentric Majesty of Small Things” in Danish Paintings from the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough, exhibition catalogue Scandinavia House, New York, October 12, 2013-January 18, 2014, p. 11; Charlotte Linvald, “Women of Danish Modernism” in Danish Paintings, op. cit., pp. 34, 27; and Suzanne Ludvigsen & Thor J. Mednick, “Peter Vilhelm Carl Kyhn” in Danish Paintings, op. cit., pp. 102, 130.

[2] Oelsner & Grand, op. cit., p. 220; Berman, “The Eccentric Majesty of Small Things” in Danish Paintings, op. cit., p. 11; Thor J. Mednick, “The Politics of Culture: Art and Innovation in Nineteenth-Century Copenhagen” in Danish Paintings, op. cit., pp. 24-26.

[3] Oelsner & Grand, op. cit., p. 208.

[4] Ludvigsen & Mednick, op. cit., p. 102.

[5] George C. Williams, ed., “Peter Vilhelm Karl Kyhn” in Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, volume III, Kennikat Press, Inc., Post Washington, N.Y., 1964, p. 159.

[6] Oelsner & Grand, op. cit., p. 223.

[7] Ibid, p. 218.

[8] Written communications from Kasper Monrad, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Denmark, dated December 11, 2013 and December 12, 2013.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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