Art inspired by the nature around Skagen, the unique light and the unspoiled simple life, that is what the painters of Skagen in North Jutland were all about. This is where they found their ultimate inspiration for the beautiful paintings. But where can you see their works of art?
At the end of the 19th century, Skagen was cut off from the rest of Denmark, as it was really hard to reach the town without the railway, so you had to take a horse from Frederikshavn and because there was no harbour, the ships had to sail further out on the west coast, despite the wild waves which made it dangerous to reach the land.
The old fishing village in Skagen inhabited about 2000 citizens who lived a simple and hard life. The fishing village is near Grenen, where Skagerrak and Kattegat are meeting, which is responsible for the rough weather and currents. Despite it, one of the most beautiful natures of Denmark can be found here which inspired the artists to transform the world of art.
The rumour about this beautiful place in North Denmark spread and the light and the nature was all it took for the artist colony in Skagen to establish and to revolutionize Danish art history.
Cultural personalities like Steen Steensen Blicher, Vilhelm Kyhn and H. C. Andersen, all sought to visit the area around Skagen in the middel of the 19th century. In 1859 H.C. Andersen stayed at the only hotel in Skagen, at the time, Brøndums Hotel - inspired by the nature Skagens he wrote: "Are you a painter, follow is north. Here you will find motives for you. A scene for poetry. Here in the Danish country, you will find a nature that reminds you of the desert in Africa, of the ash mounts of Pompei and of birds flying around the dunes by the sea."
The artist collective in Skagen
Many French artists have created artist collectives throughout France, and students from the art academy in Copenhagen were told to go there and experience and paint the world. That is why many Danish artists visited the French communities where they got inspired by the community and the landscapes.
At the start of the 1870s, many young non-famous artists travelled the long and difficult road towards Skagen. Most were educated at the Art Academy of Copenhagen and they were quick to find companionship in their colleagues. Many of the artists were nomads and did not want to settle down, therefore a colony was perfect for them.
Surrounded by beautiful nature and harsh wind conditions the artist settled down in the heart of Skagen. Here they found inspiration in each other, the nature and in the fishermen's rough and dangerous life. The colony was visited by painters, musicians, composers, poets and writers.
Today you will find several beach hotels in North Jutland, but before 1884 Skagen only had one hotel, Brøndums Hotel. The hotel was the perfect place for the artist, it was cheap and had an inn. Furthermore, the hotel helped to find models for the painters in exchange for a small fee.
The colony became even more prominent when painter P.S. Krøyer joined in 1882 and started to organise activities for all the artists. It was Krøyer's idea to decorate Brøndums Hotel's dining-hall with paintings and portraits of the artists. After this, the hotel accepted paintings as a part payment for their stay.
The influence of the Skagen Painters
The artists’ colony became known as the Skagen painters. With artists like P. S. Krøyer, Anna and Michael Ancher, Holger Drachmann, Carl Locher and Laurits Tuxen, the group of Skagen painters were early advocates of modern painting in Scandinavia, in opposition to academic painting and the Danish Golden Age tradition. Their realistic open-air paintings and depictions of the daily life made the artist group a pivot for the latest trends in art.
The era of the Skagen Painters is considered as an important chapter in Danish art history.
Experience the art
More than 100 years after the glory of the painters of Skagen, their work of arts are some of the most significant and characteristic ones of Danish history - and you can see them in many places in Skagen.
In Skagen Museum you can experience Brøndum Hotels dining room and the belonging works of art, which were moved to the museum in 1946. Nowadays, you can experience the atmosphere of the dining room, admire the portraits and explore the other 81 works of art which are exhibited in the hall. In the museum you will find masterpieces of the Skagen painters together with works from the art museums of Skagen’s vast collections.
The painters of Skagen and the art and culture of North Jutland are attracting visitors from all around the world. In Aalborg you can experience street art made by graffiti and the streets are full with architectonical buildings. Along the waterfront you can admire world-class modern architecture like the house of music and the Utzon Center with a view of the Limfjord.
If you want to explore more interesting history and immerse yourself in art of North Jutland, then you have to visit one of the many museums, learn more about the gold of the sea and take a look at our guide for works of art.