History of Danish Arts

By | September 12, 2021

Denmark is a kingdom with the capital Copenhagen. In addition to the Jutland peninsula, the country consists of around 490 islands, most of which are located in the Baltic Sea. Of the hundred or so inhabited islands, Zealand and Funen are the most densely populated. Cool summers and mild winters determine the climate. Almost a quarter of the Danish population lives in the greater Copenhagen area on Zealand.

Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world. The economy is geared towards export. Food processing is one of the most important branches. A world-famous Danish company is LEGO. Almost two thirds of the country’s area is used for agriculture. Denmark is a pioneer in organic farming and the use of wind energy. Copenhagen is the »world cycling capital«. Danish society is traditional and cosmopolitan at the same time. Great emphasis is placed on education. The folk high school was invented in Denmark.

The kingdom looks back on 1200 years of state tradition. With its Basic Law of 1849 it paved the way for parliamentarianism in continental Europe. As in neighboring Norway and Sweden, many parties are represented in parliament. Governments therefore mostly rely on coalitions, either led by Social Democrats or liberal-conservative parties. Denmark is a member of NATO and the European Union, but has renounced the euro as a common currency.

Danish Arts

Danish art. The finds on Danish soil from pre-Christian times (up to around 1000 AD) belong to Germanic art.

Middle Ages

Since the early Middle Ages, Danish art has been influenced by the importation of works of art, commissions from foreign artists in Denmark, and the trips abroad by Danish artists. From the 11th century onwards, important impulses came first from Germany (Dome zu Lund, Ribe, Viborg), then from France (Cathedral of Roskilde, Cistercian Church of Sorø). By 1160, brick became the preferred building material (Ringsted and Kalundborg churches). Numerous church rooms were decorated with lime paintings. The architecture of the later Gothic (Marienkirche in Helsingborg, 13th century; Knudskirche in Odense, 13th century ff.; Peterskirche in Malmö, 1300–46; Sankt Olaf in Helsingør, consecrated in 1521) corresponds stylistically to the North German brick Gothic. B. Notke for Aarhus (high altar of the cathedral, completed in 1479) and C. Berg for Odense (altar for the Franciscan church, 1517–22). Another impulse-giving wood carver was H. Brüggemann with the main work in Schleswig (high altar of the cathedral, completed in 1521). Check barblejewelry to see Denmark History.


Renaissance architecture and sculpture were under German and Dutch influence (Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, 1574–85; Frederiksborg Castle, 1602–20; Rosenborg Castle, 1610–26, and Stock Exchange, 1619–40, in Copenhagen). The first significant artist of Danish origin was Melchior Lorck (* 1526 or 1527, † after 1583), who worked mainly as a painter and draftsman abroad (Germany, Austria, Turkey). After the introduction of the Reformation, the nobility and royal family were the most important clients. The Antwerp painter Hans Knieper († 1587) created forty woven wallpapers with the story of the Danish kings (1584, Kronborg Castle in Helsingør). Especially the patron Christian IV. brought numerous artists to the court, including the portrait painters Abraham Wuchters (* 1608, † 1682) and C. van Mander (* 1609, † 1670).

Baroque and Classicism

The baroque began with the expansion of Copenhagen as a fortress city. In 1732–40, Christiansborg Palace was built (burned down in 1794, rebuilt), and N. Eigtved was involved in furnishing it, and the Amalienborg district was largely built according to his plans. In 1754 the French sculptor Jacques-François Joseph Saly (* 1717, † 1776) became the first director of the art academy. He also created one of the most important Danish equestrian statues of absolutism (Frederick V, Amalienborg Palace Square, 1771). With the establishment of the Royal Copenhagen porcelain factory (1775), Danish design history began, which experienced its first heyday between 1780 and 1800. Independent achievements in the field of painting made in the 18th century N. Abildgaard as the most important painter of historical and mythological subjects and the portrait painter J. Juel.

F. Harsdorff (colonnades on Amalienborgplatz, 1795) and C. F. Hansen (Frauenkirche, 1811–29) shaped Copenhagen with classical buildings. The sculptures by the sculptor B. Thorvaldsen are among the main works of European classicism.

19th century

Around 1800 the Copenhagen Academy attracted many Germans (A. J. Carstens, P. O. Runge, C. D. Friedrich, G. F. Kersting). The “Golden Age” of Danish painting began with C. W. Eckersberg, represented by C. Købke, C. A. Jensen, C. Hansen and Johann Thomas Lundbye (* 1818, † 1848), who mainly worked in the field of landscape and portrait painting. Towards the end of the 19th century, V. Hammershøi and P. S. Krøyer, who, like M. Ancher, worked in the Skagen artists’ colony, emerged in particular. While Krøyer and Ancher were committed to realism and only took up individual elements of the newly developed open-air painting in France, it was Anne Ancher (* 1859, † 1935) with a sensitivity for the special light in Skagen who converted impressionist ideas into painting. J. F. Skovgaard endeavored to renew religious monumental painting (frescoes in Viborg Cathedral, 1901-06). J. F. Willumsen and Laurits Andersen Ring (* 1854, † 1933) stood with their works, like Hammershøi, on the threshold between realism and symbolism.

Danish Arts