Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Hirschsprung Collection is an art museum located on Stockholmsgade in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is located in a parkland setting in Østre Anlæg, near the Danish National Gallery, and houses a large collection of Danish art from the 19th and early 20th century. The emphasis is on the Danish Golden Age, from 1800 to 1850, but also the Skagen Painters and other representatives of the Modern Breakthrough are well represented.

The Hirschsprung Collection is beautifully situated in the green parklands of the Østre Anlæg on the old ramparts of Copenhagen. The museum houses Heinrich and Pauline Hirschsprung’s collection of Danish art and first opened its doors to the public in the summer of 1911. The museum was designed by the architect H.B. Storck, while the original interior and display was designed by the art historian Emil Hannover, who also became the museum’s first Director.

The museum is built around the personal art collection of Heinrich Hirschsprung, a tobacco manufacturer and patron of the arts who founded his art collection in 1865. Almost four decades later, in 1902, he donated it to the Danish state. It is displayed in a purpose-built Neoclassical museum building designed by Hermann Baagøe Storck and completed in 1911.

The tobacco manufacturer Heinrich Hirschsprung (1836-1908) bought his first paintings in the mid-1860s when as a newly married man he had set up home in Højbro Plads together with his wife Pauline (1845-1922).

He originally concentrated on the art of his own time, but his interest gradually spread to encompass the previous generation af artists, especially the painters of the Danish Golden Age. His home was filled to capacity with good Danish art from the 19th century. In 1902, Hirschsprung decided that after his death his collection should pass into public ownership on condition that the Municipality of Copenhagen would make a site available, and that the City and the State would join forces to build a museum to house his exquisite collection.

It was Heinrich Hirschsprung’s wish that visitors to his museum should have a sense of the intimate atmosphere of a private home as opposed to the other rather prepossessing museums being bulit at the time. And the series of small rooms surrounding the three larger rooms with skylights has indeed turned out to be appropriate for the instance to the generally modest sizes of the pieces from the Golden Age.

The first Director of the Museum, Emil Hannover (1864-1923), who had moreover been Hirschsprung’s artistic adviser, composed each of the walls in the small rooms around a main piece, and by furnishing them with artist-designed furniture of the time he succeeded in creating an intimate, cultured atmosphere.

In 1902, when Heinrich Hirschsprung (1836-1908) offered to give his collection of 19th-century Danish art to the nation, he had already two years previously asked the architect Hermann Baagøe Storck (1839-1922) to draw a sketch of the museum building.

He wanted the museum to stand on the ground left open by the now demolished ramparts around Copenhagen, where a number of new museum buildings including Statens Museum for Kunst came to be situated towards the turn of the century.

The donation gave rise to a prolonged discussion on art and cultural policy, which, however, recognising that this was a question of the country’s biggest and most important collection of contemporary Danish art, ended with the museum being given its own independent building in the Østre Anlæg park.

It was of crucial importance to Hirschsprung that the collection should be given a building of its own. One of his arguments was that there was a need for a building with an intimate feel corresponding to the character of the collection, which, as said, contained a large number of small studies and sketches. He disliked the bombastic architecture of the time with the overtones of historicism characterising the museums then being built.

Storck’s first sketch started out from the architectural style of the villas of the Italian Renaissance, but he gradually worked his way forward to a simple, clear plan with four large rooms lit from above and surrounded by a number of smaller rooms or “alcoves” with light entering from windows set high in the walls. Externally, the building stands with frontons and Doric pilasters in a strict Greek-inspired neo-classical style. With its light marble cladding, the building has the appearance of a small temple of art, while inside, in the small rooms, visitors feel the atmosphere of a private home.

This is partly because when it came to fitting out the museum, it was provided with furniture harmonising in time with the pictures hanging in each individual room. Much of this furniture derived from the artists’ own homes and some was made to their own design.

Building started in 1908, the same year in which Heinrich Hirschsprung died, and it was thus his adviser and helper of many years’ standing, Emil Hannover (1864-1923), who came to be in charge of the interior design of the museum and the hanging of the works presented when the collection was opened in 1911.

Hirschsprung had placed great emphasis on the fact that his collection should be able to present a representative picture of the Danish art of the 19th century. And this was underlined in the hanging in which Hannover introduced a new element in the realm of the art museum, providing for a chronological presentation of the individual artists room by room.

On the whole, this arrangement has been retained by the Museum ever since, just as the principles governing the hanging have also been respected – many of the collection’s pictures still hang on the original nails – and the museum has thus retained its intimate character and charm.

The museum building represents a very early example of the neo-classical style that again became a feature of Danish architecture at the beginning of the 20th century, and this is the background to the reason for the building’s being listed in 1995.

In 2002, on the centenary of the deed of gift, Den Hirschsprungske Samling mounted a major exhibition presenting Hirschsprung as an art collector and patron of the arts. The director of the museum, Marianne Saabye, wrote a book, accompanying the exhibition, and a film was also produced.

Collections:
As a collector, Henrich Hirschsprung was influenced by the naturalistic view of art of his day, the aim of which was to create a sober sense of reality. He saw the Golden Age in the same light, but at the same time he was able to go along with the change to a symbolist style in the 1890s, and he early had an eye for the artistic qualities in the otherwise unheeded sketches.

The Hirschsprung Collection is beautifully situated in the green parklands of the Østre Anlæg on the old ramparts of Copenhagen. The museum houses Heinrich and Pauline Hirschsprung’s collection of Danish art and first opened its doors to the public in the summer of 1911. The museum was designed by the architect H.B. Storck, while the original interior and display was designed by the art historian Emil Hannover, who also became the museum’s first Director.

Danish Golden Age:
The museum exhibits more than 700 works of art. The emphasis is on the Golden Age of Danish Painting. All the major painters of the period are represented, including C. W. Eckersberg, Christen Købke, Constantin Hansen, Wilhelm Marstrand and Martinus Rørbye, as well as many lesser known names.

Modern Breakthrough:
The artistic generation in the late 19th century, also known as the Modern Breakthrough in Danish painting, who broke away from both the strictures of traditional Academicism and the heritage of the Golden Age of Danish Painting, is also well represented. This includes:

Skagen Painters such as P. S. Krøyer and Michael and Anna Ancher
Theodor Philipsen, Denmark’s foremost representative of Impressionism
Symbolisterne, The Danish Symbolist movement
Fynboerne, natives of Funen, a group of artists from Funen who met at Kristian Zahrtmann’s independent art school in the 1880s.

Provenance furniture:
The smaller galleries of the museum are furnished with furniture designed by the Golden Age artists and other provenance furniture associated with them. This was done at the initiative of Emil Hannover, the museum’s first director, when he was put in charge of interior design prior to its opening.

The collection contains Danish paintings, sculptures, drawings and sketchbooks from the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, but also furniture and objects that belonged to the artists. The many furniture gives the museum a homely atmosphere.

Heinrich Hirschsprung was absorbed by the artistic process and therefore collected not only finished works of art but also sketches and studies. Together with the museum’s first director, Emil Hanover, he had the idea that the collection should be a documentation center for Danish art in the 19th century, and therefore there is also a large letter archive containing, among other things, P.S. Krøyer and Vilhelm Hammershøi correspondence.

The Hirschsprung Collection is part of the Park Museums.

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