Copenhagen

I am just back from a couple of days visiting Copenhagen.  The weather was bleak and dreary; the skies the colour of Hammershøi’s paintings but the city was anything but dull.  I crammed in lots of art galleries revisiting the enchanting Hirschsprung Collection,  crammed with works by the Skagen painters, who, at the close of the nineteenth century, congregated at Skagen, on the tip of Jutland, the northern most point of continental Europe, creating an artists’ colony.  The painters went to Skagen for the exceptional light; it is worth visiting the Hirschsprung just to see the works of Peder Severin Krøyer who captures the light and beauty of the Skagen beaches exquisitely.

Peder Severin Krøyer, Boys bathing, sunshine, Skagen.

Another highlight was the David Collection, an elegant eighteenth century townhouse, formally the home of the prolific collector and wealthy and successful lawyer, Christian Ludvig David.  He began collecting Danish Golden Age paintings and branched out first to European porcelain and furniture and then Islamic art.  The Islamic Collection is world class and contains some exquisite jewellery and porcelain.  The highlight for me was a room devoted to the work of Denmarks arguably most famous painter, Vilhelm Hammershøi.  I love the calm quiet interiors, the clean lines and the soft grey palette that is so very northern.

I also visited the Renaissance Castle, Rosenborg- beautiful but dark, and I found the collection of Royal treasures slightly overwhelming.  The rooms were a chronology of the riches of Danish kings- I realised don’t know my Frederiks and Christians well enough.  Someone told me to read Rose Tremain’s novel, Music and Silence, to get a real feeling for the court of Christian IV.

I stayed in a relatively new hotel, 71, Nyhavn: a large warehouse that has been converted to a substantial sized hotel.  The service and food were good and the design sleek and minimal although I missed out on a room with a view. The harbour at Nyhavn is very pretty-lined with colourful eighteenth century houses, all now listed buildings.  Hans Christian Andersen lived at number 20.  The Nyhavn of today, is alive with restaurants, bars and stalls selling souvenirs, food and mulled wine: a delightful place to wander down.

Nyhavn

The Opera House, Copenhagen.

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Beautiful Skagen

I have just returned from a couple of days in Skagen, located at the end of the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, it is the highest point of continental Europe.  I went with a group of friends and we walked along the beach at Grenen (the twig), the junction where the two seas, Skagerrak and Kattegat, meet.  I ran out into the sea at the tip so that that for a few moments I could be the person standing at the northern most point of Continental Europe- childish but fun!

Grenen

Grenen

Skagen is beautiful- most famous for its stunning Nordic light, at the end of the nineteenth century it became a gathering point for artists (the well known Skagen painters).  The artists congregated at Brøndums hotel, then run by the parents of the painter Anna Ancher. We stayed at Brøndums- the old hotel is simple and charming but has no ensuite bathrooms.  Degn Brøndum thought that running water and hot baths were unnecessary, and said, I quote ‘since the hotel was only 200 metres away from the beach. When swimming in the ocean was good enough for him, then why should it not be for others as well?’

Liking our creature comforts, we stayed in the modern section but had a delicious dinner in the restaurant in the main building- the chefs took their food very seriously, and the local fish was delicious.  My only complaint is that on the evening we arrived c.10.30pm, we asked whether we could have a drink or something to eat.  NOTHING was available not even a cup of tea, which did not feel welcoming.  Scandinavia really need to up their customer service.  We wandered off to find a drink and snack in the nearest pub.  Anyhow back in the nineteenth century, the many artists who came to stay at Brøndums used to give portraits and paintings to Mr and Mrs Brøndum as a means of payment for their stay.  These portraits covered the walls of the oak pannelled dining room.  They have now been moved to the Skagen Museum but copies remain at Brøndums.

The Skagen Museum is a delight-full of serious paintings by Peder Severin Krøyer, Anna and Michael Ancher and Marie Krøyer.  Amongst them was the stunning A summer evening on the South Beach at Skagen by Krøyer depicting his wife, Marie and her friend Anna Ancher, strolling along the beach in elegant white Edwardian dresses.  The undulating curves of the shoreline are a subtle reference to the Art Nouveau fashions of the time and the soft pastel light of the early evening is utterly breathtaking- what a gorgeous painting.

Peder Severin Krøyer, A summer evening on the South Beach at Skagen.

Peder Severin Krøyer, A summer evening on the South Beach at Skagen.

We had a fabulous guide at the museum and I realised how complicated the lives of these Skagen artists was- affairs, madness, envy, unrequited love- it is all there- a little Bloomsbury…. I am going to read a biography about the beautiful, sophisticated but ultimately unhappy Marie, who sounds fascinating.

We hired bikes in Skagen which were perfect for getting around- the cycle paths along the  sea front were gorgeous.  We cycled to the old part of Skagen to the medieval ‘Sand Church’ which started sinking, owing to sanddrifts, in the eighteenth century. We stopped for a delicious lunch at Hyttefadet, run by the Lundum family, who previously owned Lundum’s the best Danish restaurant in London which us Londoners sorely miss!  The Pariserbof, a minced beef served with capers, egg yolk, pickles and beetroot, is to die for.  Sitting in the sunshine drinking coffee and nibbling on homemade Kranserkrage– life doesn’t get much better!

The Sand Church

Hyttefadet restaurant, Jens Bergs Vej 2a, Skagen.

Brøndums hotel, Anchersvej 3, Skagen.

 

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