Nivaagaards Malerisamling: A small museum with great art
Text: Signe Hansen | Photos: The Nivaagaard Collection
P reviously a bit of a hidden gem, Nivaagaards Malerisamling (The Nivaagaard Collection) has in recent years attracted growing attention. But it is not just the museum’s world-class art that thrills and attracts art fans of all ages, but also its beautiful settings and many events.
Founded in 1908, The Nivaagaard Collection presents work from the Italian Renaissance, Dutch Baroque, and Danish Golden Age. Among the works on display, guests will find pieces by Danish and international masters such as Rembrandt and P.C. Skovgaard, as well as two or three yearly special exhibitions of modern or contemporary art. But it is not just the impressive scope of its art programme that has made the museum a popular destination for a wide range of visitors, but also the large, romantic garden, the cosy atmosphere and the many events.
“We have numerous exciting experiences, traditions, and events for both adults and children taking place throughout the year – two visits are never the same,” says museum director Andrea Rygg Karberg. “On top of that, it’s an incredibly beautiful drive up here, and an especially cosy atmosphere during Christmas, when we have our beautiful Christmas tree and a Christmas menu in our café.”
Set by the coastline of Nivaa, a 30-minute drive from Copenhagen and just 800 metres from Nivå station, the museum is easily accessible by train, bus or car.
A gift to the people
The Nivaagaard Collection, as seen today, originated in the personal initiative of politician, art lover, and local entrepreneur Johannes Hage (1842-1923). In 1903, Hage asked the architect Johan Schrøder to erect a small temple for his beloved art collection; in 1908, he converted the art collection into an independent institution open to the public; and, two extensions later, the temple is still a part of the building of The Nivaagaard Collection.
“Hage was a socially enlightened man. He created health insurance for his workers and built a school, a hospital, a nursing home, a church and a harbour for the town. He was very aware of his privilege and the responsibility that came with that, and that’s also why he wanted everyone to be able to enjoy his art collection,” says Karberg. “That’s also part of what makes the place special – that you can sense the person behind it and the significance he has had in this town. It’s an intimate and private atmosphere, and a place where you can find the time to relax and immerse yourself into the beauty of art.”
During the years, the Nivaagaard Collection has been expanded continuously. Today, visitors are presented with a changing exhibition of 100 artworks from the museum’s own collection, as well as two or three special exhibitions a year. On top of the exhibitions, the museum also comprises an inviting café and museum shop as well as a packed programme of talks, concerts, family activities and more. Together with the special exhibitions, the many events have brought about an explosive rise in visitor numbers, with almost 85,000 people visiting this year. “We have more than 300 special events every year, drawing in new people, and everyone who visits comes back,” says Karberg. “We’re still a bit of a secret to many foreign visitors, but those who do discover us fall completely in love with the charm of the place.”
The Danish Golden Age
Especially interesting to foreign visitors is the impressive collection of Danish Golden Age art. This is the period from 1800 to 1864, when Copenhagen was home to a string of remarkable artists: the fairy-tale poet H.C. Andersen (of whom The Nivaagaard Collection presents the best portrait painted from his life image), the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the choreographer August Bournonville and, last but not least, a group of wonderful painters. Adding to the experience is the fact that many of the works portray landscapes just like the one surrounding the museum. “A lot of the Danish landscape paintings resemble the museum’s surroundings very much, and that gives a wonderful feeling of connection between the inside and the outside of the museum,” says Karberg.
Moreover, the museum’s current special exhibition, Kunstnerbrødre L.A. Ring & H.A. Brendekilde, explores the works of two of Denmark’s greatest realist artists at the turn of the 19th century. The two artists are known for their realistic portrayals of the often-hard life, work, and death of some of the poorest inhabitants of the Danish countryside, from which they both originate. “Ring and Brendekilde are two of the most significant artists from the time of the modern breakthrough in Denmark,” explains Karberg. “Partly because they were some of the first to portray the life circumstances of Denmark’s rural population, which they knew inside out – those are some very captivating and moving works.”
The exhibition will be followed by Myter og Drømme, a special exhibition with works by the famous Danish writer and painter Hans Scherfig. “We look forward to showing Scherfig’s fabulous and colourful paintings of jungles and exotic animals,” says Karberg.
Current and upcoming exhibitions at Nivaagaard Collection: Kunstnerbrødre L.A. Ring & H.A. Brendekilde: 22 September 2019 to 26 January 2020. Hans Scherfig – Myter og Drømme: 9 February to 7 June 2020. From 11 January, Villar, one of the main works of Danish artist Eva Kock, will be presented at the museum.
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