The Hirschsprung Collection: A piece of Danish art history
By Heidi Kokborg
The Hirschsprung Collection houses tobacco manufacturer and art collector Heinrich Hirschsprung and his wife Pauline’s private collection of Danish art. With its idyllic location in Østre Anlæg park, its cosy, home-like atmosphere and its impressive art collection, the museum should be on your cultural itinerary when visiting Copenhagen.
Nestled in the beautiful Østre Anlæg park close to cafés, metro stations and the Botanical Garden, The Hirschsprung Collection enjoys a perfect location. The museum opened its doors to the public in 1911 and houses the private art collection of Heinrich Hirschsprung (1836-1908) and his wife Pauline (1845-1912).
“The couple donated their collection of Danish art to the Danish nation. Since day one the museum has been decorated with furnishings from artists’ homes to create a cosy, almost home-like atmosphere. Many visitors think the museum was once the home of the Hirschsprung family; however, that is not the case. The couple had the museum specifically built to house their art collection,” explains Gertrud Oelsner, museum director at The Hirschsprung Collection.
Heinrich and Pauline Hirschsprung were both art enthusiasts. Over the years they built an extraordinary collection of Danish art from the 19th and early 20th century; from the Danish Golden Age of art to the Skagen painters and the Symbolists. The collection includes major masterpieces by artists such as C.W. Eckersberg, Christen Købke, Anna Ancher, P.S. Krøyer, Bertha Wegmann and Vilhelm Hammershøi.
“It is the biggest collection of Skagen art outside Skagen. If you love P.S. Krøyer’s paintings, then a visit to the museum is a must. The collection also includes 30,000 letters from artists written in the 19th century. In the collection you will also find several art sketches and smaller paintings made for private homes. It’s a chance to get very close to the artists and almost get to know them,” says Oelsner.
Anna Syberg – capturing the beauty of the moment
Until 21 May 2023 you can experience the very special exhibition Anna Syberg – The Beauty of the Moment. Anna Syberg was a key figure in the Funen’s artists’ colony in the late 1800s. Syberg found her subject matter in flowers and plants, in the vases and pots around her home, in her garden and out in nature. With her distinctive watercolours, she revitalised floral painting. “Her paintings capture the beauty of the moment in an ever changing world. Her artwork is full of vitality, and it brings you back to the present moment,” says Oelsner.
Syberg was ahead of her time; with seven children, a husband and limited money, she found a way to create and paint in a life filled with duties and chores at a time where women were expected to focus on housekeeping rather than a career.
“While her husband was supportive of her pursuing her art, she certainly had to be persistent and insist that her work was of great importance. She showed that there are many ways to be a woman and that it is possible to combine family and career. While this might be more common today, it certainly was not at the beginning of the last century,” explains Oelsner.
The exhibition is not to be missed. Syberg’s artwork is extremely fragile so it is rarely on display. Once the exhibition ends in May, the artwork will be returned to Faaborg Museum and to private owners where the artwork will be stored in drawers, until the art has ‘rested’ enough to be shared with the world again.
A tribute to female artists
Anna Syberg – The Beauty of the Moment is a part of The Hirschsprung Collection’s focus on female artists. For centuries, women have been overlooked in art history, but when you dig deeper, you will find that women have been creating artwork for as long as men, and their stories deserve to be heard too.
“We believe that it makes culture and history so much richer if we also include women. Women provide a different perspective. The arts have always been dominated by male artists – however, women have important stories to tell through their art. It is a pity if we do not include female artists,” says Oelsner. “It is almost like archaeological work. So much female artwork, particularly the old artwork, has been lost or is in fragile or bad condition. It simply has not been preserved as well as the work of their male counterparts.”
The Hirschsprung Collection has a permanent exhibition with Bertha Wegmann, who was another exceptionally talented female artist, and in autumn 2023, you can experience an exhibition with Marie Krøyer, a renowned female artist. Furthermore, the museum is currently conducting a research project on female artists in the Modern Breakthrough movement (1870-1900), which will culminate in an exhibition in autumn 2024.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email