FRITZ SYBERG. ART AND LOVE
February 20 – May 10 2015
We know Fritz Syberg as a Funish artist and a painter of peasant scenes. But with the exhibition Fritz Syberg. Art and Love, Ordrupgaard reveals another, more private side to the painter – a side that revolved around his home and family.
Fritz Syberg (1862-1939) was a central figure in the flourishing artistic milieu that grew up around Kerteminde in the early 1900s. Today, his characteristic fields and hills represent the epitome of the old Danish rural countryside. But Syberg was more than just a peasant painter and nature lover.
The family painter
Marked by a harsh upbringing in straitened circumstances, Syberg sought throughout his life to find harmony in the home. His father died young, his mother took up with a drunken shoemaker, and Syberg had to work as a swineherd at a young age to support his siblings. But against all the odds, he fought his way up from his difficult beginnings. He trained as a painter, and when the economic and artistic future began to brighten, he married Anna Syberg and raised a family. In the couple’s home, he painted his wife and children and conjured up a harmonious picture of their life together that was very far removed from his childhood afflictions. Later, not without reason, he acquired the nickname “the family painter”.
Denmark’s answer to Carl Larsson
In a large number of works, Syberg turns his gaze away from the open farmland landscapes towards the low-ceilinged, cozy living-rooms of the home. Here we find simple, carved furniture in the rustic style, quiet meals, a caring mother and young children playing: the good life in simple, beautiful interiors. This is a concept that is reminiscent of the universe of Syberg’s Swedish painter colleague, Carl Larsson, whose work Syberg had seen.
The great tales
The family is also portrayed in other forms, for example providing the models when Syberg illustrates the fairy-tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Syberg could recognise his own miserable childhood in the writer’s background, and Andersen’s Story of a Mother and The Ugly Duckling became personal tales of destiny for him – tales that he drew into his home and private sphere.
The free life
Conversely, Syberg later moved the private sphere out of the home when the family began spending their summers in the open air at Fyns Hoved, where they lived a free natural life, with a couple of primitive wooden huts as their only dwelling. As part of the exhibition at Ordrupgaard, one of these huts will be reconstructed.
Art and love
When Syberg died at the age of 77, he was the country’s best-paid artist and stood at the height of his life’s work, not just as an innovator in Danish landscape painting, but also as a masterful and modern family painter. With the exhibition Fritz Syberg. Art and Love, Ordrupgaard presents a more nuanced view of the painter and reveals the lesser-known facets of his extensive artistic activities, with a special focus on the artist’s home and family as motif. .
The principal loaner to the exhibition is the Johannes Larsen Museum in Kerteminde.