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P.S. Krøyer: 'Grey Skies at the Beach of St. Malo', 1877. The Hirschsprung Collection

Rare P.S. Krøyer painting from St. Malo

With support from the Agency of Culture and Palaces, the museum has acquired Grey Skies at the Beach of St. Malo, painted in 1877 by a 26-year-old P.S. Krøyer during a study trip to France. Painted in the year that marked the start of a four-year study trip for the young artist, the canvas is the first work from the artist’s time in St. Malo to enter The Hirschsprung collection.

P.S. Krøyer ranks among the central artists featured in The Hirschsprung Collection, partly because he is one of the artists actively and personally supported by the museum’s founder, the tobacco manufacturer and art collector Heinrich Hirschsprung. Right from an early point in Krøyer’s artistic career, Hirschsprung acquired works by him, providing financial stability that enabled the artist to set out on the journeys that preceded his major artistic breakthrough.

In 1877, the 26-year-old artist received the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ two-year travel grant, and with added help from Hirschsprung, Krøyer was able to stay abroad for no less than four years – right up until 1881. His travels took him to France, Italy and Spain. The work just added to collection hails from the early part of this long journey abroad.

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With support from the Danish Agency of Culture and Palaces, the museum has acquired a small oil by P.S. Krøyer, 'Grey Skies at the Beach of St. Malo' from 1877.

Called Grey Skies at the Beach of St. Malo, the museum’s new acquisition was painted immediately after Krøyer completed his studies at French artist Leon Bonnat’s school of painting. Krøyer spent the late summer of 1877 in St. Malo alongside fellow artist Laurits Tuxen, giving him easy access to the French Atlantic coast. Small and densely atmospheric, this plein-air painting is a prime example of how Krøyer benefited from his studies under Bonnat. In the painting, Krøyer has turned his back on St. Malo to capture the landscape around the city. The piece is done mainly in shades of grey and blue, disrupted only by the light shades of the sand. Using impasto brushwork, the artist has captured the view from the beach out across the bay as the sun struggles to pierce the clouds.

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Recently, the museum also acquired this small oil painting, 'Landscape from Tyrol', which Krøyer painted in 1875 on his first study trip outside Denmark.

The museum already owns a large collection of Krøyer’s paintings, drawings and sketchbooks, as well as letters and the artist’s paint box and palette. The pieces include some of Krøyer’s early watercolours and paintings created during the years leading up to his journeys abroad – such as works from his time in the North Zealand town of Hornbæk, where he was an active member of the artists’ colony from 1873.

The museum recently acquired another early work by Krøyer, painted after his first summers in Hornbæk and before his four-year study trip in 1877–81. In the summer of 1875 he joined the artist Frans Schwartz in travelling around Germany and Tyrol, where he found the subject for the painting Landscape from Tyrol. In this small oil we see a river rush by in front of a white house set inside a lush landscape where blue mountains rise up in the background.

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The museum’s collections include a number of model studies painted by a young Krøyer during his time at Leon Bonnat’s school of painting in Paris.
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The model studies from Bonnat’s school of painting include the two oil paintings 'Model study. Upper body of a male nude' and 'Model study. Head and chest of a male nude', both from approx. 1877.

In addition to model studies from Leon Bonnat’s school of painting, created by a young Krøyer, the new acquisition Grey Skies at the Beach of St. Malo is the first work in the collection to date from the first years of Krøyer’s studies abroad in 1877–81. At a later point of his voyage, he painted what would later became one of his absolute masterpieces, Italian Village Hatters from 1880, also housed at The Hirschsprung Collection.

When Krøyer returned home from his journey in 1881, he stayed with Hirschsprung in the family’s summer residence at Svanemøllen. The first large painting he painted upon returning home was the group portrait known as The Hirschsprung Family Portrait, depicting the Hirschsprungs gathered on the balcony of their summer residence.

You can read more about the friendship between artist and patron here. If you want to know more about Heinrich Hirschsprung, his collection and the museum's history, click here.

In 1880, Krøyer reached Italy. In small town of Sora he painted what would later be regarded as one of his main masterpieces, 'Italian Village Hatters'.
Back on Danish soil in 1881, Krøyer painted the monumental 'The Hirschsprung Family Portrait', showing Heinrich and Pauline Hirschsprung alongside their five children.