The Skagen Painters
A Scandinavian artists’ colony in Skagen
In the 1870s a wide range of Scandinavian artists and writers gathered in Skagen to take in and depict the natural scenery, the light and the locals of the fishing community. Decades before, artists such as the Golden Age painters Martinus Rørbye and Vilhelm Melbye and the writer Steen Steensen Blicher had already visited the town, but not until the last half of the nineteenth century did an actual artists’ colony form. The colony comprised Danish painters such as Anna and Michael Ancher, P.S. Krøyer, Viggo Johansen, Carl Locher, Lauritz Tuxen, the Norwegian artist Christian Krogh, the Swedish painter Oscar Björck and the poet and painter Holger Drachmann.
The artists’ haunt: Brøndums Hus
The artists who travelled from Copenhagen to Skagen in the 1870s all met up in the childhood home of the artist Anna Ancher (née Brøndum), which was the only guesthouse in town. Brøndums Hotel became the main haunt of the many artists and writers flocking to the town around this time. The painters Michael Ancher and Karl Madsen first visited Skagen in 1874, where each proceeded to fall in love with a local Skagen girl. In 1880, Anna and Michael Ancher were married, and Karl Madsen and a fellow artist from Copenhagen, Viggo Johansen, married two cousins of Anna Ancher called Henriette and Martha. The homes of the Anchers, located first in the Brøndum family’s garden house and subsequently in a house on Markvej, would go on to become chief meeting places for the artists in town.
Fishermen and open-air studies
The artists in Skagen were keen on outdoor studies and would often sit among the dunes, drawing and painting sketches and studies for larger paintings that would then typically be finishes in their studios. Grains of sand found in the paint of some of P.S. Krøyer’s large-scale paintings suggest that some of the large canvases were painted out of doors too. But the artists were not just interested in the harsh countryside of Northern Jutland, in the sea, the light and the sunsets. The Skagen artists also created countless depictions of fishermen at work and of the penniless locals. On example is P.S. Krøyer’s At the victualler's when there is no fishing from 1882, which he painted in the year when he first arrived in town. With their depictions of fishermen and the poor, the Skagen artist placed themselves within the period and movement in Danish art and literature known as the Modern Breakthrough. The artists’ activities in Skagen received a more formalised stamp of recognition in 1908 when Skagens Museum was founded by Michael Ancher, P.S. Krøyer, Laurits Tuxen and others.