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Karl Madsen (Denmark 1855‑1933)

Landscape at sunset

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Classic & Asian 9-11 December 2020

Lot 495. Karl Madsen (Denmark 1855‑1933). Landscape at sunset. Signed and dated KM 1906. Oil on canvas, 47 x 55 cm.


60.000 – 80.000 SEK
€ 5.900 – 7.800


Roubaix, La Piscine – musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent, ”Le siècle d’or de la peinture danoise. Une collection française”, 12 October 2013‑12 January 2014.
Le Havre, Museum of Modern Art, ”Le siècle d’or de la peinture danoise. Une collection française”, 8 February-12 May 2014.


Exhibition catalogue, Le siècle d’or de la peinture danoise. Une collection française, 2013, p. 205, no. 210, illustrated p. 213.

In context

This picture painted at Skagen constitutes the earliest known atmospheric picture in Danish Art History. The following year, in 1907, the Danish artist Niels Skovgaard (1858‑1938) painted a picture entitled “Dawn”, which is clearly inspired by Madsen’s picture (63 x 75 cm, sale, Bruun Rasmussen, 9 November 2020, lot 2046/295). Interestingly, Skovgaard lived in Lyngby, a rural suburb of Copenhagen where Madsen also lived.
Atmospheric painting was a reaction against realism in art that took place around 1900. In order to express inner mood and feelings, artists abandoned landscape painting in daylight in order to reduce superfluous and disturbing details. The movement had a clear symbolic dimension and sought out to convey something eternal hidden in nature.

Fig. 1 ”Dawn” by Niels Skovagaard (1858-1938)
Fig. 1 ”Dawn” by Niels Skovagaard (1858-1938)

Madsen was greatly influenced by the radical new departure in Danish culture led by the literary critic George Brandes, the theorist behind the “Modern Breakthrough” of Scandinavian culture whose lectures at Copenhagen University he followed, and Holger Drachman, who published his strong views on Danish art and on disappointing conditions at the Art Academy. In 1871, Drachmann went to Skagen, a fishing village at the northernmost tip of Jutland, to paint outdoor scenes and the local fishermen. Almost simultaneously, Madsen also arrived in Skagen. During his first year at the Art Academy, he met Michael Ancher, whom he persuaded to join him in Skagen in July 1874. In Skagen Madsen gave Anna Brøndum, later Anna Ancher, lessons in painting. Madsen’s work painted between 1873–1874 and 1879–1880 shows that he was one of the key figures among the Skagen painters.

Madsen’s controversial conception of art and the trends of the times as well as his own economic problems were probably behind his decision to become a professional writer. On Drachmann’s recommendation, he became an art critic with Dagavisen in 1881. As a frequent contributor to Politiken and other periodicals, he became one of Denmark’s most influential art commentators and critics. As a museum expert, Madsen became recognized as an authority on Dutch art and brought about a reassessment of Danish art in the first half of the 19th century, especially with his biography of Johan Lundbye in 1895. He was the director of Statens Museum for Kunst from 1911 to 1925, and the first director of Skagens Museum from 1928 to 1938.

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