The other voice - Kathryn Hart

Rebellious Danish Painter L.A. Ring, a Key Figure Within Nordic Art, Exhibited at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle This Fall

  • SEATTLE, Washington
  • /
  • August 22, 2019

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L.A. Ring, At the French Windows, The Artist's Wife, 1897.
SMK-National Gallery of Denmark

Danish painters from the 19th century have established quite a name for themselves internationally. Vilhelm Hammershøi is one of them, but even more popular in his time was Laurits Andersen Ring, the Danish Realist and Symbolist painter, who is considered one of the most important painters in the decades around 1900. The National Gallery of Denmark holds the largest collection of Ring’s paintings and drawings in the world and exhibits some of the most important pieces from this collection at an enlightening and breathtaking exhibition at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle from September 14. The exhibition, titled On the Edge of the World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from SMK—The National Gallery of Denmark, appeals to art lovers as well as Americans in general, as it portrays the life of many European emigrants settling in the U.S. around 1900.

L.A. Ring has been a key figure in the international breakthrough of Nordic art. His works are represented in major shows dedicated to art from around 1900, but despite his importance this will be the first exhibition devoted solely to Ring’s art shown outside the Nordic countries. It’s a rare opportunity to meet a highly gifted Nordic artist with a view on nature and modern life that corresponds with American Naturalism and Impressionism.

Ring's paintings testify to the radical artistic and cultural shifts that took place in the decades around 1900, more so than the works of many other artists from the period. Meeting the modern world head on, Ring is the one Danish artist to best describe the great changes in the world of art and in society taking place in the decades around the year 1900. The upheaval can be seen everywhere. Often as a restless search for something different and perhaps more meaningful.


In Ring’s works, man often occupies a transitory zone—a threshold—whether at a garden gate, a window, a railway crossing, or on a road. It may be a young girl who is entering adulthood, or an old one who is close to death. Painted on the threshold of modern life, Ring’s works contain “the new” as concrete objects, as motifs, but they also reflect “the modern” as a state of mind. Eminently relatable, his art has a universally human quality. Showing everyday life around 1900, it resonates with American history as it also tells the story of many European emigrants who settled in the U.S. around 1900.

L.A. Ring, Waiting For the Train. Level Crossing by Roskilde highway, 1914.
SMK-National Gallery of Denmark

“In American emigrant culture, one finds a relationship with nature and place that is so pronounced and significant in L.A. Ring’s paintings. Feeling a lifelong connection with a personal, primordial, yet-abandoned ur-landscape is also, and for good reason, a recurring theme among several American artists during the first half of the 20th century. With its depictions of vast landscapes and modern urban life in an America undergoing major transformations, American realism and naturalism has strong parallels to Ring’s production,” explains Peter Nørgaard Larsen, Senior Researcher and Chief Curator at SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark.

Ring is in increasingly high demand internationally. Within the last few years, works by Ring have been acquired by art professionals and collectors, such as the National Gallery in London, Toledo Art Museum and Currier Museum of Art in the U.S., as well as many private art connoisseurs. The exhibition in the U.S. comes in the wake of this growing interest and is
expected to attract a wide selection of art enthusiasts as well as Americans in general, including those interested in the story of their own ancestors.

L.A. Ring, Harvest, 1885.
SMK-National Gallery of Denmark

Speaking about this first exhibition solely devoted to L.A. Ring outside the Nordic region, Mikkel Bogh, Director of The National Gallery of Denmark, says: “It is part of our mission at SMK to inspire and spark creative thinking by making the art of our collection known to a wider audience, which includes audiences outside the Nordic region. SMK is therefore thrilled to
present, for the first time ever, a curated selection of the finest works by L.A. Ring at two American museums. L.A. Ring is one of the most important Danish artists working around 1900. Ring was a sensitive and profound interpreter of the changing conditions of human existence at the threshold of modernity, in Denmark and elsewhere. We believe his painting
has an appeal to U.S. audiences and that his works, while embedded within specific geographic and historical circumstances, speak to us today in a powerful artistic language that matters as never before.”

Erik Nelson, CEO and Executive Director of the National Nordic Museum, adds: “The National Nordic Museum is honored to be the first venue in the United States for this groundbreaking celebration of one of the most important Nordic artists in the past two centuries. L.A. Ring’s paintings are filled with universal themes that we can all relate to—nomadic restlessness, the
revolutionary dreams of youth, love and passion, despair and loss, death and the wisdom at the end of life. This exhibition will provide our visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the life and ideas of one of the great Nordic Realist and Symbolist painters.”

On the Edge of the World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from SMK—The National Gallery of Denmark shows 25 paintings that represent the key themes and sheer variety and complexity of his oeuvre. The exhibition was initiated by AFSMK, American Friends of Statens Museum for Kunst, The National Gallery of Denmark. The exhibition opens at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle on September 14 and can be seen until January 19 2020. It will then relocate to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, from February 1 to May 24 2020.

Tags: european art

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