The Arken Museum in Copenhagen is presenting an exhibition called “The Skagen Painters —In a New Light,” currently on view until the first of June, 2008.
The principal work in the show is called “Hip Hip Hurra!” by the Danish/Norwegian painter Peder Krøyer, the ringleader of a group of genre painters who gathered in the fishing village of Skagen.
Krøyer, like the Juste Milieu painters in France and the Newlyn painters in England, blended the insights of Impressionism with the skills of traditional academic craftsmanship, which he perfected in Leon’s Bonnat’s atelier in Paris.
The small color study above shows how the design looked as it was almost fully crystallized. Between this sketch and the final painting he removed the hat from the man with the glasses, and he added a man with a light jacket leaning into the picture at right.
The current exhibit in Denmark examines how Krøyer achieved the feeling of a spontaneous, offhand composition in “Hip, Hip, Hurra!”, which in fact was carefully staged and arranged. The painting took him over four years to complete.
The detail of the final painting shows a principle Krøyer would have learned from Bonnat, namely to be careful not to violate the lights. The large light area composed of the tablecloth, the girl’s dress, and the woman at right is skilfully shape-welded together, with no dark accents interrupting it. This unified structure makes a strong, simple mass that holds the painting together despite a prodigious amount of detail.
Here I’ve taken the final painting and exaggerated the underlying tonal structure. The light shape is an abstract unit that looks something like a butterfly. The light woman’s arm extends upward from it at right, and the dark woman’s arm comes into the shape at left. These two gestures are given compositional salience and they help us recognize the theme of the picture immediately.
Two smaller light shapes float like islands in the dark background of foliage: the head of the woman at left, and the cluster of revelers in the distance.
Related Gurney Journey Posts: Shape Welding, Juste Milieu, Color Sketches
More on Skagen painters, Link.
More on the exhibition, Link.
OutdoorPainting.com feature on Peder Krøyer, Link.
Thanks to Armand Cabrera for telling me about the Skagen painters.