Choose from a selected group of artists represented in the exhibition A Mirror of Nature: Nordic Landscape Painting 1840-1910.

Theodor Philipsen
Copenhagen 1840 - Copenhagen 1920, Danish

Philipsen is regarded as the great innovator of late 19th century Danish art. From his basis in the landscapes and animal paintings of J.Th. Lundbye and the late Golden Age of Danish art, the former agricultural student Philipsen took Danish art into the realm of naturalism and as close to impressionism as you can get within Danish art.

Philipsen's first encounter with the French impressionists dates back to his first period in Paris from 1874 to 1876, where it is very likely that he visited the second impressionist exhibition in 1876. Even so, during this sojourn in Paris he was most impressed by the Barbizon painters Theodore Rousseau, Constant Troyon, and perhaps especially Jean-Francois Millet. In fact, another six years would pass before the first traces of true impressionist influences manifest themselves in Philipsen's work. They do so in the years 1882-84 during a prolonged sojourn abroad that first took Philipsen to Paris where he saw the seventh impressionist exhibition at the Galerie Durand-Ruel. From Paris he went on to Andalusia, from there to Tunis in North Africa and then onwards to Rome and Sora. During this period he created a number of pictures that have accurately been described as proto-impressionist. His encounter with the strongly bleaching light of the South, the somewhat scorched hues of the landscape, and the company of the Belgian semi-impressionist painter Remy Cogghe prompted Philipsen to boost the intensity of light and colour in his pictures.

Paul Gauguin's unhappy time in Copenhagen 1884-85 enabled Philipsen to paint his early impressionist masterpiece Late Autumn Day in the Jægersborg Deer Park (Statens Museum for Kunst) in 1886. In Philipsen, Gauguin not only found an excellent artist sympathetic to the impressionists' endeavours; but also, and very importantly, a Danish artist who spoke French. Someone to converse with; an attentive listener. In turn, Philipsen received thorough instruction in the colouristic theories behind impressionism as well as practical instructions for use in his own work. Philipsen cemented his links with impressionism in 1889 with his participation in the exhibition Nordic and French Impressionists. An exhibition held at Kunstforeningen in Copenhagen at the initiative of Karl Madsen, who wished to bring together examples of French impressionism from Danish collections with similar Scandinavian artists; a circle which also included Viggo Johansen, Oda and Christian Krohg, and Erik Werenskiold.

In terms of technique and renditions of light and atmosphere, Philipsen shares a kinship with Pissarro and Monet, but his originality resides in his ability to adapt and develop the impressionist palette in accordance with the Danish countryside and weather. Philipsen's Danish impressionism came to be of great importance to the artist's association Fynboerne (the Funen Artists), particularly Peter Hansen, Johannes Larsen, and Fritz Syberg. Artists who all acknowledged their great debt to Philipsen and who, in the years around 1900, established themselves with a mode of figure and landscape painting that marked the delayed breakthrough of impressionism within Danish art.

Philipsen is one of the most widely travelled and well-oriented Danish artists. He himself preferred to retreat from modern life, but his welcoming attitude towards young artists and open-mindedness regarding the latest arts made him a highly respected and central figure within Danish art.

An Avenue in Kastrup, Theodor Philipsen, 1892

Theodor Philipsen
Danish, 1840-1920
An Avenue in Kastrup, 1892