press release

The beauteous forms of Nature wrought

Two great Nordic painters are united this May when ARKEN opens its summer exhibition “Life in Nature”. This is the first time that Johannes Larsen and Bruno Liljefors are presented alongside each other in Denmark.

Sunny, serene fields juxtaposed with the struggles in the dark forest; Danish lyricism versus Swedish drama. This is how the relations between the two painters Johannes Larsen (DK 1867-1961) and Bruno Liljefors (SE 1860- 1939) are described. In the summer exhibition “Life in Nature” ARKEN explores the philosophies of nature immanent in the two artists’ depictions of their local nature.

Both Johannes Larsen and Bruno Liljefors were hunters and outdoorsmen, and they regarded man as a constituent element of nature. Unlike their predecessors at the Academy, they portrayed nature without any religious significance or moral attitude. They wished to include the onlooker in their experience of the beauty and complexity of the nature.

Johannes Larsen – harmony in the country Imagine Funen on a hot summer’s day. Birds soar across an azure sky, and golden fields stretch as far as the eye can see. Our mental images of the Funen landscape are very much influenced by the Funen painters – not least by the king of birds, Johannes Larsen. His birds adorn a great many Danish homes, flocks in flight or solitary birds pecking on the vast heaths. With scrupulous and scientific precision Larsen depicts their beautiful bodies and movements. Seeing his works one cannot help share his fascination with and joy in the local nature.

Bruno Liljefors – nature's diurnal dramas On the face of it, everything breathes peace in the beautiful, dense Swedish undergrowth. However, danger lurks in the beauty. Suddenly the hawk swoops, the bird’s nest is plundered by a hungry cat, and the earthworm suffers a sad fate in the beak of a bird. Bruno Liljefors’ works portray nature’s conditions: the grim struggle for survival. In the spirit of Darwinism, he presents the food chain and the interaction of animals and their environment. In Liljefors beauty always holds brutality.

Facts ARKEN presents more than a hundred works by Johannes Larsen and Bruno Liljefors, from the period 1884-1952. The exhibition comprises paintings, watercolours, drawings and woodcuts. The two artists have never previously been exhibited alongside each other in Denmark, and this is the first presentation of Bruno Liljefors on such a large scale in this country.

ARKEN borrowed works from major Swedish museums, including Nationalmuseum, Thielska Galleriet, Prins Eugens Waldemarudde, Zornsamlingarna and Göteborgs konstmuseum.

The exhibition is mounted in collaboration with the Johannes Larsen Museum in Kerteminde where it will be shown subsequently (19/9 – 20/11 2005).

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Bruno Liljefors & Johannes Larsen - Life in Nature