Enfilade

Nationalmuseum Sweden Acquires Per Krafft’s ‘Belisarius’

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

Press release (19 June 2018) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum:

Per Krafft the Younger, Belisarius, 1799, oil on canvas, 125 × 94 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NM 7468).

Nationalmuseum has acquired a painting by Per Krafft the Younger (1777–1863) depicting the blind former general Belisarius. This painting ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style.

In 1796, at the age of nineteen, Per Krafft the Younger was awarded a travel scholarship by the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, in part because Jonas Åkerström (1759–1795), who had used the scholarship to spend time in Rome, had suddenly died the year before at the early age of 36. Krafft went to Paris where as the only Swede he spent three years studying under Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). David had a large number of pupils, and his teaching, which in those days was held at the Louvre, laid emphasis on painting and drawing technique, modelling, and nature studies in order to depict only the ideal subject matter: themes from antiquity.

David’s influence is evident in Krafft’s painting, which ought to be regarded as one of the most prominent Swedish works executed in the French Neoclassical style. It shows the strict lines of classical architecture in the background and a sculptural approach to the figure drawing. The palette is also a reminder of David’s work, with fine contrasts between their clothing—white and green and red—worn by Belisarius and the boy, their skin tone, and the shiny surface of the reflective metal on the belt and helmet. The figures almost stand out in relief against the light brown, yellow, and blue-grey tones of the background. The work was executed in 1799 and sent together with three other paintings—Phrygian Lyre Player Meditating, Paris, and Love—to Stockholm for exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1801.

The motif showing the successful Byzantine general Belisarius who was reduced to beggar status proved popular in the latter part of the 18th century as a result of the novel Bélisaire by Jean-François Marmontel (1723–1799), which was published in 1767. As a punishment for the general who was suspected of having conspired against him, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I is alleged to have put out Belisarius’s eyes, after which Belisarius was forced to beg by the gates of Rome. This choice of motif gave Krafft the opportunity to direct criticism in allegorical form at the tyrannical rulers of his day. Nor is it altogether surprising that Krafft’s teacher, the Republican David, had used the motif in a famous painting from 1781, now on display in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. A further famous example was executed by another of David’s pupils, François-Pascal-Simon Gérard (1770–1837), now on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Krafft emphasises the pathos of his subject in the sober mood that permeates his work in general and in the detail in particular, such as the way the old soldier uses his helmet to collect the alms received. Per Krafft the Younger enjoyed a long life. He was appointed court painter and professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. During his career he was to become primarily a portrait painter.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funding for art acquisitions; rather, the collections benefit from donations and funding from private trusts and foundations. This acquisition has been made possible by a generous donation from the Hedda & N.D. Qvist Memorial Fund.

Nationalmuseum in Stockholm to Reopen October 13

Posted in museums by Editor on June 21, 2018

From the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm:

The New Nationalmuseum at Blasieholmen opens again October 13, 2018. After five years closed, we wish you a warm welcome to a whole new museum experience. The renovation is finished, and we are currently working on the displays and exhibitions.

The renovation project has created a modern museum environment that is better for the art, the exhibitions, and for visitors. The New Nationalmuseum will be an open, visitor-friendly place where art can be experienced on both a large and a small scale—while preserving the integrity of the museum’s architectural heritage. The long-awaited climate control system will enable us to present the museum’s collections in an integrated way, crossing the boundaries between artistic disciplines. We will be able to exhibit paintings and other works that are more climate-sensitive, such as drawings and graphic art, alongside applied art and design. This will enhance the visitor experience by tying together multiple stories. It will also allow us to put more artworks on display.

Thanks to the relocation of behind-the-scenes activities such as administration and storage, the New Nationalmuseum will have more public space for exhibits and visitor amenities. By opening up both courtyards for use as multifunctional spaces, we can also improve the logistics of the main floor. The building will have multiple entrances and exits, as required by the fire code, which determines the maximum number of visitors that can be accommodated at any time—a number that is likely to increase.

Built in 1866, the Nationalmuseum building is over 150 years old. For decades, the building has been constantly repurposed and adapted to the museum’s changing and growing requirements. One layer of modifications has been piled on top of another. However, the building had never been thoroughly renovated and did not meet today’s accepted international standards in terms of safety, climate control, fire safety, working environment, and logistics. The renovations has brought the building up to modern operational and regulatory standards.

Technical innovations have made it possible to reinstate bricked-up windows to let in natural light. Specially developed technology will ensure that no artworks are damaged. A state-of-the-art climate control system will be installed, improving the environment for artworks, visitors, and staff. The public spaces will be expanded considerably, adding about 2300 square metres. Both courtyards, which currently house the auditorium and the restaurant, will be turned into public spaces housing visitor amenities and some exhibits. A new layout and security technology will enable us to keep the museum’s lower level open in the evenings independently of the rest of the building.