Sweden Nationalmuseum Acquires Three Garden Views

Posted in museums by Editor on February 13, 2023

Alexandre Dunouy, Rousseau Picking Flowers near the Banc des Vieillards, View of the Park at Ermenonville, ca.1800, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 13 × 18.5 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum 7607; photo by Anna Danielsson).

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From the press release:

Nationalmuseum has acquired three views of French gardens and parks painted in the latter half of the 18th century by Louis-Gabriel Moreau and Alexandre Dunouy. Building on the proud tradition of topographical depictions in 17th-century French art, these artists catered to the early Romantic penchant for dense foliage and picturesque dilapidation. The park at Ermenonville features in two of the paintings, one of which shows the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau picking flowers.

One of Rousseau’s disciples was Marquis René-Louis de Girardin, who in 1766 began constructing a landscaped park on his estate at Ermenonville, 40 km northeast of Paris. For the marquis, landscape gardening represented a blend of art and poetry, where drawings or paintings served as patterns for creating scenic variety. For this purpose, he seems to have engaged the services of Hubert Robert, the noted painter of ruins. In the summer of 1778, as the park at Ermenonville was nearing completion, Rousseau came to visit. As fate would have it, the famous philosopher died there just three weeks later. His pupil and patron, Marquis de Girardin, seized the opportunity and arranged for Rousseau to be buried on a poplar-covered island in a sarcophagus designed by Hubert Robert. Rousseau soon became a cult figure, and many admirers made the pilgrimage to his grave, including King Gustav III of Sweden. The philosopher lay at rest in Ermenonville until France’s new republican rulers had his remains transferred to the Panthéon in Paris in 1794. Among those who sought to profit from Rousseau’s tremendous popularity was the landscape painter Alexandre Dunouy (1757–1841). One of Nationalmuseum’s two recently acquired paintings by Dunouy is an anecdotal image of the philosopher picking flowers near the Banc des vieillards in the park, which is believed to have been painted around 1800.

Alexandre Dunouy, La Fontaine du Bocage, View of the Park at Ermenonville, ca. 1800, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 13 × 18.5 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum 7608; photo by Anna Danielsson).

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The second of the acquired views of Ermenonville by Dunouy depicts a spot known as la Fontaine de Bocage, a woodland grove in the section of park north of the chateau. As the painting shows, the grove was traversed by a stream, and by a small waterfall the marquis had erected an altar with a love poem by Petrarch. In Dunouy’s composition, we can see a woman resting in deep contemplation beside this diminutive monument. Despite the small scale, both here and in the image of Rousseau, the artist has managed to capture all the small details without being overly finicky. He reproduces the play of light in the branches and the reflections in the water surface using finely tuned colour values and a number of coloristic accents.

Louis-Gabriel Moreau the Elder, Terrace in the Park of Saint-Cloud, ca. 1780s, oil on paper mounted on canvas (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum 7653; photo by Anna Danielsson).

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Slightly older than Dunouy, Louis-Gabriel Moreau the elder (1740–1806) had specialised much earlier in painting views, especially of gardens and parks in Paris and the surrounding area. He was a pupil of another of the city’s more prominent topographical artists, Pierre-Antoine Demachy. They soon realised there was a market for motifs of this kind, either as small, delicate images on snuff boxes or as cabinet paintings. But commercially viable motifs were not a given route to election to the French academy of fine arts. Moreau made two attempts to be elected, in 1787 and 1788, but was unsuccessful because the members considered his motifs too trivial. However, he found greater favour with one of the king’s brothers, the Count of Artois, who appointed Moreau as his court painter.

Unsurprisingly, Moreau drew many of his motifs from the old royal pleasure gardens and parks, several of which were in a state of picturesque dilapidation by the late 18th century. One such place was the baroque garden at Saint-Cloud near Paris, which provides the motif for the third of Nationalmuseum’s recent acquisitions. Another version by Moreau can be found in the Louvre, likewise depicting the majestic trees in this pleasure garden which, along with the associated chateau, was sold by the Duke of Chartres to his relative King Louis XVI in 1785. The buildings were damaged in the Franco-German war of 1870 and later demolished, but the garden designed by André Le Nôtre survives to this day.

“The acquisition of Dunouy’s rare and unique depictions of Ermenonville and Moreau’s view of Saint-Cloud introduces a category of painting that was previously largely absent from the Nationalmuseum collection. And we are delighted to have the opportunity to put them on display in the exhibition The Garden: Six Centuries of Art and Nature, which opens to the public on 23 February,” said Magnus Olausson, head of collections at Nationalmuseum and exhibition curator.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funds with which to acquire design, applied art and artwork; instead the collections are enriched through donations and gifts from private foundations and trusts. The acquisition of Dunouy’s views of Ermenonville was generously funded by the Hedda and N.D. Qvist Foundation, while Moreau’s view of the Saint-Cloud park was purchased with a generous donation from the Lars Vogel bequest.

All three paintings will be on display in the exhibition The Garden from 23 February 2023 until 7 January 2024.


Exhibition | The Garden: Six Centuries of Art and Nature

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 13, 2023

Johan Johnsen, Still Life with a Bouquet of Flowers, detail, oil on canvas, 65 × 50 cm (Stockholm: National Museum, 487, bequest 1863 Marshal of the Court Martin von Wahrendorff).

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Opening this month at Sweden’s Nationalmuseum:

The Garden: Six Centuries of Art and Nature
Trädgården: Konst och natur under sex sekler

Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 23 February 2023 — 7 January 2024

On display throughout 2023 at the Nationalmuseum, The Garden: Six Centuries of Art and Nature explores how gardens have been portrayed in art. Visitors will experience nearly 300 paintings, drawings, applied art, and sculpture by artists such as Watteau, Boucher, Oudry, Le Nôtre, Monet, and Carl Larsson and, from contemporary times, Peter Frie and Emma Helle.

Jean II Le Blond, Versailles, Large Plan of the Château, Town, Gardens, and Surroundings, ca 1687, pen and black ink, grey wash, and watercolour, on paper, 128 × 57 cm (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, NMH THC 1, transferred in 1866 from Kongl. Museum).

The exhibition takes the form of a grand tour showing how gardens have been portrayed in art, often walking the line between culture and nature. Garden art has always involved living materials: nature itself and the changing seasons. This makes it a dynamic artform—transforming, dying, and renewing in line with the natural cycle.

A garden, whether artful or utilitarian, is not the same thing as nature. It has always been consciously designed in accordance with particular ideas and plans. Ultimately, the garden can be seen as a desire to recreate Paradise. The square, geometric quarters of a Renaissance garden with a fountain in the middle were one expression of this desire. Likewise, baroque pleasure gardens could be seen as a way of restoring what was lost in the fall of man. On the drawing board, God’s creation would be resurrected with the aid of compasses and rulers. Geometry and optics would then translate the architect’s vision into practice.

A complete reappraisal occurred in the 18th century, when humanity suddenly realised that it could be a danger to nature. The dark forests and rugged mountains were no longer considered threatening. Virgin nature, yet to be exploited by mankind, was the new ideal influencing landscape architecture. Eventually, though, the toytown scale and artificial character were perceived as so comical that art and nature went their separate ways after 1800—a distinction that has endured. However, many of the questions raised throughout history about mankind’s relationship with art and nature have persisted and recurred. This is clearly apparent in contemporary art, where both Paradise and the threat to nature are ever present themes.

The relationship between art and nature is central to the exhibition. The introductory section, devoted to the myth of Paradise, occupies a large gallery of its own, lined with cabinets containing the various natural elements as reflected in the artworks. Similarly, the artificial garden forms the focus of the second large gallery, covering the period from the Renaissance to the present day. This gallery is surrounded by smaller exhibition rooms featuring individual design forms ranging from caves to ruins. At the centre of all this is a section covering the human presence in the garden.

Olof Fridsberg, A Huge Pumpkin, 1757, oil on canvas, 89 × 104 cm (Stockholm: National Museum, 7007, Acquisition Gåva 2001 av Nationalmusei Vänner).

As an example of contemporary interpretations, we have invited the artist Peter Frie to take part in the exhibition. Known as a painter of dreamlike landscapes, Frie has created a series of bronze sculptures of trees, having progressed from painting to a three-dimensional format. Trees of various sizes are presented as an installation in dialogue with the historical material on landscape and gardens. Emma Helle, another contemporary artist invited to take part, works in ceramics and draws inspiration from sources such as classical mythology. Her decorative and colourful, almost baroque works take us on a fanciful journey through the history of myth and literature. Helle has also created two new works especially for Nationalmuseum’s exhibition as a commentary on the theme of Paradise.

The majority of the almost 300 exhibits come from Nationalmuseum’s own collections, but the exhibition also includes important pieces on loan, in order to give a complete picture of the garden as a phenomenon. A catalogue with a series of in-depth articles will be published to coincide with the exhibition.

Exhibition | The Mysterious Peter Adolf Hall

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on February 13, 2023

Opening this spring at Sweden’s Nationalmuseum :

The Mysterious Peter Adolf Hall: A Swedish Miniature Painter in 18th-Century Paris
Mysteriet Peter Adolf Hall: En svensk miniatyrmålare i 1700-talets Paris   
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 23 March — 25 June 2023

Peter Adolf Hall, Self-portrait, 1780, oil on canvas, 71 × 58 cm (Stockholm: National Museum 7091, gift of Gunvor Svartz-Malmberg).

During the spring and early summer 2023, Nationalmuseum presents an exhibition on Peter Adolf Hall, a Swedish artist, who revolutionised the art of miniature portraits in Paris in the latter half of the 18th century. The exhibition includes some 70 portrait miniatures from the museum’s collection, both by Hall himself and some of his followers.

Based on the museum’s miniatures collection, Nationalmuseum is to present an exhibition on the Swedish artist Peter Adolf Hall, who revolutionised the art of miniature portraits in the French capital in the latter half of the 18th century. Born in Borås, Hall studied in Stockholm under the pastel painter Gustaf Lundberg. This offers a clue as to how Hall came by his innovative miniature painting technique, but how he learned or developed this art form, remains a mystery.

When Hall arrived in Paris in 1766, he was already a fully fledged miniature portraitist, with a particular talent for reproducing the finish of garment fabrics. This was to become something of a trademark. He used relatively thick layers of watercolour in relief, a technique known as impasto, to create the illusion of reflected light on various materials, especially textiles. Folds were emphasised with wide brushstrokes and lines. Another revolutionary feature of Hall’s free style was the way he depicted a glowing skin by taking advantage of the ivory on which miniatures were painted and allowing it to shine through a thin, transparent layer of watercolour paint.

In 1767, a mere year after his arrival, Hall received a royal commission. Two years later he became an associate member of the French academy of fine arts, but he never applied for full membership as expected of him. He was so secure in his success that he clearly felt no need to devote time to producing a reception piece in order to become a full member. Besides his artistic talent and skill, there was another reason for Hall’s rapid progress in Paris: he was an adept social climber.

The exhibition traces how Hall’s painting style changed over the years. The colour palette became warmer, and the subjects were portrayed more freely. In the 1780s he enjoyed great success, was incredibly productive and made a lot of money. Perhaps out of a desire to please his subjects, Hall eventually developed a somewhat affected style which meant that, in particular, all the women in his portraits looked alike. The French Revolution put an abrupt end to all this. Hall’s patrons left the country, and he went too. He departed for Brussels in May 1791 and died two years later in Liège.

Although Hall’s style of portraiture did not survive the French Revolution, his innovative miniature paintings influenced several of his younger French contemporaries. The exhibition includes some 70 portrait miniatures from the museum’s collection, both by Hall himself and some of these followers who were heavily influenced by his mastery of free style.

The exhibition will be on show for a few months in the spring and summer of 2023, adjacent to the Treasury on the middle floor of Nationalmuseum. It will form a thematic extension to the permanent exhibition of pieces from the museum’s miniatures collection, which is the world’s largest. This collection comprises 5,700 miniatures, mainly portraits, by Swedish and European artists from the 16th to the mid 20th century. The Treasury houses 1,170 small works of significance, the majority of which are miniature portraits.

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