Bruce Museum presents exhibit on Danish painter L.A. Ring
The work of a Danish artist who captured how his homeland was rapidly changing as the world modernized is coming to southwestern Connecticut.
The Bruce Museum in Greenwich will showcase art by L.A. Ring from Feb. 1 to May 24. Ring lived from 1854 to 1933 and is considered one of Denmark’s most significant artists. His paintings often showcased people working in the landscape.
“L.A. Ring is the Danish artist most capable of expressing the mental and physical changes that took place in Denmark at the turn of the 20th century,” said Peter Noergaard Larsen, exhibit curator for Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), the Danish National Gallery in Copenhagen.
“With quiet brilliance, he was able to capture the landscape and atmosphere of Denmark on the brink of industrial revolution,” Larsen said.
The Bruce will be one of only two museums in the United States to host “On the Edge of the World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from the Danish National Gallery.” The other museum is in Seattle.
The 25 paintings being displayed are part of the permanent collection at SMK, which owns the world’s largest collection of Ring’s work, and were selected due to their themes, variety and complexity.
The exhibit will take place in the Bruce Museum’s expanded main art gallery, reopening after a five-month renovation as part of the ongoing $45 million project to create “The New Bruce.”
Visitors can view five short films focusing on Ring’s art hosted by Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen, exhibit ambassador. Mikkelsen had roles in Netflix’s “House of Cards” and the BBC’s “Sherlock” series.
Ring’s realist and symbolist paintings tell the story of upheaval in Denmark as many residents moved from the countryside to cities for jobs and opportunity in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His work depicted the rural landscape, village life, and people surrounded by signs of the modern world.
He had a humble upbringing in rural Denmark, and as a young man believed the poor and working class deserved to be treated better. At the time, land was being redistributed from powerful landowners with serf labor to smallholders, or families who owned their own small farms.
“The land came to be seen as belonging to the people, and therefore to have an almost sacred, national aspect,” according to a museum release.
Ring was considered Denmark’s greatest landscape painter by the 1890s and won a Bronze Medal for painting at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. His painting “Summer Day by Roskilde Fjord” is considered a masterpiece of Danish culture.
His art also reflected the ups and downs of his personal life. Early work had darker themes influenced by death and his mental depression while later, after the start of a happy marriage, Ring’s art often highlighted closeness and intimacy.
Mikkel Bogh, National Gallery of Denmark director, described Ring as “a sensitive and profound interpreter of the changing conditions of human existence at the threshold of modernity.” His art speaks “to us today in a powerful artistic language that matters as never before,” Bogh said.
Ring’s work has been compared to that of great American realist painters such as Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. “All were keenly interested in how individual man handled the existential challenges arising as a result of the modern world,” according to the museum release.
Kathleen Holko, Bruce Museum school and tour services manager, said many Americans likely don’t know much about Ring’s work.
“He’s an artist many of us aren’t that familiar with, and it’s great discovering an artist new to you,” Holko said.
Staff and volunteer docents at the Bruce have received training to prepare them for the exhibit, including a lecture by a Scandinavian art expert and a visit to the Scandinavia House cultural center in New York City.
Holko said Ring’s paintings offer special insight. “At the surface level, they may seem calm and quiet but when you take a deep dive into them, you see there’s a deeper meaning to them as well,” she said.
Larsen said the exhibit provides “a rare opportunity to meet one of the most important artists in Danish and Nordic art from the decades around 1900 — an artist wrestling with human existence, with dreams of youth, love, deep depressions and death.”
Hanne Stoevring, American Friends of SMK executive director, said Ring has “a way of observing light, moods and fine psychological tensions in the daily lives of ordinary people.”
Ring’s paintings, according to Larsen, “contain something universally human.”
The exhibit includes a Feb. 2 talk on Ring’s work with a former SMK conservation director and a May 14 in-gallery concert reflecting Ring’s artistic themes by a Danish pianist and composer. A series of art workshops related to the exhibit also will be offered.
The Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, is open Tuesday through Sunday. Learn more at www.BruceMuseum.org or 203-869-0376.