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Krøyer’s Final Masterpiece

Press Release   •   Feb 20, 2017 08:10 GMT

In a magnificent study for P.S. Krøyer’s final masterpiece, the artist's family and friends can be seen around the iconic Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen's beach, where sparks are flying and people’s faces are lit up by the bright summer night. The study is auctioned off at Bruun Rasmussen’s upcoming international auction on 28 February.

Almost everyone is there – family members, friends and fellow artists. The study was made on Midsummer Eve in 1903, where Krøyer captured the intimate atmosphere around the fire on his canvas. To the left you see the poet and painter Holger Drachmann with a wide-brimmed hat and a black overcoat. He was positioned in the worst place imaginable since the smoke and sparks flew directly in his face - and supposedly he stated the following to Krøyer: "My dear Søren, if you keep me standing here, my beard and hair will turn pitch-black. Furthermore, I loathe smoke."

The study is a clear example of Krøyer’s impressive artistic talent – especially the speed with which he worked and his spontaneity, which can be seen in the moments captured around the bonfire. The painting process went so quickly that sand from the beach ended up ingrained in parts of the paint on the canvas,” says Julie Arendse Voss, Head of Fine Art at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers. “At the time of its making, Krøyer was ill and plagued by the lengthy disbandment of his marriage to Marie Krøyer, who had fallen in love with the Swedish composer Hugo Alven. The friends were there for Krøyer and posed for several studies on the beach and at home in the studio. In the final painting from 1906, Marie Krøyer and Hugo Alven were incorporated into the circle of people around the bonfire. In the study the two are absent”, Julie Arendse Voss points out.

The rapid and sketch-like brushstrokes add a freshness to the study, and gives the work a special intensity and vividness that is not quite as pronounced in the finished work on display at Skagen Museum.

P.S. Krøyer and the Artist Colony

There is no getting around P.S. Krøyer (1851-1909) when discussing Danish art history. He was a central figure in the Modern Breakthrough in the late 1800s, and already during his youth he sought out the company of other artists in France, Italy and finally Skagen, where he in 1882 established lasting ties. Skagen was already a meeting place for Danish and Scandinavian painters and writers, but it is to Krøyer’s credit that the community increasingly took on the character of a festive working environment, which during the 1880s and 1890s made the place rather fashionable.

Krøyer is especially known for his figure paintings and depictions of the bright summer evenings on the northernmost tip of Denmark. His very weakened physical and mental health had an impact on his final visit to Skagen, where he was repeatedly hospitalized in Middelfart Mental Hospital, but this did not prevent him from completing his very last masterpiece in 1906 that depicted the Midsummer Eve bonfire.

Preview & Auction

Krøyer’s study for the ”Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach” will be exhibited at our preview in Bredgade from the 23 to 27 February, and the painting will be up for auction on Tuesday, 28 February at 4 pm.

Read more about the international auction

Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is one of Scandinavia’s leading international auction houses, and one of Denmark’s oldest. It all started on 6 October 1948, when Arne Bruun Rasmussen conducted the first traditional auction in the saleroom at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. Today, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen stands at the helm of the family-run business together with the third generation of the family, his son Frederik and daughter Alexa, and the company’s CEO Jakob Dupont.

In 2004, the first online auction was launched, and today the auction house has expanded to include departments in Copenhagen and Aarhus and representations in Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are put up for auction each year at the traditional auctions and daily online auctions. Here you can bid on everything from art, antiques, modern design and jewellery to books, coins, stamps, wine and weaponry.