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Peder Severin Krøyer (Danish, 1851-1909)
Property from a New England Private Collection
PEDER SEVERIN KRØYER (Danish, 1851-1909)

Sommeraften ved Skagens Strand, Portræt af Kunstnerens Hustru (Summer Evening on Skagen Beach, Portrait of the Artist's Wife)

PEDER SEVERIN KRØYER (Danish, 1851-1909)
Sommeraften ved Skagens Strand, Portræt af Kunstnerens Hustru (Summer Evening on Skagen Beach, Portrait of the Artist's Wife)
signed with the artist's initials 'S. K.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 16 ½ in. (61 x 42 cm.)
Painted circa 1899.
(probably) Johan 'Hans' Brodersen (1858-1943), Skagen, by 1910.
(probably) Ove Ringberg (1883-1922), Copenhagen, before 1922.
(probably) His sale; Winkel & Magnussen, Copenhagen, 2 September 1924, lot 640, as Fru Krøyer paa Skagens Strand.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 14-15 March 1989, lot 42, as Marie Krøyer on the Beach.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
(probably) H. C. Christensen, P.S. Krøyer, 23. Juli 1851-20. Nov. 1909, Fortegnelse over hans Oliemalerier, Copenhagen, 1923, p. 100, no. 645 (with inverted dimensions).
(probably) Copenhagen, Kunstforeningens Udstilling paa Charlottenborg, P.S. Krøyer, 1851-1909, October-November 1910, no. 281, as Studie til Sommeraften ved Skagens Strand (with inverted dimensions).

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Laura H. Mathis
Laura H. Mathis Specialist, Head of Sale

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Lot Essay

The present work relates to Peder Severin Krøyer’s iconic, large scale ‘blue period’ masterpiece, Summer Evening at Skagen Beach The Artist and his Wife (Sommeraften ved Skagens strand. Kunstneren og hans hustru) of 1899 (fig. 1).
Krøyer first went to Skagen in 1882 and became captivated by the light, the landscape and the simple life of the local community. In the years that followed he returned annually during the summer months, spending the rest of the year traveling or in Copenhagen where he kept a studio. In the summer of 1889 he married Marie Triepeke, whom he had met in Paris. Together, the couple made the most of Skagen’s close-knit artistic camaraderie, enjoying the company of the writers, musicians, intellectuals and artists who gathered there in the summer. The more celebrated visitors to Skagen included the Norwegian artists Frits Thaulow, Christian Krøhg and Hans Jæger and the scholar Georg Brandes.
In his earliest compositions in Skagen, Krøyer painted the everyday life of the fishermen at work in the Social-Realist style so popular at the time. As his attachment to Skagen grew stronger, the artist began to examine the vast expanses of sea, sand and sky that defined the landscape, and his work was imbued with increasingly Symbolist overtones. In the present painting, the figures are set into a blue half-light, a favorite with the artists of the Symbolist movement, who regarded the twilight hour as a herald of the coming of death. This interest in mood painting reflected the styles of other artists Krøyer met on his international travels. One of the most influential on the artistic development of the Swedish painter was James McNeill Whistler. Whistler and Krøyer showed together in several exhibitions and Krøyer would have seen Whistlers ‘nocturnes’ in different exhibitions in Paris and London during the 1880s and early 1890s. Whistler was much admired by the Scandinavian artists of the late 19th century, and his artistic influence can be seen in Krøyer’s depiction of a beach becalmed in the blue light of a summer evening. The sea and the sky dissolve into a continuous medium, not dissimilar from Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Silver, Chelsea (fig. 2).
In the summer of 1895, Krøyer had started work on a large portrait of Holger Drachmann set on the beach in the low evening sun, and wrote to the Swedish painter Oscar Björck that he was also thinking of painting another large portrait of himself with his wife in the same setting. The double portrait was intended as a beautiful manifestation of the Krøyers' marriage. It was essential that he had good weather for the picture, and Krøyer did not paint the final picture until 1899, though there are numerous photographs, as well as drawn and painted sketches for the final canvas.
Marie Triepcke and Peder Severin Krøyer were married in Augsburg on 23 July 1889. By that time Krøyer was undoubtedly one of the most successful artists in Denmark. Marie was an artist in her own right and they were both much admired and sought-after in their respective circles. It has been written, ‘They were committed to beauty, both of them. Søren and Marie Krøyer appeared as the ‘Children of Light’: Beautiful people, artistically gifted, with a divine golden glow around them when they stepped forth before the raptured or skeptical, envious world; (Charlotte Christensen, ‘Reverie’ in Gl. Holtegaard, Portraits of a Marriage, Marie and P. S. Kroyer, Copenhagen, 1997, p. 25).
With Marie as his model, Krøyer created a series of paintings that are today perceived as almost national icons in Denmark, but as his portraits of her enraptured his audience more and more, the basis of their marriage gradually crumbled. In their combined portrait of 1890, just a year after their marriage, where she has painted him and he her, the couple appear deeply inharmonious. Krøyer is painted so hesitantly that he appears almost a ghost, while Marie stares stiffly ahead, her face a beautiful mask with questioning eyes (fig. 3).
This tension between the couple is clearly evident in the present painting, as well as the finished composition. The couple is depicted on an evening walk on the beach, and although the scene appears idyllic, beneath the surface there is a hint of melancholy. Krøyer is holding Marie by the arm, but there is something fragile about his figure, and she is anything but attentive; with her gaze directed at the distance, she is in her own world. His arm appears to be the only thing that keeps her from sailing away from him. Her far too beautiful attire and his dramatic elegance in the north Jutland landscape appear as danger signals. Krøyer and his wife had very different temperaments: Marie suffered greatly from depression and bad nerves while Krøyer was known for his sunny disposition despite the fact that he too occasionally experienced bouts of depression. Here, though, their roles have been reversed– Marie is depicted as solid and self-possessed, while Krøyer’s more ephemeral execution of his own figure and the fact that he is partially cut off by the edge of the canvas makes him seem immaterial, grasping his wife’s arm to remain tethered. It should be noted that at this time, Krøyer was probably aware of his wife’s infidelity and she would leave him shortly after the completion of the painting. Marie’s suggested ambivalence gives the painting its tension and it stands not only model of Nordic mood painting, but also as an important example of the 'psychological portrait' of the 1890s more generally.

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