The joy of everyday life

- in the Netherlands and Denmark

28 January – 16 June 2024

The prolific Dutch art world of the 17th century bore witness to a break with the past, as painters increasingly began to depict everyday events and objects in their works. In the 1800s, Denmark followed suit with the same motifs in art, which later became known as the Danish Golden Age. The Nivaagaard Collection curates celebrated masterpieces and forgotten treasures from the two periods in an ambitious new exhibition.

Quiet moments and hard toil, lively company and rowdy parties, love and fighting – and all the pauses in between.

On January 28, 2024, the doors open to The Nivaagaard Collection and its magnificent special exhibition: The joy of everyday life - in the Netherlands and Denmark is about two periods in art history that, although 200 years apart, broke with previous representations in art and allowed everyday life to take over canvases and decorations in the homes of that time.

The exhibition focuses on genre painting - depictions of folk life where anonymous people play the main role in narrative scenes in everyday surroundings. The scenes depicted are frequently sensuous and humorous, often peculiar and sometimes moralising. And they are loaded with detail – from glimmering copper kettles to soft textiles and reflections in a beer glass.

The genre paintings are not documentary, but constructed narratives of life as it could be seen, heard, smelled and tasted. Even today, genre painting still manages to reach right into our own life experiences and provoke feelings of presence, compassion, revulsion or perhaps even a smile as we come face to face with people from a forgotten time, depicted by some of the greatest artists in history.

Like small windows, the paintings open up to intimate spaces, wild worlds, untameable emotions, great beauty, desire and a zest for life. It is these attempts to understand daily life and its emotions that the exhibition focuses on with more than 100 works and loans from leading museums and private collections in the Netherlands, America, France, England, Sweden and Denmark.

Everyday life and sensuality - 200 years apart

Seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish artists increasingly turned their eyes and brushes to everyday objects and events, creating groundbreaking new narratives in visual art about the lives of ordinary people. Meanwhile, they developed still life, landscape and marine paintings. Ever since, Dutch Baroque has been admired and loved for depicting the life of the common people with vigor in brothel scenes, tavern scenes, light-filled interiors and cheerful streets.

The volume of paintings almost explodes in 17th-century Holland and spreads across the Western world, including Denmark, where the motifs remain on the retina as an essential part of the art that continues up to and during the Danish Golden Age. It wasn't until the 1800s that artists began to paint the immediate world around them: Copenhagen in its city ramparts, the living rooms of the bourgeoisie and the busy people in public urban spaces, the artists themselves, their friends, customers and families.

While revolution was taking place elsewhere in Europe, the Danish Golden Age painters depicted a quiet, orderly and moral world. There is not the same kind of eroticism and unbridled joie de vivre as in the Dutch paintings, but a quieter kind of sensuality. And the humour is still there in caricatured stories about society's characters. In both the Netherlands and Denmark, genre paintings achieved great popularity during their time, but compared to the adored 'old Dutch', many of the Danish genre painters were underestimated in retrospect.

Baroque and Golden Age - in collections and current research

The Nivaagaard Collection’s founder Johannes Hage (1842-1923) was a child of the Danish Golden Age, and a Dutch genre painting was his first purchase. The museum is delighted to present the ambitious exhibition The joy of everyday life- in the Netherlands and Denmark, which for the first time in an international format brings together two of the museum's three collection areas: Dutch/Flemish 17th century art and Danish Golden Age art of the first half of the 19th century.

The exhibition is based on art historian Kasper Lægring’s post.doctorate research project, funded by the New Carlsberg Foundation and hosted by Aarhus University, on Dutch and Danish genre painting. The exhibition has also benefited from the ongoing work and preliminary results of the research into the Dutch and Flemish collection at the Nivaagaard Collection, supported by the Danish Ministry of Culture's Research Fund and carried out by the museum's special consultant, prof. em. Dr. Jørgen Wadum and the Dutch art historian, Dr. Angela Jager.

The joy of everyday life - in the Netherlands and Denmark

28 January - 16 June 2024

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