Winter became spring and melancholy turned to optimism when the Danish painter L.A. Ring married the ceramist’s daughter Sigrid Kähler. On 16 December, Ordrupgaard will open the doors to an exhibition that shows a brighter and more domestic side of the famous Danish symbolist and realist.
The Danish artist Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933) is known and loved for his empathetic portrayals of peasants, artisans and workers, and for his condensed, mist-filled pictures of the Zealand landscape. But the private sphere and the painter’s life as it unfolded within the four walls of his home was also a significant factor in L.A. Ring’s motivic world. The significance of the home comes to expression at an early stage in a number of interior paintings from Ring’s locality, in which he used family members and neighbors as models, often portrayed in domestic surroundings.
A turning point
L.A. Ring was plagued by melancholy throughout his life, but his marriage to the twenty-year younger Sigrid Kähler (1874-1923) marked the beginning of a new and happier period of life for the then 42-year-old Ring – and a new phase in his art.
In the following years, his work was characterized by an unprecedented warmth, intimacy and optimism that is not found in his earlier work. The desolate Zealand landscapes were replaced by cozy domestic interiors, and instead of the harsh realism that Ring had previously cultivated, he painted his wife and the couple’s three children in the home that he and Sigrid jointly created as the setting for their family life.
Sigrid Kähler is the focal point for many of Ring’s works from 1896 onwards. We see her in the garden door, at the lunch table, and in the lamplight’s glow – but Sigrid was more than just a motif in her husband’s works. Sigrid Kähler was herself an artist, and had worked as a “painter lady” at the pottery of her father, Herman Kähler.
Danish museums have only very few examples of Sigrid’s works, but in connection with L.A. Ring. Between Light and Darkness Ordrupgaard has located and identified vases, watercolors, furniture and other decorative works from Sigrid’s hand. Most of these works have never before been exhibited. Like so many other artists’ wives of the day, Sigrid’s marriage to Ring meant that she had to hang up her brushes, but nonetheless she continued to be the Ring’s foremost critic and sounding board, and it was often she who gave the works their titles.
Artist home and peasant’s cottage
Although Ring’s happy marriage muted his restlessness, his fundamental unease and melancholy never quite deserted him. It had an impact on their family life, and they lived in four different places in Zealand. In 1914 the family moved into an architect-designed redbrick house in Roskilde, which they filled with old mahogany furniture, antiques and crafts.
As in other artists’ homes from the period, such as the home of Swedish Carl and Karin Larsson in Sundborn, or that of Anna and Michael Ancher in Skagen, the home expressed an artistic idea in which decor, artistic creation, lifestyle and family formed an overall synthesis. Shortly afterwards Ring bought a small farmhouse on the adjacent site, which he decorated with simple rustic furniture, with the idea of using the house as scenography in his paintings. However, he did not in the end create many paintings in the house, perhaps because the staging was too remote from the life as it is lived, with which Ring was much occupied. Instead, he went out into Brøndgade right outside the house, a street still clearly influenced by peasant culture, where he painted numerous pictures of the characteristic small, rickety houses.
L.A. Ring. Between Light and Darkness is a continuation of Ordrupgaard’s series of exhibitions about artist couples and artists’ homes from around the turn of the last century, which has amongst other things included the popular exhibitions Carl Larsson. The Good Life, Johannes and Alhed Larsen. At Home in Nature and Fritz Syberg. Art and Love.
A new side of Ring
This the first time that an exhibition focuses on the influence of the home on L.A. Ring, from his childhood in the village of Ring as the son of an artisan in straitened circumstances, and with his parents as his first models, to the artists’ home he created with Sigrid, and finally the peasant’s house in Brøndgade, where Ring sought to reconstruct the peasant culture he had known in his childhood. L.A. Ring. Between Light and Darkness thus gives the public a unique opportunity to experience Ring from a completely new angle, as a painter of interiors and the family.
The exhibition presents a wide range of L.A. Ring’s interiors, with a special focus on the artist’s home. In addition, there are a large number of paintings from Sankt Jørgensbjerg and Brøndgade, ceramics created by Ring, and watercolours and crafts by Sigrid Kähler. The exhibition also contains many works in private ownership that have never previously been exhibited.
The exhibition may be seen at Ordrupgaard from 16 December 2016 until 26 February 2017.
Feature image (on top): L. A Ring: Hazy winter’d say in Vinderoed.
Between Light and Darkness in Denmark, source: Ordrupsgaard
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