This summer, Anna Ancher’s art is in Lillehammer, where curator Cecilie Skeide intelligently has divided the Danish painter’s works into the categories, portraits, simplicity, Landscape, colors, community, light and religion. The Norwegian artist Hanne Borchgrevink has been exclusively invited to compliment Anna Ancher’s art by coloring two of the exhibition halls, following the themes of Light and Religion. It is a rare possibility to see the art of one of Denmark’s most important painters when her art visits Lillehammer.
Anna Ancher (1859-1935) was born Anna Brøndum, the daughter of Erik Brøndum, owner of Brøndums Hotel, which housed the artist colony in Skagen at the end of the 19th century. The fact that Ancher was a hotel daughter was probably important for her artistic career. She was served food and help with housework. She was one of the few women in her time who had a fairly large production.
Archer found also much of her inspriration abroad – especially in Paris – and experimented with light, colors and simplification. According to curator Cecilie Skeide, her works are full of portraits of those she loved, but also of people who happened to be available as models.
She married the painter Michael Ancher, and they had a daughter, Helga Ancher, who also became an artist.
The Skagen Painters are often associated with the movement of Naturalism, which aimed to represent the world as accurately as possible. Cecilie Skeide tells us that Anna Ancher developed her own style of painting and often returned to the same subject over and over again.
Anna Ancher’s motifs are beautiful, and in many ways timeless. In Lillehammer we can experience her delicate interiors. She is often referred to as a ‘painter of interiors – suggesting that she mostly painted scenes depicting rooms and indoor spaces. However, landscape paintings can be found scattered throughout most of her body og work as can be seen in the exhibition.
Thematically, Ancher’s paintings were influenced by an intimate connection to the local communities and a lifelong connection to the light and geography of Skagen. Sunlight falling onto a wall is Anna Ancher’s key recurring motif, and she captured the special light that Skagen is so famous for.
Continue to read One of Denmark’s Most Important Painters Visits Lillehammer
At the same time, she managed to incorporate some of the most modern and radical artistic ideas to such an extent that her paintings contributed to a rethinking of Danish painting.
“Anna Archer’s work are full of depictions of everyday life and social circumstances in Skagen,” says Cecilie Skeide, and continues, “Depictions of everyday life is a typical theme during this period.”
It is an event that Lillehammer Art Museum now shows the exhibition «Anna Ancher – Skagen – From Within and Without». It was seen by 250,000 people in Skagen and Copenhagen last year – despite long interruptions with closure.
The exhibition lasts through 15 August.
We’ve interviewed Nils Ohlsen, director Lillehammer Art Museum.
After having previously been located in an old wooden house next to the church , the Lillehammer Art Museum and Lillehammer Cinema were established in an Erling Viksjø-designed building in 1964, which is considered today a definite representation of the architectural style of its time. In 1994, Snøhetta completed an extension to the Museum with the construction of an independent building that sought to bridge the architectural language of the 1960s building and contemporary formal expression. This building, which is already iconic today, provides the museum with further gallery space dedicated to the collection of about 1500 mostly Norwegian works of art from 1800 until today..
Nils Ohlsen (b. 1967) has been the director of Lillehammer Art Museum since 2018.
From 2010-18 he worked as the director of the National Gallery, the department old masters and modern art at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. Originally from Oldenburg, Germany, Ohlsen started as curator at the Kunsthalle Emden in 2000, where he worked from 2006 as scientific director. He studied art history, classical archaeology and prehistory, as well as graphic design, in Berlin and Stockholm.
What does it take to set up an organization like Lillehammer Art Museum?
As the world has become more internationalized, it is important to establish international as well as Scandinavian connections. A museum’s reputation and network are very important factors, and money is of course fundamental. Today, we are funded by Stiftelsen Lillehammer Museum, an umbrella organization for five museums: Maihaugen, including the Norwegian Postal Museum, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s home Aulestad, Sigrid Undsets home Bjerkebæk, the Norwegian Olympic Museum and Lillehammer Art Museum.
Our present situation enables us to collaborate with some of the very best art museums internationally. 25 years have passed since an Anna Ancher exhibition has been seen outside Denmark. We are very proud to have been entitled to have such an important exhibition here in Lillehammer! It might have helped that Anna Ancher’s work was an extensive part of my PhD.
Has the museum’s direction changed over time?
Concerning our collection we are still holding onto our initial mission/vision of promoting Norwegian art history, but we also want to go further and tell the story of Nordic art as a whole. Personally, I want to advance more women in art. Next year we will present an exhibition of about 30 female Chinese artists. It will be an important exhibition and there is so much to explore.
How do you select artists for exhibitions and how do you find new artists?
Network is still the important factor. It is not an easy process because it’s not just about finding important artists and their work. We also need to consider our mission and responsibilities to our domestic community and over time present a good mix of Norwegian, Nordic and international art, preferably in different formats. My conservator team is extremely important in the planning process and preparation of this task.
What’s the average time between finding an artist or theme you like and then having a show presented at the museum?
Normally we work on a three years’ perspective, but smaller exhibitions can be finalized in some months. We strive to create contemporary exhibitions. I believe we’re the only museum in Norway right now planning an exhibition on fashion, containing works of the adored Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov. This way we try to extend our profile and open up for new visitor groups
An exhibition exploring Nordic illustrators of fairy tales, e. g. Th. Kittelsen and John Bauer, is also in the pipeline.
What’s the organizational structure of the museum, and has that been important to its success?
The Stiftelsen Lillehammer Museum employs about 100 people. Our museum has only 2 mediators, 1.5 project managers and 2 conservators. However, we are one individual museum, not a department of the foundation. It is important to maintain our identity.
How are you funded?
The money to run Lillehammer Art Museum comes 60% from the cultural department, 20% from the federal state and 20% from the city of Lillehammer. During the pandemic we have received three times one million Norwegian crowns to purchase Norwegian contemporary art. For special projects the Sparebankstiftelsen DNB is very important. This foundation supports learning programs, exhibitions or digital offers to our public.
As a museum director, how involved are you in the selection of artists and exhibitions?
I love to create excitement. Together with my curators and other team members we’re always thinking of new ways to attract interest in our museum. For instance, what about an exhibition presenting paintings and photographs from the same period side by side?
Most curators I know of are women. Any comments?
I think there will be more female directors in the future as well. Today, it’s more about how and why the students chose their subjects. As the society changes over time, so will choice of careers. I appreciate to work with a lot of great female colleges!
Thank you, Dr. Ohlsen. We wish you every success in the future.
You may also be interested in: Five Summer Exhibitions in Norway
One of Denmark’s Most Important Painters Visits Lillehammer, written by Tor Kjolberg
All photos © Daily Scandinavian / Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Anna Ancher self portrait 1879