Memorable museums, superb art of international and Danish provenance, historic architecture and modern design are features of this tour. While the visual arts are the focus, this is also an opportunity to gain an understanding of the wider history and culture of Denmark. Diversity is augmented by visiting a selection of attractive provincial towns, as well as the capital, and by glimpsing both countryside and coast to appreciate the landscapes that inspired Danish artists.
A major theme is Danish painting of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Occasional exhibitions grant British gallery-goers a glimpse of this phenomenon, but its full glory can only be viewed in the land of its origin. Danish artists found their distinct expression with surprising suddenness during the Napoleonic wars, and the next thirty years are regarded as the Golden Age of Danish painting. Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Christen Købke are but two of a plethora of artists who produced perfectly delineated streetscapes, charmingly inconsequential landscapes and scenes of daily life radiant with contentment, stylistically distinguished by brilliant naturalism and an inimitable rendering of light – crisp and warm in Greek and Italian views (many artists travelled south) but pale, pellucid and unmistakably Scandinavian in scenes of their native land.
Later in the 19th century the mood darkened under the impulses of social commitment (Brendekilde, Henningsen), the deification of Nature (Janus La Cour) or a deeper exploration of the human psyche (Hammershøi was a sort of post-Hegelian Vermeer). Towards the turn of the century Symbolism had its proponents but many artists again turned their gaze towards their native land. The painters of Skagen on northernmost Jutland, led by P. S. Krøyer and Michael Ancher, and those of the Funen School, principally Johannes Larsen and Fritz Syberg, celebrated the low-key beauties of Denmark’s shores and countryside drenched in ineffable light of the North.
As is to be expected of a prosperous and outward looking nation, there is much high quality art from the rest of the world to be seen here. And as is to be expected of a country which is virtually synonymous with good design, recent museum buildings would merit a pilgrimage even if empty. Several are enhanced by a parkland or seaside setting. Curatorship – hanging and interpretation – is exemplary.
Some attention is paid to architecture of earlier times – whitewashed brick Gothic churches, the flamboyant Renaissance of Christian IV’s patronage, the handsome patrician streetscapes of the capital, the unassuming geometric perfection of Arne Jacobsen and his fellow modernists, the half-timbered vernacular of town and country.
Low lying but rarely flat, the sensual topography of Denmark was laid down by glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Now, as when depicted by the painters of the Golden Age, it is picturesquely clothed with patches of fertile farmland interspersed with hedges and clumps of trees.
Copenhagen. Fly at c. 10.00am from London Heathrow to Copenhagen. A walk along the waterfront and through Frederiksstaden, an 18th-century development, unfurls the post-mediaeval history of the city. Pass the 1750s palaces of the Amalienborg, the finest such group outside France, the English church, Gefion Fountain, the Little Mermaid, the bastions of the Kastellet and (across the water) the amazing new opera house. First of three nights in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen, Humlebæk. The Hirschsprungske Collection is perhaps the finest assembly of 19th-century Danish painting and retains its early 20th-century hang. North of the city in Humlebæk the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has a permanent collection of international modern art and changing exhibitions in half-buried galleries in parkland beside the sea; a magical combination. Ordrupgaard Museum has French Impressionists and Danish art in a 19th-century mansion and a bold extension by Zaha Hadid, surrounded by woodland and gardens. Grundtvig’s Church (Peter and Kaare Klint 1920–40) is one of the finest brick Expressionist edifices of the 20th century. Overnight Copenhagen.
Copenhagen. Explore Slotsholmen, the original core of the city: Christiansborg Palace housing the Parliament, the Renaissance stock exchange, Thorvaldsen Museum dedicated to the eponymous Neo-Classical sculptor (1770–1844). The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, magnificent benefaction of a brewer, has collections of Mediterranean antiquities, particularly Roman portrait sculpture, Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Golden Age paintings and much else besides. Some free time: choices include the Viking section in the National Museum and shops selling classic Danish design in the pedestrianised Strøget. Overnight Copenhagen.
Copenhagen. The morning is spent at the Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish National Gallery, which possesses an extensive collection of Danish art from the Golden Age to the present day and a fine holding of European Old Masters excellently displayed in a new wing overlooking a park. Christian IV’s private palace of Rosenborg, gradually augmented 1605–33, has excellently preserved and richly decorated rooms and the royal treasury in the cellars. Leave Copenhagen by coach and cross the straits between Zealand and Funen on the 12-mile Storebælt Bridge. First of three nights in Odense.
Fåborg, Egeskov. Drive to Fåborg on the south coast where there is an excellent museum, a private collection of recent art opened to the public in 1915, particularly strong on the Funen School. The charming old town centre is well preserved. Egeskov is a 17th-century moated mansion, well furnished, with park and gardens. Overnight Odense.
Odense, Kerteminde. A walk around Odense, a delightful town where old and new blend well with little cobbled streets, rehabilitated industrial buildings, riverside park and a Gothic cathedral. The Funen Art Museum has a comprehensive collection of Danish painting, the best outside Copenhagen. Visit the Hans Christian Andersen birthplace museum before driving to the fishing village of Kerteminde, which was home to Johannes Larsen (1867–1961), leader of the Funen school. His house, studio and gardens are preserved with a new gallery building (Danish Museum of the Year 2007). Overnight Odense.
Mosegård, Århus. Drive in the morning to Mosegård. In a charming countryside setting, the state-of-the-art museum designed by Henning Larsen Architects opened in 2014. Continue to Århus, Denmark’s second city, crossing by bridge to Jutland. There is a choice between visiting the influential university campus, a prime example of Danish Modernism (1930s), or the Old Town Museum, 16th- to 19th-century buildings from all over Denmark reassembled to form an enchanting little town. First of two nights in Århus.
Århus. At the heart of the city a traffic-clogged thoroughfare has been replaced by a river, long confined to a culvert, the embankments now burgeoning with café culture. Arne Jacobsen’s town hall (finished 1942) is one of Modernism’s icons, mathematically precise, perfectly poised, defiantly unmonumental. The ARoS Art Museum (2004) is a brick and glass cube with a curvaceous white interior housing historic Danish art, as well as some significant pieces of modern art. Some free time. Overnight Århus.
Copenhagen-Ishøj. Re-cross the Storebælt Straits and traverse Zealand again. Above a fine beach south of Copenhagen, the Arken Museum of Modern Art is outstanding for its striking architecture (nautical, angular), unexpected location and adventurous exhibitions. Fly from Copenhagen, returning to Heathrow c. 5.00pm.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £3,830 or £3,650 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,350 or £4,170 without flights.
Included: air travel (Euro Traveller) on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A319); travel by private coach; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 5 dinners and 2 lunches with wine, water and coffee; all admission charges; all tips for restaurant staff and drivers; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer.
71 Nyhavn, a traditional hotel in the Nyhavn district, close to some of the museums and the Amalienborg Palace. Rooms are small but comfortable. Radisson Blu H.C. Andersen Hotel, Odense: a modern 4-star hotel, a few minutes’ walk from the town centre, the best in town. Hotel Oasia, Aarhus: a boutique 3-star hotel, a 15 minute walk to the ARoS museum. Hotels in Denmark generally do not have air-conditioning.
There is quite a lot of walking and standing in museums. There are also some long coach journeys; average distance per day: 87 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'The lecturer was 5* in every way: really excellent in her knowledge.'
'This tour was well researched and contained many gems both visual and cultural. Greatest of all was the lecturer as a joyful.'