Down a quiet little street behind the Livgardens Kaserne, you will find an exquisite collection of art housed in a beautiful building (pictured above, credit: Pernille Klemp).
The David Collection is housed in the former home of Christian Ludvig David, a Danish lawyer and businessman, whose generosity resulted in a museum that is free for all to visit.
Born in Copenhagen in 1878, CL David was an attorney at law and quickly rose to prominence to try cases at the Danish Supreme Court. Moving into the business world brought him wealth and stability and so began his art collection, specialising in fine and applied arts from the 18th century, Islamic ceramics and early 20th century Danish art.
In 1934, David purchased a country residence, Marienborg on Lake Bagsværd where he housed his collection alongside his town house at Kronprinsessegade 30. Having fled to Sweden to escape the Nazis, in 1943, he continued to work at his role with ISS A/S, the global facilities company that still exists today.
On his return to Copenhagen at the end of the war, David made the decision to transfer the house in Kronprinsessegade and its art to an independent foundation named The CL David Foundation and Collection. From 1948 to the present day, the collection has continued to grow. At his death in 1960, David bequeathed his entire estate to the foundation which secured its future and the free access.
Throughout the museum, you can see the extent of the collection and there is much to see and admire. However, the reason I visited the David Collection was because of Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershoi. I fell in love with Hammershoi’s tender and tranquil interiors and became determined to visit Copenhagen to specifically find as many of his works as possible. If you are very lucky when visiting some of the major museums in the world, you may stumble across one or possibly two Hammershois, but generally no more than that.
On arrival, I climbed the beautiful staircase, wondering how many Hammershoi paintings would be on display. I had deliberately avoided doing too much research as, sometimes, with so much available online, a visit can end up being disappointing. To my absolute delight, there was a room full of Hammershoi; eleven to be exact!
I was the only visitor in this quiet room, with its deep coral walls and Hammershois all around the walls. It was a moving experience and was simply breath taking.
The interiors he paints are always interesting to explore. So much happens in these rooms even though at first glance they are devoid of any action.
In Open Doors, the usual palette of grey, white seems to suggest an empty set of rooms. But Hammershoi strategically places the open doors to conceal what is behind and it is left to the viewer to wonder and contemplate what could be hidden.
This is a typical window scene, but depth is created by the way in which Hammershoi shows the windows beyond this room. They are not clearly showing us the view outside, thereby keeping us close to hand. The light source comes from the left of the room, as if a door has opened and it illuminates the ottoman placed as a window seat.
CL David had a very good eye for the choices he made when purchasing Hammershoi’s work. While known for his interiors, Hammershoi could also bring his melancholic turn to a landscape, a peaceful sigh to the view.
Vilhelm Hammershoi married his friend’s sister, Ida Ilsted in 1891 and the couple remained childless. They were devoted to each other and Hammershoi would use Ida as his model but usually painted her from the back, creating an enigmatic scenario for us. This double portrait of the couple seems quite formal with an almost distant feel to it; even the title omits their names. When you know that this was painted during their honeymoon in Paris, it seems surprising, but this was the way of Hammershoi.
It has been a few years since I visited this gallery, and I have been fortunate enough to have continued my travels all over Europe, seeing great works of art in amazing settings, but this building will always remain one of the special places on my list.
The David Collection
1306 Copenhagen K
Tel. +45 33 73 49 49
Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm
Further closed 23rd, 24th, 25th and 31st December
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Wendy is based in the UK and is an English teacher but with industrial tendencies and a particular love of the ‘isms’ that formed in the 1910s! She writes her own art blog: Travels with my Art: exploring art: one gallery, one artist, one country at a time!