P.S. Kroyer
Biography of Danish Painter from Skagens Artist Colony.

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Summer Evening on Skagen's South
Beach (1893) Skagens Museum

P.S. Kroyer (1851-1909)

One of the foremost Impressionist painters from Denmark, the artist Peder Severin Kroyer was born in Norway, but brought up in Copenhagen where he studied at the Royal Academy. Initially a keen student of Velazquez, he became the leading member of the Skagen artist colony, a group known as the 'painters of light'. This group, which included Holger Drachmann and Carl Locher, was strongly influenced by French Impressionism. In particular, they sought to study and capture the effects of light at different times of the day. Kroyer's paintings from Skagen are lively and naturalistic, and were executed en plein air. The influence of Renoir and Whistler can be seen in his paintings Hip Hip Hurrah! Artists Party at Skagen (1888, Goteborgs Konstmuseum, Sweden), and Summer Evening on Skagen's South Beach with Anna Ancher and Marie Kroyer (1893, Skagen Museum). See also: Best Impressionist Paintings.

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Early Art Career

Kroyer was born in Stavanger, Norway in 1851. He moved to Copenhagen at a young age, and in 1870 started studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, Portraiture, Sculpture, and Architecture receiving a Gold Medal in 1873. His first paintings were exhibited at Charlottenborg Palace, which is part of the Academy. In 1874 the important Danish art collector Heinrich Hirschsprung bought his first painting from Kroyer. Hirschsprung's collection of art would go on to form the basis of the Hirschsprung Museum's collection of fine art in Copenhagen. Kroyer travelled widely, spending time in Paris studying the Impressionists, particularly Edouard Manet (1832–83), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), Paul Cezanne (1839–1906) and Georges Seurat (1859–91). Kroyer was impressed with the art movement, and its enthusiasm for painting from real life, whether it was a portrait, landscape or cityscape. It encouraged him to keep his palette light and to loosen his brushstroke.


Skagen Artist Colony

Kroyer first arrived in Skagen in 1882, and returned most years thereafter. After his marriage to the artist (and interior designer) Marie Triepcke in 1889, the couple made plans to move to the village full time. In 1888 Kroyer produced his first important oil painting Hip Hip Hurrah! Artists Party at Skagen (1888). The picture was inspired by a gathering at the Danish painter Michael Ancher's house (1849-1927). It depicts a happy group of men and women, drinking champagne and making a toast. The scene is framed by lush green trees, and the gentle sunlight bathes the viewers, bottles and glasses on the table. The painting managed to capture the sense of camaraderie among the artists in Skagen. Perhaps Kroyer modelled it on Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, Phillips Collection, Washington DC), which depicts Renoir's own friends, relaxing at an outdoor luncheon. (Note: for more about the French Impressionists approach to light and colour, please see: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

Blue Hour Paintings

Kroyer is best known for his carefree pictures of life in Skagen. His wife became his favourite model and, from the 1890s, she is represented in many of his works. Summer Evening at Skagen (1892, Skagen Museum) depicts the artist's wife standing on Skagen beach with a dog, both have their backs to the viewer. The point in the day, where day becomes evening, casting a blue haze over the landscape fascinated Kroyer. Here, in this painting the moon casts a beautiful light on the sea. Summer Evening on Skagen's South Beach with Anna Ancher and Marie Kroyer (1893, Skagen Museum) depicts two ladies who took a walk on the beach after a dinner party. Again, Kroyer's main study was the so called 'blue-hour', where the sea and sky seem to merge in the same tone of blue. Another example is Summer Evening on the Beach at Skagen: Artist and His Wife (1899, The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen). Other artists, such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) with his Nocturnes in blue, were obsessed with the same subject. Kroyer was a champion of plein air painting, and there are black and white photographs of the artist sitting on the beach, working on his large canvases. The French Impressionists had popularised this artistic practice, and it allowed the artist to capture light directly as he saw it. The economy of objects in Kroyer’s paintings, and the priority he gives to atmosphere lends an air of Symbolism to his work.

Fishermen Paintings

Kroyer remained in Skagen for the rest of his life, becoming the unofficial leader of the local artist colony. From time to time he took students, including the interior genre painter Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916). Skagen's museum was founded in 1908 by Kroyer, Laurits Tuxen and Michael Ancher and moved to its existing location today in 1928. Many of the artists enjoyed painting the local fishermen, inspired by stories of bravery and heroism at sea. Ancher in particular is known for his portraits of fishermen, although Kroyer also painted a few. One of his last important large-scale works was the night scene Midsummer's Eve Bonfire on Skagen's Beach (1906, Skagens Museum). A group of spectators gather around a bonfire. They are divided into two; the middle class are gathered on one side, lit by the fire, while the locals stand on the other side, in the shadow. Kroyer died in 1909, at the age of 58, due to illnesses brought on by syphilis.

He achieved fame and prestigious awards during his life, being made a Legion of Honour in 1888. Today, many of his paintings - many of which hang in the best art museums around the globe - are popular purchases in poster and other reproduction forms.

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