Catching Fire – Krøyer’s Final Muse

Throughout his artistic career, the Skagen painter P.S. Krøyer was preoccupied with depictions of light. This is also the case with the painting at our upcoming Live Auction, which portrays the last great source of inspiration and love of his life, Henny Brodersen.

Peder Severin (P.S.) Krøyer (1851-1909) is one of the most famous Skagen painters, where the long summer days of Scandinavia and the large gatherings between artists provided a good portion of the motifs for some of his most famous works, such as "Summer evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach", "Hip Hip Hurrah!” and "Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen’s Beach". But in this work from 1906, entitled “By the Fireplace”, we see Krøyer depict a calmer scene, and the open-air paintings with the bright beaches and garden parties have been replaced with an intimate interior. 

The model is Henny Brodersen, who supported P.S. Krøyer and his daughter Vibeke during the prolonged separation and final divorce between Marie and P.S. Krøyer, and later when P.S. Krøyer's bouts with mental illness and treatment with the universal remedy of the time, mercury, made him increasingly weak.

A Fire Is Burning

Krøyer continues to play with the light in this late work from 1906 three years before his death. Here it is the flames from a fireplace, he seeks to capture the details of, where the glow of the fire is reflected in both the gold jewellery on Brodersen's arm and in the various images and objects in the room. Another interesting detail is a small portrait with the silhouette of P.S. Krøyer, which shows the painter's close relationship with the person being portrayed. Krøyer's fascination with Henny Brodersen was also made manifest when he presented fifteen portraits of what became his final muse at a single exhibition. In the present painting, there is a personal dedication with the following message "Til Henny fra Søren" (To Henny from Søren).

Section of "By the Fireplace"
By the fireplace with Holger Drachmann. The painting was sold at Bruun Rasmussen to Skagen's Art Museum

Fire is a recurring element in Krøyer's later works. Both with another painting in front of a fireplace, where the Danish poet Holger Drachmann sits happily in a red fez and with both cigar and pen in front of the flames burning at his feet, and then in Krøyer's masterpiece, also from 1906, "Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen’s Beach". Here the flames were less friendly towards Drachmann, who is seen in a black cloak and with a white beard quite close to the bonfire, while other well-known figures from the artist colony can also be seen. This includes a woman who looks directly at the painter of the work: Henny Brodersen.

Study for Krøyer's late masterpiece: "Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen's Beach", 1906. Sold at auction at Bruun Rasmussen.
Detail with Henny Brodersen from Krøyer's "Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen’s Beach", 1906.

Still Searching in the Dying Light

Skagen was already a meeting place for Danish and Scandinavian painters and writers when Krøyer arrived after his study trips to southern Europe, but it was Krøyer's doing that the remote tip of Jutland took on the character of a festive artist community, which through the 1880s and 1890s made the place a magnet for artists from all over Denmark. In 1906, however, the party was almost over, and you can almost sense that with the motif in "By the Fireplace", where Henny Brodersen has let her hair down rather than having it up as in many of the other portraits Krøyer made of her. The quiet and indoor space highlights a closeness rather than the landscape of the endless summer evenings with an accompanying unpredictable festivity.

Outwardly, Krøyer always had to be the centre of the party, but inwardly, the artistic soul also needed rest and tranquillity. To some degree, he found this with Henny Brodersen in his final years as a contrast to the stormy relationship with Marie Krøyer. The portrait up for auction helps to illustrate these developments in Krøyer's relationships. An artist who, in the autumn period of his life, still sought and embraced the influence of light on life – even with new, fiery nuances.

Live Auction

Fine Art

8 March at 4 pm

Krøyer's Final Muse

Watch our specialist in fine art, Birte Stokholm, tell the story behind the Skagen painter P. S. Krøyer's late portrait from 1906. The details of the motif reveal a close relationship between Krøyer and his final muse Henny Brodersen. 

For further information, please contact:

Julie Arendse Voss: +45 8818 1123 ·

Birte Stokholm: +45 8818 1122 ·

Søren Kjerk Holmstrup: +45 8818 1127 ·