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The Museum Building

The Museum in the Green Park

The Hirschsprung Collection is beautifully situated in the green parklands of the Østre Anlæg on the old ramparts of Copenhagen. The museum houses Heinrich and Pauline Hirschsprung's collection of Danish art and first opened its doors to the public in the summer of 1911. The museum was designed by the architect H.B. Storck, while the original interior and display was designed by the art historian Emil Hannover, who also became the museum's first Director.
The Hirschsprung Collection seen from the Østre Anlæg park
 
 

Hermann Baagøe Storck's Building 1900-11

In 1902, when Heinrich Hirschsprung (1836-1908) offered to give his collection of 19th-century Danish art to the nation, he had already two years previously asked the architect Hermann Baagøe Storck (1839-1922) to draw a sketch of the museum building.

 

He wanted the museum to stand on the ground left open by the now demolished ramparts around Copenhagen, where a number of new museum buildings including Statens Museum for Kunst came to be situated towards the turn of the century.

 

The donation gave rise to a prolonged discussion on art and cultural policy, which, however, recognising that this was a question of the country's biggest and most important collection of contemporary Danish art, ended with the museum being given its own independent building in the Østre Anlæg park.

 

It was of crucial importance to Hirschsprung that the collection should be given a building of its own. One of his arguments was that there was a need for a building with an intimate feel corresponding to the character of the collection, which, as said, contained a large number of small studies and sketches. He disliked the bombastic architecture of the time with the overtones of historicism characterising the museums then being built.

Otto Bache: H.B. Storck, the architect who designed this museum. Sketch
 

Storck's first sketch started out from the architectural style of the villas of the Italian Renaissance, but he gradually worked his way forward to a simple, clear plan with four large rooms lit from above and surrounded by a number of smaller rooms or "alcoves" with light entering from windows set high in the walls. Externally, the building stands with frontons and Doric pilasters in a strict Greek-inspired neo-classical style. With its light marble cladding, the building has the appearance of a small temple of art, while inside, in the small rooms, visitors feel the atmosphere of a private home.

 

This is partly because when it came to fitting out the museum, it was provided with furniture harmonising in time with the pictures hanging in each individual room. Much of this furniture derived from the artists' own homes and some was made to their own design.

H.B. Storck's facade drawing for the museum building 1902
 
 

The Hanging of the Works 1911

Building started in 1908, the same year in which Heinrich Hirschsprung died, and it was thus his adviser and helper of many years' standing, Emil Hannover (1864-1923), who came to be in charge of the interior design of the museum and the hanging of the works presented when the collection was opened in 1911.

 

Hirschsprung had placed great emphasis on the fact that his collection should be able to present a representative picture of the Danish art of the 19th century. And this was underlined in the hanging in which Hannover introduced a new element in the realm of the art museum, providing for a chronological presentation of the individual artists room by room.

 

On the whole, this arrangement has been retained by the Museum ever since, just as the principles governing the hanging have also been respected - many of the collection's pictures still hang on the original nails - and the museum has thus retained its intimate character and charm.

Johan Rohde: Portrait of the art historian Emil Hannover. 1893
 
 

The Listing of the Building 1995

The museum building represents a very early example of the neo-classical style that again became a feature of Danish architecture at the beginning of the 20th century, and this is the background to the reason for the building's being listed in 1995.

 
 

Restoration 1999-2000

As part of the thorough restoration of the building, it has been given a new copper roof, and the marble-clad facades have been cleaned, which has restored their light elegance to them.

Inside, emphasis has been placed in many of the small exhibition rooms on re-creating the original pleasing colouring with dark brown panels, white woodwork and light, sand-coloured walls, while in the larger rooms with their overhead lighting the walls have been painted in a matt green umber.

Photography of the interior. Room 2
 

The main central room is done in a reddish brown. The intention with this has been to create a quiet, unobtrusive background for the paintings in the rooms where the Skagen painters, Krøyer and Hammershøi hang.

 

The restoration of the Hirschsprung Collection was financed by special grants and grants for public works from the Danish Ministry of Culture.

 

As Royal Inspector of Listed State Buildings, the architect Johan Fogh of Fogh og Følner was in charge of the restoration.

Photography of the interior. The Krøyer-Hall