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Photo: Ole Akhøj

Astrid Holm

'The Old Harbour in Collioure'


As the only Dane ever, Astrid Holm managed to become a student of the French artist Henri Matisse. And by being a female artist, she gained an unusually large influence in the Danish art scene. Astrid Holm is an artist who is important to know, according to one of the museum's experts, art historian Liza Kaaring.

Why is Astrid Holm a fantastic artist?

“You must know Astrid Holm, because she is a central artist in early Danish modernism. That is, the new currents that explored and challenged the design language of painting in the early 20th century. For example, expressionism, cubism and futurism.

As one of the first Danes, she took the new currents home from Paris after a long stay from 1909 to 1914. Down there, she was part of the international art life. And as the only Danish artist, she became a student of Henri Matisse. One of the greatest French artists of the period.

In the painting of the harbor in Collioure, she follows in Matisse's footsteps both stylistically and in terms of motifs. Matisse had also painted that harbor. And as with Matisse, the expression is characterized by a lack of spatial depth and simplified forms. For example, the mountains in the background that appear as simple color fields. The water is also loosely sketched with fast brush strokes. And then we can see these broad contour lines, which are also typical of Matisse's style. ”


Astrid Holm (1876-1937)

Dated: 1913
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 49 x 63,5 cm
Acquisition: Purchased 2012


Why is Astrid Holm no better known than she is today?

"It simply came to our notice then. When she returns from Paris, she gets both recognition as an artist and great influence in art life.

She gets the opportunity to show her paintings in two large exhibitions, where her works are at the center. Among other things, a solo exhibition. It's unusual for a woman.

She is also praised in line with male colleagues and will sit on the committee of the Artists' Autumn Exhibition in 1918. An exhibition that becomes a historical scandal and success at the same time because the works of art are so progressive and provocative.

When she is forgotten by posterity anyway, it is probably related to, partly that she is a woman, partly that she begins to spend a lot of energy on other things.

In 1916, she establishes her own art school, which becomes incredibly popular. Later she also became the head of a croquis school, and in 1921 she became the first female teacher at the Art Academy in Copenhagen. In this connection, she replaces the painting with weaving, which was a less recognized artistic expression.

All these activities mean that she gets a lot of influence. But also that her production of paintings becomes smaller because she spent her energies on something else. It does not have to be an obstacle, because there are male artists whose development and level are similar to hers, and who have nevertheless been given a fine place in art history. For example, the contemporary artist Jais Nielsen.

So an artist may well have been influential and recognized in his contemporaries, but still be forgotten when writing art history. In this case, Astrid Holm has probably succumbed to her gender. For art history is clearly marked by a notion that great artists are men. ”


Why does she deserve to be better known?

“Fortunately, there is a growing awareness of Astrid Holm, so today's art historians are making amends for the limited knowledge of her with research, books and exhibitions.

And it is well deserved. In addition to painting beautiful pictures, she played an important role in the development of modernist art in Denmark. ”


How can it be that Astrids Holm's works are in Fuglsang's collection?

Fuglsang Kunstmuseum owns two paintings by Astrid Holm, of which the harbor at Collioure is one. The second is a model picture from 1915. Both works are fine representatives of the experiments with the means of expression of painting that take place in the period.

For the museum, it is important that the female artists from the time are part of the museum's collection on an equal footing with the men. And although it may be difficult to trace relevant works that are in good enough condition to be preserved for posterity, the museum has a strong focus on correcting the collection's skewed gender balance. The acquisition of this painting in 2012 contributes to a more equitable balance.


Please note that the work is not necessarily exhibited in the museum.

Liza Kaaring is an art historian and museum inspector Fuglsang Kunstmuseum. Here she has special responsibility for the museum's research. Photo: Ingrid Riis.


Note: Danish only