Magazine article Insight on the News

The House of Hansen: What a Treat It Must Be to Have Enough Money to Buy Beautiful Art. and What a Pleasure It Is When a Collector with Taste and Discernment Puts His Collection on Display. (Arts)

Magazine article Insight on the News

The House of Hansen: What a Treat It Must Be to Have Enough Money to Buy Beautiful Art. and What a Pleasure It Is When a Collector with Taste and Discernment Puts His Collection on Display. (Arts)

Article excerpt

Victor Hansen was 47 when he began collecting art seriously in 1915. The director of a Danish insurance company, Hansen decided to take advantage of an art market noticeably deflated by World War I (particularly in France, whose painters he admired). By 1918, wealthy Americans would pop up everywhere in Europe, buying everything they put their eyes on.

Hansen had the wisdom to rely on Theodore Duret, by then an old man but once a close friend of the great painter Edouard Manet (represented in a show of Hansen's collection with two paintings). He also was the author of a number of very well-known studies of the artists Hansen was eager to collect: Gustave Courbet, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne and others among the great late 19th-century French painters.

Danish friends noted that Hansen took to buying paintings with the same zest and deliberation that he brought to fishing for pike in the lakes of his native country. The collector kept his catch at Ordrupgaard, his handsome home near Copenhagen. The house and collection were turned over to Denmark in 1951, upon the death of Hansen's widow. While Ordrupgaard undergoes renovation, the paintings are traveling, currently on exhibit at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore until May 26 and later at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.

There's not a dud among the 80 paintings in the show, and more than a few are spectacular. The exhibition, titled "The Age of Impressionism," actually covers many other periods, ranging from Ingres' Dante Offering the Divine Comedy to Homer (begun in 1827) to a splendid and colorful Henri Matisse, Flowers and Fruits (1909).

There are several fine Jean-Baptiste Camille. Corot landscapes and a portrait of novelist George Sand by Eugene Delacroix, who also is represented by one of his great animal pictures, the 1851 Lion in the Mountains. Lion Attacked.

An excellent seascape by Charles-Francois Daubigny, Seascape (Overcast) of 1874, comes as a surprise: It's much larger than other works by that painter and it powerfully captures the mood of a gray day at sea. A little more than half this painting is overcast sky, juxtaposed with a mostly barren (except for a couple of vessels in the far distance) expanse of storm-tossed ocean.

Courbet is represented by three strong paintings, the most striking of which is The Ruse, Roedeer Hunting Episode, an 1866 painting the realist rendered of two deer fleeing through the winter forest. The background shrubs and trees are blurry while the deer, a stag and a doe, are rendered in great detail; a startling illusion of the deer are frozen in midescape. …

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