About the museum
J.F. Willumsen’s Museum, north of Copenhagen in Frederikssund, opened in 1957 and is dedicated to the transgressive, grandiose and at times excessive figurative art of the Danish multi-artist Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958) and his collection.
Through innovative exhibitions, research-based publications, seminars, workshops and a diverse programme of public events, the museum presents the art of Willumsen from a contemporary and historically relevant perspective.
The museum produces two to three annual thematic exhibitions in dialogue with Willumsen’s oeuvre, often with artists who like Willumsen chose their own path in defiance of contemporary norms. Our goal is to rethink 20th-century figurative art, granting the geographically remote, stylistically maladjusted, and anachronistic their rightful place in art history. We aim to open up for debates on the writing of art history, canonisation, and concepts like the judgement of appropriate subject matter and taste in art.
The Creation of a Willumsen’s Museum
On April 15 1957 J.F. Willumsen’s Museum was inaugurated in Frederikssund, ca. 50 km north west of Copenhagen. The building was designed by the architect Tyge Hvass (link in danish). Since the 1930s, Willumsen himself had put forward a number of proposals for a museum, but they were all too extensive to be practical.
The municipality of Frederikssund offered to put up a building, and on this basis Willumsen donated his collection to the town. He had formerly offered it to the Danish State, to the municipality of Copenhagen and to a couple of other towns, but without any result. J.F. Willumsen had no connection with Frederikssund, nor did his art have any particular connection with the district but his father’s family came from the region. Willumsen’s grandfather lived as a child at the inn “Bi-lidt” (“Bide-awhile”), which was located not far from the museum.
Rejected by state
Back in 1929 Willumsen had offered his collection of older foreign art, “The Old Collection” to the Danish State. Willumsen had hoped that it could be exhibited in his house in Strandagervej, Hellerup, where he no longer lived. The Ministry of Education rejected his offer and in the following years he continued to work on creating a museum for his collections. In 1935 his supporters suggested a museum to be based on Willumsen’s own works. Negotiations were prolonged by the war, and in 1947 The Old Collection was exhibited at Charlottenborg and Willumsen’s works at The Free Exhibition in Copenhagen. The same year Willumsen wrote his deed of gift locating the museum in Frederikssund for the first time.
Ten years later J.F. Willumsen’s Museum opened in Frederikssund as a museum for Willumsen’s art. The 93-year-old Willumsen was not present at the inauguration. He never got to see the museum, as he lived in the south of France and was too ill to manage the journey to Denmark.
Willumsen had donated the entire collection of his own works, his Old Collection and large archive containing photographs, books, letters, diaries, collected through a long life. Few museums have such a comprehensive collection of documents, bearing witness to the work of an artist. The care with which he collected and kept works of art and achivalia over the years indicates that he had a museum in mind.
Since the museum’s opening, works by Willumsen have been acquired continuously with the aim of expanding and supplementing the existing collection.
J.F. Willumsen’s Museum is run by the Frederikssund Municipality with support from the State.