Willumsen’s private art collection

J.F. Willumsen’s Museum preserves around 2000 works from J.F. Willumsen’s private art collection

Willumsen’s collection consists of around 2,000 items, purchased by the artist and later registered and incorporated in his plans for a museum to house the collection. The first item listed in the inventory a crucifix purchased in 1889 from a priest in Granada reveals that when he travelled to Southern Europe as a young artist, parallel to his focus on the latest Modernist trends, Willumsen was also interested in the past. In his memoirs he writes that immediately after arriving in Paris in 1889 he visited the Musée du Louvre to view its historical works, but was disappointed by the lack of color and life in works by a master such as Raphael, for example.

Willumsen’s collection grew to include approximately 327 paintings, 220 sculptures, 756 drawings, 233 graphic prints, as well as textiles, ceramics, coins, medals, relics, ornaments, and jewelry. All of them bought for small sums from art dealers, antique shops, at auctions, and from private individuals in Europe and North Africa. Geographically the collection extends from Southern Europe, with 750 Italian works, 460 French, and 100 Spanish, to Northern Europe, with 150 Danish works and numerous English, German, and Dutch works. There is also a large collection from Asia, arts and crafts from the Middle East, Byzantine icons, and numerous antiques, including Greek Tangara figurines.

Masterpieces from “Old Collection”

An early masterpiece by El Greco, a late one by Jacopo Bassano, a painting by Karel van Mander (I) and a wooden sculpture by Paul Gauguin are among the most important older and modern foreign works in Denmark. In addition, there are fine drawings by among others Parmigianino, Guercino, Giorgio Vasari, Andrea del Sarto, Giam­bat­tista Tiepolo, Giacomo Guardi and Paul Gauguin. In time, as the whole collection is investigated, a number of other important artists’ names will very likely emerge. The collection, with its 756 Italian drawings, 200 of which have been identified, is the fourth-largest of its kind in Scandinavia after the state collections in Stockholm, Copen­hagen and Oslo.

The 2018 exhibitition Echo Room. Thorvaldsen, Willumsen, Jorn, and Their Collections curated by the visual artist Christian Vind  provided an important investigation into Willumsen’s collection and the phenomena of artists’ collections.