Something Rotten in the Art of Denmark

This latest contribution to New English Review is an endearing, accessible and informative analysis of Denmark’s artistic golden age. I wish I could quote the majority of the piece, which is full of phrases like these:

…in the long run accomplished modesty seems to me better than failed ambition, which is much more frequently encountered in the history of art (though not as it is generally written, of course).

…the Danes feel, warmly and spontaneously, while the Germans try…Their vision is clear, but with a kind of cold-blooded reptilian clarity. They are like people who have heard of emotion but have never actually experienced any.

One of the reasons surely (a reason, note, not the reason) that Mankind has found it so necessary down the ages to depict the world in which he lives and moments of his life is to protect them both from the inevitable ravages of time…

The calm and peaceful landscapes, far from being a manifestation of inner peace, were actually one of forced introspection and nationalistic pride in all that remained to Denmark…A virtue was made of humiliating necessity, and a nationalist ideology, one of what one might call Danitude, grew up so that the artists of Denmark turned their back on developments elsewhere (particularly France) to concentrate on undramatic Danish meadows, woods and coastline.

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