4 March – 4  June 2023

The exhibition will present works by El Greco and Nordic artists in order to explore the Nordic reception and construction of El Greco in the decades 1885-1945, a period during which the artist becomes a cult figure before fading from view then being recently rediscovered. The exhibition will also address issues such as the image of the modern artist, translocality, and the migration of expressive form and imagery over time.

El Greco, Edvard Munch, Helene Schjerfbeck, J.F. Willumsen, Jens Adolf Jerichau, Vilhelm Lundstrøm, Ballet Suédois, Henrik Sørensen, Johannes Bjerg, Franciska Clausen, Nils Dardel, Harald Giersing, Isaac Grünewald, Frøydis Haavardsholm, Olivia Holm-Møller, Georg Jacobsen, Gerda Knudsen, Per Krohg, Karl Larsen, Kai Nielsen, Vera Nilsson, Johan Rohde, Olof Sager-Nelson, P.A. Schou, Vilhelm Wanscher and others.

Exhibition movie

Filkrediteringer til udstillingsfilm

The rediscovery of El Greco

The rediscovey of the Greek-Spanish painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614), called El Greco, and his distinctive, ecstatic and expressive painting form a special chapter in the history of modern art. Why did this artist – actually forgotten and rejected – suddenly appear in his full glory, regarded as a father figure and prophet for contemporary art everywhere in Europe? How did his radical imagery catch on with the modern artists?

El Greco was a phenomenon, a construct and a tabula rasa who became the object of innumerable interpretations in the years after the rediscovery. From around 1910 he was seriously hyped as a forefather of modern art, and his paintings were compared to works from the contemporary era in exhibitions, books and periodicals. El Greco’s late style, which for centuries had been dismissed as eccentric and degenerate, was included in the artists’ search for new, original expressions. The staging of El Greco as a cult figure took place through the study of his art, but also of his life story, including the 300 years in the shadows as a rejected outsider, and made him an icon for the young artists. With El Greco a personal link with the past was forged which circumvented the norms and cancelled out historical distance. El Greco became contemporary.

Among the Nordic artists a strong preoccupation was seen with El Greco’s formal work with distorted perspectives, compacted spaces, exaggerated effects, deformed anatomy, phosphorescent light effects and harsh colour contrasts. Emotional and theatrical idioms were studied and interpreted by the artists. While some of the modern artists travelled in El Greco’s footsteps and sought out his works in Spain, many knew them only through black-and-white reproductions. The colourless versions created a space for interpretation, and the artists went to El Greco like a child that cuts and pastes. They took what they could use, and created works with clear, playful references to their predecessor.

El Greco og nordisk modernisme_Willumsens Museum_Installationsfoto
El Greco og nordisk modernisme_Willumsens Museum_Installationsfoto
El Greco og nordisk modernisme_Willumsens Museum_Installationsfoto
El Greco og nordisk modernisme_Willumsens Museum_Installationsfoto
El Greco og nordisk modernisme_Willumsens Museum_Installationsfoto
Omslag til udstillingskatalog El Greco

The catalogue for El Greco and nordic art. Cut and paste, is available in the museums store or online here >>

Research is supported by Novo Nordisk Fonden og Kulturministeriets Forskningspulje.

Thank you to: 

15. Juni Fonden   –   A.P. Møller Fonden   –   Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond –  Arne V. Schleschs Fond –  Augustinus Fonden   –   Dronning Margrethes og Prins Henriks Fond   –   Beckett-Fonden   –  Knud Højgaards Fond    –   Konsul George Jorck og Hustru Emma Jorcks Fond