SPOTLIGHT ON

Peder Mork Mønsted’s (Danish, 1859–1941)
Poetic Views of Nature

          

Born at the end of the so-called “Golden Age” of Danish painting, Peder Mork Mønsted established his reputation primarily as a Naturalist landscape artist. Mønsted was best known for his ability to capture ‘types’ of landscapes, scenes of nature that embodied the essence of a country or region. Though he traveled and painted across Italy, France, Switzerland, Norway, Greece, Algiers, and Egypt, his most popular paintings were of Scandinavia, especially his native Denmark. The Dahesh holds two of Mønsted’s Nordic landscapes, one from Denmark and another from Norway, which together illustrate the ways in which the painter found endless variety in nature, while pointing to the artistic currents that influenced his work.

His first artistic training was at the Prince Ferdinand School of Art in Aarhus, Denmark where he studied with the landscape painter Andreas Fritz, who inspired Mønsted to pursue the same genre. Mønsted then entered the Copenhagen Academy in 1875, where he was trained in the Naturalist style developed by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg earlier in the century. He left the Academy in 1879 to study independently with established artists, including the French Academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and the Danish Realist genre and landscape painter Peder Severin Krøyer.  It was during this period that Mønsted and other Danish artists were exposed to Realism, Symbolism, and Impressionism, styles that can all be detected in Mønsted’s Nordic works.

Heather-covered Hills by the Lakes near Silkeborg (1907, above left) is a poetic vision of the verdant banks of the River Guden — Denmark’s longest waterway. The attention to native topography is a hallmark of Danish “Golden Age” painting, while the encroaching storm and dramatic scene speak to the growing interest in symbolic and subjective views of nature. The work is a study in detail of the lush foliage in the foreground, while his love of his native topography is emphasized by the monumental proportions of the work. In contrast to this diversity of natural forms, Mønsted’s Snow Scene (ca. 1917–18, above right) focuses on the effects of light on the snow, recalling the Impressionists’ interest in the same phenomenon, as seen in works like Claude Monet’s The Cart. Snow-covered Road at Honfleur (ca.1867, Musée d’Orsay).  As can be seen in both paintings, the emphasis is on the way that light plays across the surface of snow, as well as the infinite shades of white found in the same substance.