Martinus Rørbye – The Near and The Distant

The Danish Golden Age painter Martinus Rørbye (1803-1848) was a travelling artist. Throughout life he sought new motifs at home and abroad and portrayed places, people and architecture with an almost ethnographic interest – regardless of the motif being from Copenhagen, Skagen or Constantinople. In the autumn/winter of 2014-15 Øregaard Museum and Nivaagaards Malerisamling present this important Danish artist in two exhibitions shown simultaneously.


As a Golden Age painter Rørbye has been somewhat overshadowed by his contemporaries J.Th. Lundbye and Christen Købke. But his contribution to the history of Danish art is just as important. On his many journeys both in Denmark and abroad, he created a unique collection of works contributing to a narrative of how to relate to familiar as well as unfamilar themes in the mid-1800s. Rørbye’s approach was based on a serious and sincere interest in the foreign people and exotic customs he met. In a time when the creation of the nation state was at an early stage, Rørbye gave a unique contribution to the visual culture.


Rørbye at Øregaard

Øregaard Museum presents the works of Martinus Rørbye painted under northern skies, mainly in Denmark, where he began his career at the Royal Academy as a student of C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853). As Eckersberg’s favorite pupil he was thoroughly trained and acquired the skills of creating a genuine portrait of nature. Just like his mentor, Rørbye often visited the Copenhagen habour or the northern surroundings of the town with his sketchbook under his arm.


But Rørbye also went his own way and had an eye for locations and motifs far away from the capital. Already in 1830 he travelled to Jutland for the  first time and herefrom all the way to Norway, his native country. These were places where Danish artists did not usually go. On subsequent trips in Denmark, he visited small, isolated island communities and portrayed the special light that is on top of the Jutland peninsula – Rørbye has since been perceived as the first of the Skagen Painters. Thus, Rørbye introduced motifs from the periphery of Denmark which had not previously found their way to the canvases of academically trained artists.


The exhibition at Øregaard Museum includes more than 100 works that provide a unique insight into the work of Rørbye under northern skies. At the same time, the exhibition at Nivaagaards Malerisamling brings insight to his work in the South focusing on Rørbye’s journeys to Italy, Greece, and Turkey.


In combination, the two exhibitions give a nuanced impression of an artist who was not only excellent at drawing, but also contributed to open people’s eyes to a world beyond Copenhagen of the middle of the 19th century. This is one of the reasons why Rørbye occupies a special place in Danish art history.


Martinus Rørbye – The Near and the Distant is a collaboration between Øregaard Museum, Nivaagaard Malerisamling, Skovgaard Museet and Ribe Kunstmuseum. When the two exhibitions close on Zealand they proceed to Jutland, thus giving audience from all parts of the country the chance to experience Rørbye’s works. The project is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from leading scholars. The book is available in the museum shop at 200 DKK.



A. P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation for General Purposes
Augustinus Foundation
Beckett Foundation
C.L. David Foundation and Collection
Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik Foundation
June 15 Foundation
George Jorck and wife Emma Jorck Foundation
New Carlsberg Foundation
Aage and Johanne Louis-Hansen Foundation