Well-loved in Denmark for his paintings of Danish rural life, Laurits Andersen Ring is little-known throughout the rest of the world. This week, I’m breaking the rules a little bit, because I have known and loved Ring’s work for a long time (all the other features of my six-week Artist Introductions are completely new to me!). To get us started, here is a quote from the Senior Curator at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark’s National Gallery:
“[L. A. Ring] paints rural people with great respect, and even when he became very popular and wealthy, those were the people he felt most comfortable around. Interestingly, people think of Ring as a figure painter, but actually 70% of his work is landscape painting. In a way, it’s another figure – the landscape as self-portrait.” – read the full article.
I absolutely love Ring’s landscapes. They are so unusual: depicting the Scandinavian countryside at the turn of the twentieth century, showing ever-encroaching industrialism with ambivalence. Despite this, Ring was a revolutionary – in the mid-1880s, he was a part of ‘The Rifle Movement’, who believed that the Danish lower classes deserved better. He spent his whole life waiting for a revolution that never came, and eventually fell into a deep depression, which is a poignant theme throughout his symbolist paintings. Common themes in his oeuvre include death, rural labourers, winding roads, and thresholds such as windows – view his artwork on these themes.
Ring’s landscapes are masterful and beautiful. His most widely known work, ‘Summer’s Day by Roskilde Fjord’, is a tranquil slice of earthy-greens and sunrise pinks, blending into the cloudless blue sky. The hint of a ship sailing out of view also provides an insight into traditional ways of life fading into insignificance due to industrial advances. This work is so important to Danish art and culture, that it was included in the 2006 Danish Culture Canon alongside the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.
The resurgence of Ring’s work has been long anticipated. In 2019, the exhibition “On the Edge of the World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from SMK,” travelled across US museums until May 2020, bringing Ring’s paintings to a completely new audience. His paintings capture Denmark in a way that landscape artists often struggle to emulate – without enhancing any element of the landscape or weather, his work is a genuine observation of a land that feels somehow familiar. His mastery of oil paint to capture snow, water, and shadow is truly unique; I hope you enjoy looking through some examples of his landscape paintings and come to relish his work as much as I do.