The Funish Painters

The Funish Painters were basically a whole artists' colony at the beginning of the 1900's. This title is an elastic concept, referring to about 10-15 members at its most outstretched. On the other hand, there is no doubt about its core group: in addition to Johannes and Alhed Larsen, the other central figures were Peter Hansen and the artists Fritz and Anna Syberg, as well as Sigurd and Christine Swane. Christine as Johannes Larsen's younger sister and lived just 100 yards from Møllebakken. When she married Sigurd Swane, they settled there for a few years.

Anna Syberg was Peter Hansen's sister, and along with Fritz Syberg, they came from Faaborg, while Johannes Larsen and Christine Swane came from Kerteminde. Alhed Larsen's childhood home, Erikshaab, was also an estate agent's office, and lay halfway between Faaborg and Odense. The Funish Painters were all about the same age and had known each other since childhood or their late teens. Their childhoods and family relations tied them to the two market towns, Faaborg and Kerteminde, where their two museums are located: the Faaborg Museum for Funish Art and the Johannes Larsen Museum in Kerteminde. In addition, most of them lived on Funen or visited often.

A new generation of painters grew out of this artists' colonly. Sigurd Swane and Harald Giersing married into their families, and young talents like Olaf Rude, Jens Adolf Jerichau, Harald Leth and Sven Havsteen-Mikkelsen came here to get inspired.

On the shoulders of Zahrtmann and Philipsen

Johannes Larsen, Peter Hansen and Fritz Syberg were the most central core figures in the group of artists we call The Funish Painters. Johannes Larsen denied, however, that they were a school of painting. He felt that there was quite a lot of variation in their art, so their common bond was more one of friendship and of a common starting point. The three artists met at Zahrtmann's School in Copenhagen, and it was here, in the most intense art study environment in Denmark, that Johannes Larsen matured as an artist and gathered a group of friends and found a basis for his identity as an artist, which was the foundation for carving out a position for his art in the contemporary art scene. This group of friends also included the artists Poul S. Christiansen, the oldest of the students, and Karl Schou. Karl wasn't actually from Funen, but he later became part of "the family".

Zahrtmann's School came into being in 1885 as the result of growing dissatisfaction with the stiff teaching at the Art Academy, and its lack of innovation in the 1880's. Kristian Zahrtmann's emphasis was on the personal development of each student's expression, and it is difficult to trace a common language in his students' art, perhaps with the exception of their great interest in the true nature of colour. Zahrtmann's own way of painting didn't influence his students much at all, which helps to explain why the Funish Painters stand together as a group while maintaining their strong individualism.

Theodor Philipsen, an older landscape painter, had a strong influence on the young painters. His open-air painting, animal studies from Kastrup and Saltholm (mostly of cows) and his use of light and colour, inspired the Funish painters. Philipsen's interest in the French Impressionist painters, whom he had met in connection with his art studies in Paris, his travels in France and his meetings with Paul Gauguin in Copenhagen, influenced his painting style and through him, the Funish painters, especially his friend Johannes Larsen. Another artist with a close connection to Impressionism, Viggo Johansen, also developed a close relationship with Johannes Larsen.

As part of the war against the Art Academy and its monopoly on possibilities for exhibition, the Free Exhibition was founded, with space for exhibiting art made available by the art dealer Kleis. The possibility of selling art was thereby opened to the young artists. Johannes Larsen, Fritz Syberg and Peter Hansen had their debuts at the Free Exhibition in 1894.

The Female Funish Painters

It was more the rule than the exception in the time of the Funish Painters that couples formed among the artists. This was also the case with the female artists Alhed Larsen (married to Johannes Larsen), Anna Syberg (married to Fritz Syberg) and Christine Swane (married to Sigurd Swane). Though these women were far from dominated in their relationships, the view of society at that time was that women artists were creative amateurs by the side of their professional husbands. This view had a bearing on the women's possibilities for exhibiting their art and on being accepted alongside their male counterparts.

When Faaborg Museum was founded in 1910, there was only a symbolic representation by the female Funish Painters. Anna Syberg was enraged that the male artists thus had shoved the women painters aside. The Purchasing Committee for the Foundation of Faaborg Museum was made up exclusively of male members of the Funish Painters, and in the minutes of one of their meetings, the following is recorded: "During negotiations, Peter Hansen and Jens Birkholm wish to state for the record, that they are against including works by Mrs. A. Larsen and Miss Christine Larsen. Peter Hansen in addition opposes the inclusion of Mrs. Syberg."

In 1912, Alhed Larsen, Anna Syberg and Christine Swane held a separate exhibition at the Free Exhibition, along with three other female artists. Only one of the female Funish Painters lived long enough to achieve success, Christine Swane, who was 84 when she died. At the age of 60, she was accepted into the artists' collective called Grønningen, and began to get large commissions, grants and prizes. Alhed Larsen died at age 55 without having had a breakthrough as an artist, but two years after her death, she was highly praised for her work when Johannes Larsen held an exhibition with many of her paintings, along with his own. Anna Syberg only lived to age 44, but would have been very happy to know that Faaborg Museum values her artwork so highly, that it now fills two rooms. The three women's art is considered to be fully on a par with that of their male counterparts. The female Funish Painters' motifs include flowers, still lifes, interiors and window views, since these allowed the women to combine their household duties with their art.


Fun with eggs
6.-13. april
Johannes Larsen Museet

Fun activities at the museum at this easter break!

Henrik Saxgren: From Tønder to Thule
16. maj - 30. august 2020
Johannes Larsen Museum

Photo-artwork of Nordic landscapes

Alfio Bonanno
5. september - 6. december 2020
Johannes Larsen Museum

The first retrospective exhibition with this major artist

Migratory Bird Route
12. december 2020 - 28. februar 2021
Johannes Larsen Museum

Sounds, poems and pictures from the Amalfi coast


A new bird from Larsen’s hand
10. January 2020
Johannes Larsen Museum

Newly acquired Larsen drawing shows the painter’s pleasure over a little bit of indoor nature.

Ornithological Artists Selected
29. May 2019
Johannes Larsen Museum

Artists have now been selected for the BIRD 2019 exhibition, which will be more comprehensive than ever before.

New Acquisition for the Syberg Collection
29. May 2019
Johannes Larsen Museum

The Johannes Larsen Museum has acquired Fritz Syberg’s painting, Maritime Scene with Sailing Ships, Storm Approaching from 1906

Enrichment of the Larsen Collection
5. March 2019
Johannes Larsen Museum

A new sketch of a stone marten was donated to the Museum.