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
On the shoulders of Zahrtmann and
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
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
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.