In the first half of the nineteenth century, Denmark experienced an artistic “Golden Age”. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the small, peninsular kingdom suffered English naval aggression, the dissolution of its partnership with Norway, and increasing hostility with Germany. As modern Denmark emerged as a constitutional monarchy, artists sought a unifying and stabilizing identity for the nation. Inspired by German romantic nationalism, best represented by the mesmerizing meditations on landscape of Caspar David Friedrich, Danish artists produced meticulous images in crystalline light of their native countryside. In the colors and contours of the Danish landscape, they sought to define a distinctly national spirit.
Georg Emil Libert was trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where Friedrich himself had studied. Like Friedrich, Libert specialized in landscape painting. Here, he pictures the white chalk cliffs of the island of Møn in the Baltic Sea, not far from the island of Rügen where Friedrich painted several celebrated images of chalk cliffs. Much of Demark exists on a plateau of white chalk. In places, the bleach-white earth erupts into the sun, washed by the sea. The tourist destination gained additional appeal from the Sommerspiret, or summer spire, a towering chalk formation gleaming against the bright blue Danish sky. Several Danish Golden Age painters, including Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Louis Gurlitt, painted the Sommerspiret. (Alas, in 1988 it naturally eroded into the sea.) The high degree of finish, clear, harmonious tones, and the inclusion of small figures beholding the marvelous scene are classic characteristics of this moment in the history of landscape painting.
This picture adds to the Gallery’s presentation of landscape paintings by northern artists, including Caspar David Friedrich’s Northern Landscape, Spring, Alexandre Calame’s Swiss Landscape, Johan Christian Dahl’s View from Vaekero near Christiania , as well as a view of Rome by Eckersberg.
lower right: G. Emil Libert Kbhn. 1846
Private collection, Copenhagen; (Derek Johns Ltd., London); purchased 19 June 2015 by NGA.
- Morton, Mary. "Georg Emil Libert, View of Sommerspiret, the Cliffs of Møn." National Gallery of Art Bulletin 54 (Spring 2016): 24-25, repro.