ARoS is pleased to present a wide-ranging exhibition featuring the Danish symbolist painter, Agnes Slott-Møller (1862-1937).

Danish symbolism was a central part of early Modernism in Denmark, marking as it does the start of a period in which Denmark opened up to external impulses and found inspiration in both French and English art. Agnes Slott-Møller’s influence on the advent of symbolism in Denmark calls out for an exhibition to increase awareness of her extensive and monumental artistic work.

Slott-Møller represents one of the (sadly very few) leading female Danish artists of the late 1800s. She was one of the key actors in the collective of artists who created Den Frie Udstilling (the Free Exhibition) and in her era played a prominent role on the Danish art scene, both as a painter and also, to a great degree, as a debater.

Agnes Slott-Møller stood out in an otherwise remarkable generation of artists who became part of an artistic movement that would later come to be known as the sjælelig gennembrud or spiritual breakthrough. This was a group of artists who pushed back against the onrushing flow of Modernism by way of an inward quest toward the spiritual and emotive.

Agnes Slott-Møller’s works are notably different from paintings of the Golden Age or the National Romantic era. Slott-Møller was inspired by history’s powerful individuals and their ability to act and raise themselves above the mass of humanity. While the painters of the Golden Age sought to create a national consciousness by highlighting the glories of the past, Slott-Møller sought a direct reflection in history’s pioneering figures. Her overarching artistic goal was to inform about Danish history through art in such a way that history emerged as a utopia. The past should function as a mirror for the present, a moral compass in an amoral time. This reading of history demanded that Slott-Møller recount history from the perspective of outstanding individuals; one should find oneself reflected in the achievements of heroes.

A study of Agnes Slott-Møller’s oeuvre reveals an interesting approach to the historical material. The historical events and personages which she represents on canvas should not simply be viewed in the light of her deep fascination with history but also as a critique of Slott-Møller’s own era, that found expression as an anti-modernist countercurrent. A countercurrent that has not always been fully articulated in the general narrative on the arrival of early Modernism in Denmark.

She found interesting allies among the English Pre-Raphaelites, who aimed to create a style that blended a medieval, Gothic aesthetic with a fabled world of English myth. In both the Pre-Raphaelites and Agnes Slott-Møller, one senses a powerful yearning for a past in which art expressed “the good, the beautiful and the true”.

Agnes Slott-Møller’s uncompromising insistence on art as a moral matter and her flitting between the poetics of folk song, soulful mythological tales of strong women and imposing historical motifs, staged with a monumentality and interpretation of the “Grand Style” of the period, can only be compared with a handful of her contemporaries. This makes her one of the most interesting artistic figures of her era and we are proud to be able to present her to our public.