Thorvaldsen’s Great Swedish Predecessor

From March 3 to August 15, 2010

Swedish star artist was to visit Thorvaldsens Museum! For the first time in Denmark, the public could experience the dynamism and passion in the outstanding clay sketches of Johan Tobias Sergel (1740-1814), the greatest Swedish sculptor ever.

If we are to provide a brief impression of Sergel’s great artistic strength, the words that immediately come to mind are vitality, dynamism, expressiveness, empathy, a sense of reality and a sure sense of composition – all qualities that still speak directly to us today.

Sergel in Rome and in Thorvaldsens Museum

The exhibition in Thorvaldsens Museum is the only one in Denmark that has ever focused on Sergel’s sculptures. But this is in no way a retrospective exhibition. The focus is on the works which, between 1767 and 1779, Sergel created in Rome, the city where a few years later Thorvaldsen’s artistic talent was to come into its own.

In Rome, Sergel made some 70 small sculptures in clay, his so-called sketch models, larger versions of which were later intended to be made in marble. Sergel took many of these sketch models with him when he set out for home in Stockholm, but for reasons unknown, most of them failed to reach their destination, something over which Sergel grieved for the rest of his life. It is a special selection of the surviving clay sketch models that constitute the essence of the exhibition in Thorvaldsens Museum. These are quite unique in that they do not exist in any other versions, and not least because we can see Sergel’s fingerprints and the marks made by his tools all over them.

Sergel and Thorvaldsen

For the first time ever, the public is now able to experience Sergel’s sculptures under the same roof as Thorvaldsen’s, as a result of which the two sculptors’ special qualities clearly emerge: In his neo-classicism, Sergel, as the older of the two, is indebted to the baroque/rococo that preceded him. This gives his sculpture physical dynamism, pathos and passion that are in contrast to the more relaxed, contemplative expression in work by the younger Thorvaldsen.

The works have been loaned by the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and Göteborgs Konstmuseum. The exhibition has been made possible with support from the Oak Foundation Denmark.

The exhibition was arranged by curator William Gelius.

J.T. Sergel: Achilleus ved havet. Ca. 1775 - 76, brændt ler. ©Foto: Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
J.T. Sergel: Achilles by the Sea.
© Photo: Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

J.T. Sergel: Mars og Venus. Ca. 1771 - 72, brændt ler. Foto: Göteborgs konstmuseum.
J.T. Sergel: Mars and Venus.
Photo: Göteborgs konstmuseum.

J.T. Sergel: Jupiter og Juno ©. Foto: Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
J.T. Sergel: Jupiter and Juno.
© Photo: Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

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