Room 218A

National Identity

The Danish Golden Age 1800-50

© Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, National Sentiment, 2005.

Jorgen Sonne, Rural scene, 1848.

National sentiments are an emotion. In 1774 the German philosopher Herder defined “the national” as a blissful sense of perfection that is always “national, secular, and in truth individual.”

Emotions are affected from outside yourself, by what you see, hear, read, by what touches you and by what is touched. Emotions can be loving or violent, but indifference counts for nothing. Emotions are difficult to control
and define. But in the 19th century every effort is made to do so.

Do you feel accepted?

If we look beyond the old-fashioned idioms, the subjects discussed are not much different today: Danishness and globalisation are very current topics, and the risks involved remain the same: If you do not feel the proper national sentiments, you risk marginalisation and exclusion, as happened to the painter Christian Albrecht Jensen who had to give up his career after havig faces criticism from the art historian N.L. Høyen. If, however, you are accepted into the circle there is no end to all the good things that the sense of community brings with it.

Quotations on Danishness

Wilhelm Marstand, The Art Historian N.L. Høyen, 1868

”Believe me! The safest, surest, and straightest road to building ever closer ties with our brothers in Sweden and Norway is to affirm ourselves as Danish, including in our art; to bring our nationality, our country, our myths to bear; to show that we need no borrowed feathers for our adornment.”

N.L. Høyen: Om National Konst / On National Art, 1863

C.A. Jensen, Portrait of the physician H.C. Ørsted, 1832-33

”How do I become truly Danish in all my mind and being? I would say unto him: Follow your true nature with reason. When a Dane, who is born and raised among the Danish and has lived only among them, follows these directions he will, without further ado, become truly Danish. Only through artifice would he deviate from Danishness.”

H.C. Ørsted: Tale om Danskhed / A Speech about Danishness, 1836

H. W. Bissen, The Poet Jens Baggesen, 1863-64

”Germans! Frenchmen! Englishmen! Dutchmen! Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes! Prussians! Poles! Hungarians! Italians! Spaniards! Portuguese! Are you not all Men? All, being Men, equal?”

Jens Baggesen: Labyrinten / The Labyrinth, 1792-93

H.W. Bissen, Portrait of the Painter Wilhelm Marstrand, 1858

”What have politics, nationality, and grain duties to do with painterly effects and beauty of line? What does it mean when people claim that art should be national? Should it be politically Danish from the Kongeå River to the North Sea, permitting of no other object than that which is found betwixt the twain? No, for just as the self-same sun disperses its rays upon the world in its entirety, thus is Art unfettered; its allegiance is solely to Beauty and Truth.”

Wilhelm Marstrand: Brev til Constantin Hansen / Letter to Constantin Hansen, 1846

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Updated: 26.apr.2018
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