Jean-Siméon Chardin, Soap Bubbles, ca. 1733-34. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York / Wentworth Fund, 1949  

Something happened in the eighteenth century. Artists gradually turned their attention away from historic and mythological scenes towards the private, intimate realm.

What do moods and emotions look like when expressed in art? And how can intimacy between people be depicted? The exhibition explored these issues by means of more than a hundred spectacular masterpieces and rarely seen gems from 1730 to 1930. At the same time the exhibition looked at how portrayals of intimacy have changed over time.  

Intimacy in flux
The concept of intimacy – the sense of being closely attuned to other people, places, spaces or things – has always been in a state of flux, and this holds true in art, too. In the eighteenth century, artists begin to depict intimacy in portraits featuring the artists with their families. In the nineteenth century, they invite observers to enter the intimate spheres of others in works that depict domestic interiors and everyday scenes. The early twentieth century sees the advent of experimental modern art, and at this point artists seek to forge intimate connections between art and observer.

When art became modern
The exhibition related how art became modern when it began homing in on the human face, the body, and everyday objects.

Practical information

Opening hours
Tuesdays – Sundays 10–17
Wednesdays 10–20
Mondays closed

Admission fee
Adults: DKK 110
Under 27: DKK 85
Under 18: free
Annual Pass holders: free

More practical information

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Emil Bærentzen, Family Portrait, 1828. The National Gallery of Denmark

Masterpieces meet hidden gems

Delve into great masterpieces as well as previously hidden gems – and explore how they depict intimacies in widely different ways. 

Some display intimacy through close proximity, others by showing private moments, erotic tension, or through sensuousness, tactility and touch. One of the key examples presented at the exhibition is Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Soap Bubbles, which may cause you to hold your breath in order to avoid puncturing the fragile bubble that the boy strives so hard to keep intact. 

Hidden at first glance
You can look behind the surface of things as we reveal what lies hidden underneath a pair of traditional landscape paintings. Hinged on the back of quite innocuous-looking paintings you will find depictions of erotic aspects of intimacy that leave little to the imagination, and which are shown publicly for the first time ever at this exhibition. 

Closer also delves down into experimental art from the early twentieth century. For example, it takes a close look at Franciska Clausen’s Cerles et Carré: the play of colour, nuance and shapes on the surface draw observers in, demanding very close scrutiny and a proximity that creates a strong sense of intimacy between work and observer.

The director’s take on intimacy

The exhibition was curated by the director of the SMK, Mikkel Bogh, who set out to relate the story of how the intimate sphere and the private, personal body entered the realm of art from 1730 to 1930.

From drawings to sculpture
The exhibition allowed you to get close to more than a hundred works of art, exploring intimacies in paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs – by artists such as Jean-Siméon Chardin, Adolph Menzel, William Bendz, Berthe Morisot and Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss IV, 1902. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Martinus Rørbye, View from the Artist's Window, c. 1825. The National Gallery of Denmark 

J.F. Willumsen, Marriage, 1886. The National Gallery of Denmark

© Ejnar Nielsen, A Blind Girl Reading. The National Gallery of Denmark

The director's book

In the exhibition catalogue Closer, Mikkel Bogh uses a mixture of essays and conversations with himself to explore the impact that artists’ depictions of the concept of intimacy had on the evolution of modern art.

Mikkel Bogh blogger

In his blog, the director also shares his thoughts on some of the works featured in Closer – Intimacies in art.

Mikke Bogh blogs: Franciska Clausen: Cercle et carré, 1930.

Bogh blogs

Gain new insight into Franciska Clausen’s Cercle et carré as SMK’s director explores what lies hidden in its many circles and squares.   

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Nude Female Model, 1884. The National Gallery of Denmark