Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art
In 1912, The American-Scandinavian Society created an exhibition organized by the American-Scandinavian Foundation to familiarize the American public with modern Scandinavian art. The Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art opened December 10, 1912, in New York City and offered more than 150 works by Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish artists. Many of the artists favored post-impressionism, expressionism, and symbolism, which at the time were viewed with unfamiliarity and cynicism in America (Johnson). This marked one of the few occasions in the history of Scandinavian art that the three countries united in exhibiting, as well as being the largest display to date of Nordic art in America (American Scandinavian Society of New York). Opening to approximately 1,500 guests at a ceremony held by Mayor William Jay Gaynor, the show attracted large audiences in New York and provoked much commentary by critics and journalists (Johnson). The catalog for the exhibition has been scanned for the Documenting the Gilded Age project. It contains portraits and biographies for the artists shown (see illustrations).
After New York, the exhibition toured Buffalo, New York; Toledo, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; and Boston, Massachusetts. Visitors in these cities were astonished by artists, who many of them had never heard of or seen before (Johnson). Viewers were moved by the caressing light that enveloped the landscapes and interiors of Vilhem Hammershoi, a Danish painter (Johnson). And, they were shocked by the eerie and sometimes painful solitude of people portrayed by Edvard Munch, the now well-known an artist from Norway (Johnson).
A resounding critical and popular success, the Scandinavian exhibition played a significant—yet often overlooked—role in the development of North American modernism (Johnson). It helped pave the way for the assimilation of European modernism in North America (Johnson). The exhibition had an impact as powerful as it was short lived (Johnson). Within months, the Armory Show opened in New York. It featured 1,300 works that introduced droves of Americans to everybody who was to become anybody in the history of twentieth-century art, causing the Scandinavian exhibition to fade from collective memory (Johnson).
American Scandinavian Society of New York. Exhibition of Contemporary Scandinavian Art Held under the Auspices of the American-Scandinavian Society. New York: Redfield Brothers, 1912. Print.
Johnson, Ken. “Shadowy Lure of Scandinavia Fights the Bright Pull of Paris.” New York Times. Web. 23 Oct 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/arts/design/luminous-modernism-at-scandinavia-house-review.html>