Art history collections

In the art history collections you will find artists' archives, auction and exhibition catalogues, Weilbach's Archive, Artists' Books, art history archives, photographs, slides and more.

Shelves in art history collection

Photo: Thomas Søndergaard

Royal Danish Library contains various art historical collections. Since the 18th century, they have been collected by the Royal Danish Academy's Library and then the Danish Art Library in order to document and preserve particularly Danish art history.

In the art history collections you will find, among other things, artist archives, auction and exhibition catalogues, Weilbach's Archive, Artists' Books, art history archives and photographs and slides.

The art historical collections are important sources for understanding such things as artists' works, the history of art history, exhibition and collection history, just as they are central tools in provenance research. Below you can read more about the individual collections.

The materials can only be seen at the Study Hall in Søborg. Book an appointment before you visit us.

A large number of auction house catalogues and a large number of catalogues and listings of individual auctions, such as deceased estate auctions or auctions in connection with art exhibitions. A particular focus is catalogues relating to Danish art auctions from the 18th century up to the present day. Below you will find, among other things, the special collections of Danish mixed (anonymous) auctions and Danish estate auctions.

We have digitised the Danish auction catalogues from the period 1719-1920. The catalogues can be searched in the library system. Start by searching for the name of the auction house. However, some catalogues are also registered by the name of the owner of the auctioned collection. This is, for example, the case with death estate auctions, just as the date may also be registered.

You search for the special collections of Danish mixed (anonymous) auctions and Danish death estate auctions by searching: "anonymous Danish auction catalogues" (in Danish "anonyme danske auktionskataloger") and/or: "death estate auctions" (in Danish "dødsboauktioner").

Auction catalogues are important tools for identifying works of art and their owners at a given time. They may be provided with notes from the auction about the sale price and/or buyer. It is with the help of auction catalogues with notes that you can piece together the provenance (ownership history) of a work of art. It can help you to support, for example, attributions and other basic art history disciplines.

The library's collections of photographs and slides in the field of art history are the result of decades of systematic collection in the Art History Archive (originally the National Art History Photography Collection).

In addition, there are a large number of slide collections which have either been previously established by the library or have been received from individuals, institutions or associations. Often they have a particular focus.

  • Photographs of Danish visual art
    We have digitised all photographs of Danish visual art. You will find them in the digital collections. From the 1920s to the 1970s, photographs of Danish visual art from antiquity to modern times were systematically collected. Read more about the photographs and the associated information.
  • Photographs of foreign visual art
    The Art History Archive also included a large collection of photographs of foreign visual art. You can access the material by writing to us.
  • Slides
    Slide collection relating to Danish visual art and architecture is searched for in the library system. You can search by artist or work.
  • Special slide collections
    Documents Danish art and exhibition life.
    • BP (Bent Petersen's collection): Modern Danish and foreign art in museums and exhibitions. Approximately 80,000 colour slides, recorded by the editor of the journal North, Bent Petersen in the period approximately 1969-1984. A typed registrant is available for the collection.
    • GAA (Gunnar Aagaard Andersen's collection): About 380 colour slides of the artist's paintings, from the 1940s to the 1970s.
    • LR (Lisa Rosenmeier's collection): Approximately 25 colour slides of the artist's project "House of Love" (Stavanger 2000).
    • KJ (Kirsten Justesen's collection): Approximately 100 colour slides of the artist's own works and projects from 1969 to 1993.
    • MG (Mads Gamdrup's collection): Approximately 200 colour slides taken in 1994 at Danish galleries and exhibitions as documentation of the budding art scene in particular.
    • OS (Ole Schwalbe's collection): Approximately 700 colour slides from Schwalbe's teaching at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the 1970s and 1980s.
      OTTO (Collection concerning the OTTO exhibition site): Around 120 color slides documenting the exhibition site's activities in the years 1997-1999.
    • WLS (William Louis Sørensen's collection): Approximately 120 colour slides of the artist's own works and projects 1961-1990.
    • AS (Asger Sessingø's collection): Images of Danish visual art approximately 1970-1985 taken by photographer Asger Sessingø (negatives).
    • JH (Jørgen Humle's collection): Pictures taken by visual artist Jørgen Humle.
    • KKS (Kvindelige Kunstneres Samfund's collection): Works by members of Kvindelige Kunstneres Samfund (deposit).
    • kaare p.'s negative collection (happenings and experimental theatre in the 1960s).
    • Old postcards and stereoscope images (primarily foreign architecture).

A small number of archives of very different scope and nature, which have been received from art historians, art collectors, art critics and their descendants. The archives can contain both documentary material in the form of scrapbooks and clipping collections, but also letters, sketches, research-related material and so on.

  • Gunnar Jespersen's archive: Art critic Gunnar Jespersen's (1922-1994) archive consists of envelopes and albums with clippings from newspapers and exhibition catalogues. The collection also includes photographs taken in connection with Jespersen's articles in the daily press (most often Politiken). The archive covers Danish and foreign art with the main emphasis on Danish art from the 20th century and foreign artists who have exhibited in Denmark.
  • Merete Bodelsen's archive: Art historian Merete Bodelsen (1907-1986), long-time employee of Danish Biographical Lexicon and Weilbach's Kunstnerleksikon (3rd ed. with Povl Engelstoft). She dealt with the Danish-French art connection and published about artists such as J.F. Willumsen and Paul Gauguin, among other things. In 1935, together with Aage Marcus, she published the Danish Art History Bibliography.
  • Hj. Bruhn's archive: Shipbroker and art collector Hjalmar Bruhn's (1881-1959) enormous and very well-organised art history collection provides the opportunity to quickly get a comprehensive overview of the most important older literature on Danish art in the period approximately 1800-1940. The archive includes both monographs on individual artists, catalogues of their works and clippings from encyclopaedias, journals and newspapers. In total, the archive consists of 179 volumes: 160 volumes with material about individual artists, 11 volumes with mixed art criticism and 8 volumes of clippings about individual larger art collections. The focus of the collection is 19th-century Danish painting.
  • Jean Grandjean's archive: Art critic Jean Grandjean's archive includes: Scrapbooks with Grandjean's own articles in newspapers such as Ekstra Bladet, materials relating to Arthur (Addi) Købke, various materials on Wilhelm Freddie, various materials (mostly about Skagen's painters), various materials about different, mainly Danish, artists.
  • Ejner Johansson's archive: Art historian and art critic Ejner Johansson (1922-2001) was among the first to develop art communication on TV in Denmark. His authorship includes books and articles about the Danish Golden Age and also about, among others, Richard Mortensen and Robert Jacobsen. The archive contains manuscripts and collections of material for both published and unpublished articles and books, in addition to clippings etc.
  • Pierre Lübecker's archive: Art critic Pierre Lübecker's (1921-1990) original articles on Danish and foreign art, and in addition various clippings and more from the period 1934-1989.
  • Ejgil Nikolajsen's archive: Consists of various clippings on Danish art and the art field in the broadest sense, made from approximately 1940 to 1989 in connection with Ejgil Nikolajsen's (1924-1996) work as an art critic for newspapers such as Aktuelt and the Berlingske newspapers.
  • Ellen Poulsen's archive: Ellen Poulsen (1911-1995), long-time employee of Den Kongelige Kobberstiksamling at the National Gallery of Denmark. A main field within her research was Jens Juel's art.
  • Else Kai Sass' archive: Else Kai Sass (1912-1987), art historian, inspector at Thorvaldsens Museum 1945-1954, and professor in the subject (Århus University 1954-1967 and Copenhagen University 1967-1978). Among other things, she has written about Thorvaldsen, Abraham Wuchters and method. The archive mainly consists of scrap books.
  • Sigurd Schultz's archive: Museum inspector Sigurd Schultz's (1894-1980) archive mainly consists of materials about Danish artists in the 20th century. The archive's more than 2,500 sheets contain newspaper clippings, magazine articles, exhibition and auction catalogues, invitations, special prints, photos and unique material in the form of original letters and Sigurd Schultz's own notes and manuscripts.
  • Bente Skovgaard's and Leo Swane's Abildgaard archive: Leo Swane (1887-1967) and Bente Skovgaard (1924-2004), respectively director and chief inspector at the National Gallery of Denmark. Both published a number of important works about the painter Nicolai Abildgaard. Swane handed over her archive on Abildgaard to Skovgaard, who bequeathed the entire material, including her own, to the Art Library.
  • Meïr Stein's archive: Art historian Meïr Stein's (1920-1995) archive concerning French and Danish art and art history, especially Danish-French art connections, is related to his work as head of the Society for French Art. The archive consists of 40 binders with clippings from Danish and French newspapers, periodicals, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues and some original letters. Subjects:
    • Danish artists associated with France, arranged alphabetically
    • French artists, arranged alphabetically
    • Danish articles on French art, divided by authors
    • Works by French artists, divided by periods 17th-20th century
    • French art, divided by periods 16.-20. century
    • Art writers, especially Danish and French
  • Viggo Thorlacius-Ussing's archive: Viggo Thorlacius-Ussing (1891-1978), director of the New Carlsberg Foundation (1946-61), head of the State's art historical photography collection 1922-1972 and of Skagens Museum 1938-1950, author of a number of works on, among other things the art of sculpture in the Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance. Contents:
    • I. Catalogue sheets, correspondence, notes. Place 1-4
    • II. Correspondence, notes, photographs. Place 5-7
    • III. Catalogue sheets, correspondence, notes, photographs, manuscripts, archival prints, publications, newspaper clippings. Place 8-14
    • IV. Archive prints, photographs, publications. Place 15-17
    • V. Notes, photographs regarding art collection and late medieval sculpture. 3 layers
    • WE. Plans for Viggo Thorlacius-Ussing's planned book about the Academy's art collection
    • WE YOU. Unmounted photographs of works from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' art collection. Recorded as publisher for the plates for Viggo Thorlacius-Ussing's planned book about the collection
    • VIII. Photographs, notes and lectures on late medieval wood sculpture. 2 lay
    • IX. Photographs of late medieval altarpieces with wood sculpture
    • X. Newspaper clippings
    • XI. Two protocols with typewritten copies from the Academy of Fine Arts' inventory in the Academy's archives, National Archives and various loose leaves with copies of archives regarding the Academy's art collection
    • XII. Spring binder containing 55 plates with paintings from the Academy's art collection
    • XIII. Paperback containing 34 plates with sculpture from the Academy's art collection
  • Grete Zahle's archive: Grete Zahle (1907-2006), Danish draftsman, painter and art historian. Among other things, she wrote about the painters Jens Søndergaard and Peter Hansen.

A number of archives of very different scope and nature received from artists and their descendants. The archives can contain both documentary material in the form of scrapbooks and clipping collections, but also letters, sketches, research-related material and so on.

The archive also contains material from Danish artist associations and groups.

The material can be ordered by searching the archive creator's name in the library system or by writing to us.

Artist archives

  • Mogens Andersen
  • Flemming Bergsøe
  • Jørgen Brynjolf
  • J. F. Willumsen
  • C. A. Jensen
  • Jørgen S. Basse
  • H.A. BrendekildeCarl Frydensberg
  • Holger H. Hansen
  • Kasper Heiberg
  • Erik Hoppe
  • Harald Isenstein
  • P. Johansen
  • Fritz Jürgensen
  • Thorbjørn Lausten
  • Svend Lindhart
  • Edith Ludvigsen
  • Jørgen Nash & Lis Zwick
  • Niels Nedergård
  • Mogens Kai Nørregaard
  • J.W. de Rehling-Quistgaard
  • Ole Schwalbe
  • Dagmar Starcke
  • Henrik Starcke
  • Dea Trier Mørch
  • Einar Utzon-Frank

Small and smaller archival collections regarding individual artists

Archival collections often consist of many and varied types of material. The material types mentioned, under the individual artists, are just typical examples of what you can find.

  • Agnete Bjerre (b. 1924) exhibition overview, catalogues and reviews
  • Bodil Brems (b. 1943) CV, photographs and exhibition catalogues
  • Knud Bøjer (b. 1924) exhibition-related material
  • Ellen Stræde Christensen (b. ?) CV and photographs
  • Inger Hanmann (1918-2007) exhibition-related material, publications
  • Gitte Hauptmann (b. 1934) exhibition-related material
  • Karl Heilesen (b. 1918) reviews
  • Kirsten Kildegaard Høj (b. 1928) exhibition overview, photographs, catalogues and reviews
  • Mogens Kølkjær (b. 1941) exhibition-related material
  • Inga Lyngbye (b. 1923) exhibition-related material, press releases and correspondence. Also material regarding the artist group Rejsning
  • Asta Nielsen (b. 1924) autobiographical notes, photographs and exhibition catalogues
  • Bent Axel Olesen (b. 1941) exhibition overview, catalogues, reviews and photographs.
  • Henning Persson (b. 1921) exhibition-related material, manuscripts and reviews
  • Inger Lise Rasmussen (b. 1941) CV and exhibition material
  • Torben Harder Rasmussen (b. 1929) catalogues, reviews and photographs
  • Anne Tholstrup (b. 1952) exhibition catalogues
  • Carla Thonsgaard (b. 1922) exhibition-related material
  • Ninna Vassileffsky (b. 1920) CV, reviews, lists of works and photographs
  • Lasse Winsløw (1911-2006) photographs

Material from artist associations and groups

  • Spring Exhibition
  • Charlottenborgfonden: Price lists, 42 volumes covering the period 1877-1914. 1 accounting book per year. Some years there are 2 books. 1911 missing. Sales books, 14 volumes covering the period 1897-1984. Exhibition records, 5 volumes covering the period 1896-1927. Each volume covers one subject group: painters; sculptors; architects; decorative artists; graphic artists. Election minutes for exhibition committee, 2 volumes re. painters, sculptors and architects. The periods 1937-55 and 1957-1978. Minutes from meetings of the exhibition committee, 2 volumes covering 1929-1942. Election minutes for Charlottenborg's board of directors, regarding painters, sculptors and architects. 1 volume for the period 1958-1975. Censorship Protocols, 4 volumes. 3 concerning sculptors, 1 concerning architects. Negotiation protocols regarding exhibitions, 2 volumes covering the period November 1942-1971. The Charlottenborg exhibition's art association, 5 volumes covering the period 1950-1970. 3 with minutes and 2 with member lists.
  • Danish artists' associations: AD LIBITUM (1991), Ahorn (1977), Akademielevernes påskeudstilling (1957-1959), Akademielevers udstilling af sommerarbejder (1936 - 1939), Akta (1965), Albatros (1980 - 1990), Den Alternative (1985), Aorta (1975 - 1976), Apriludstillingen (1977 - 1982 - 2002), Arabesk (1991), Arachne (1986 - 1988), Arme & ben (1980 - 1983), ArtGenda (1996), Atomé (1966), Aug. 70 (1971 - 1972), AV-ART (januar-maj 1992).
  • Foreningen for National Kunst (glass plate negatives)
  • Grønningen
  • Artists in the county of Storstrøm
  • The artist group ”Albatros”
  • Kvindelige Kunstneres Samfund
  • Sammenslutningen af danske Kunstforeninger

Artists' Books are books designed by artists, usually cheaply printed and distributed in small editions. This type of book has been produced from the 1950s until today, when the medium is still very popular. The books can consist of just pictures, be a combination of picture and text or only contain text. The aesthetic expression is solely determined by the individual artist.

In the library system, you can search for the word artist book (in Danish "kunstnerbog") with a delimitation in the left menu under Libraries for KB Art Library Søborg.

The collection of Artists' Books consists of over 900 different and mainly Danish publications.

Artist signatures is an online reference work for the identification of Danish artist and architect signatures. Here you can find approximately 15,000 signatures registered under the artist or architect who used it, dated and reproduced in images.

The base covers approximately 9,000 Danish artists and architects. Collection for the base stopped in 2009. You can find the base via digital collections.

All model drawings are digitised and can be viewed in the digital collections.

The collection consists of around 900 model drawings made either by students or professors in connection with teaching at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In terms of time, the collection covers the first 100 years after the Academy's foundation in 1754. Key figures in Danish visual art are represented, including Nicolai Abildgaard, C.W. Eckersberg, Christen Købke, Constantin Hansen, E.H. Freund, Dankvart Dreyer and Wilhelm Marstrand.

The collection includes drawings based on living models, drawings based on other sources, and above all plaster casts of ancient sculptures from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts' collection.

The collection is inextricably linked to the drawing lessons at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The teaching was divided into three levels: 1) the freehand drawing schools where the students copied drawings or drew from engravings, 2) the plaster school where the students drew from plaster casts, 3) and the model school where they drew from living models.

Every month, the professors at the model school took turns to pose the model and judge the students' work. Many of the drawings in the collection are therefore signed by the responsible professor. A large part of the works are anonymous, others bear only the student's name and still others both the student's and the professor's names.

The collection documents the academic teaching method, the importance of drawing exercises and, not least, changes in drawing style, technique and materials in the first 100 years of the academy's history. In addition, the collection makes it possible to study the very earliest works by a number of important Danish artists.

The collection consists of recordings from exhibitions of mainly Danish art in Denmark and abroad 1878-1987, interior images from private collections and museum collections in both Denmark and abroad as well as group portraits of Danish artists and various exhibition previews and more. The approximately 1,200 images are divided into 10 photo boxes. The contents of the boxes can be found in the library system.

It is an extremely valuable study material for the collection and exhibition history in Denmark going all the way back to the 1870s. The collection provides a unique insight into changing ways of exhibiting and hanging works of art both in museums, in galleries and in private homes that no longer exist.

Exhibition catalogues from exhibitions at home and abroad from individual artists' exhibitions, exhibitions about periods, subjects, places and patrons. In addition, there is a large collection of invitations, lists of works and other things that document exhibitions of Danish art and art exhibitions in Denmark. A particular focus is catalogues and other material relating to Danish art exhibitions and exhibitions of Danish art.

All Danish exhibition catalogues from the period 1769-1920 have been digitised and can be searched via the library system. Search for the name of the artist or association.

The archive contains data and records of Danish visual artists and architects.

Find the material by searching the library system by combining a personal name with Weilbach, for example Zahrtmann Weilbach.

The archive has been built up over more than 125 years. The core consists of the material that Philip Weilbach (1834-1900) collected in connection with the preparation of the first two editions of his artist's encyclopaedia, Dansk Konstnerleksikon (1877-78) and Nyt Dansk Kunstnerleksikon (1896-97). Among other things, it consists of a unique collection of letters from artists and artists' descendants, to whom Weilbach had personally written in order to obtain information.

The archive contains information on approximately 35,000 Danish artists from the Middle Ages until 1989, when the collection for the fourth edition of the encyclopaedia ceased. 4th edition of the work can be searched online.

A very large part of the archive is information collected in connection with the third and fourth editions of the encyclopaedia, which were published respectively 1947-1952 and 1994-2000. The material takes the form of a very extensive card index printed on the basis of archives, catalogues, books and journals, supplemented by questionnaires filled in by artists at the behest of the two editors.

The questionnaires together with other "large material" submitted by the artists or collected by the editors (for example exhibition lists) are registered in the library system. The other material is not registered, but can be found if you contact the staff at the Study Hall in Søborg.

Weilbach's archive is deposited in the library of the self-governing institution Weilbach's Kunstnerleksikon.

There is no longer active collection of material for Weilbach's archive.