Copenhagen’s Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) is the largest gallery of Danish paintings and art in Denmark. Admission to the permanent collection is no longer free.
The main focus of the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen is not surprisingly Danish and Nordic paintings from 1750 to the present. However, the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) also has important collections of European paintings from 1300 to 1800, the Paris art scene of the early 20th century, and a selection of sculptures exhibited throughout the gallery.
The Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen
The National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) in Copenhagen has the largest art collection in Denmark. Its basis is the royal art collection began at the start of the 16th century when Albrecht Dürer presented a large collection of his best prints to King Christian II.
The gallery’s collection of Danish and other Nordic painters of the 19th century is unrivaled but it also has a fine collection of European paintings from around 1300 to 1800. Danish artists feature prominently in the modern 20th and 21st century collection that also includes works of other prominent international artists.
The National Gallery of Denmark is housed in a neo-Renaissance building erected at the end of the 19th century by Vilhelm Dahlerup and E.V. Møller. The exhibition spaced was doubled when a new wing by Anna Maria Indrio opened in 1998.
- Danish and Nordic Art (1750-1900)
- European Art (1300-1800)
- French Art (1900-1930)
- Danish and International Art After 1900
Seeing Danish and Nordic art should be a priority but it would be a shame to miss the small but significant collections of European and French art if time allows.
Danish and Nordic Art (1750 to 1900) in the SMK
The collection of paintings by Danish and Nordic painters of the classical, Biedermeier (Danish Golden Age) and romantic periods is a major draw to the National Gallery. Here visitors can see around 400 works to gain a quick overview of some of the most-important periods of Danish art.
Although this exhibition starts with the classical period and end with the birth of modernism, the most impressive works are from the Danish Golden Age (early to mid-19th century) and the landscape artists of the romantic period.
Internationally the most-famous painter from this era is probably the Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Three of his paintings are on display while other works may be seen by appointment. The famous The Scream is in the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo, a popular sight frequently visited by excursion travelers on the overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo.
Danish and International Art Post 1900 in the SMK
The works are mostly displayed in chronological order. In the larger halls, the focus is on specific periods to give visitors an overview of art from 1900 to the present. In smaller rooms, the focus is on specific artists, movements or issues.
European Art (1300 – 1800) in the SMK
This part of the collection was purposely expanded during the 18th century to bring the Danish royal paintings collection on par with the galleries of other European monarchs. As a result, the museum has works by all major European painters from the era.
Particularly noteworthy is the works by Lucas Cranach the Elder – the gallery has the largest collection of his paintings outside Germany.
However, the works by other artists such as Titian, Rubens and Rembrandt generally have more modern-day appeal.
French Art 1900-1930 in the SMK
The National Gallery of Denmark has a small but important collection of works by French artists from the early 20th century. These works are beautifully presented and gives an interesting overview of how Matisse, Braque, Picasso and Derain developed so dramatically away from the ideas of the late 19th century.
Many of these works were already donated to the museum during the 1920s by Johannes Rump.
Royal Collection of Graphic Art
The museum also houses the Danish Royal Collection of Graphic Art (Den Kongelige Kobberstiksamling) that includes around 300,000 drawings, etches and lithographs by Danish and other European artists. The museum is fond to remind visitors that Dürer noted in his diary in 1521 that he gave King Christian II “the best pieces of all my prints”.
The graphic art collection was open to the public since 1843 but seeing prints in the study room require prior (free) reservations.
Visitors Information for the SMK
Admission Tickets for the National Gallery
Admission to the National Gallery of Denmark is DKK110 and free for under 18-year olds. An adult accompanied by a child pays only DKK90 so bring them along.
Two combination ticket options are good savings deals for seeing the SMK:
- Parkmuseerne /Park Museum Ticket cost DKK195 and is valid for six months. It gives admission to the Rosenborg Slot (DKK110), SMK National Gallery (DKK110), Hirschsprung Collection (DKK75), Natural History Museum (DKK40), Cinamatheque (DKK75), David Collection (free). The ticket is sold at any of these museums and visitors with this tickets are already ahead after seeing the Rosenborg and SMK – two top sights in Copenhagen.
- The Copenhagen Card – typical transportation and sights pass, price varies.
Opening Hours of the National Gallery
Opening hours of the National Gallery are Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, closing at 8 pm on Wednesday. The museum is closed on Monday but check the website for details of opening hours on vacation days.
Like many other galleries and museums in Denmark, the Statens Museum for Kunst actively encourages visitors to take photos (without flash or tripods) but reminds that art works pass into public domain only 70 years after the death of the artist (and not after the work was completed). Fast free wifi is available throughout most of the museum.
The café in the museum serves cakes and small lunches. The nearby parks are great for picnics but restaurant options are very limited in the immediate vicinity.
Location & Transportation
The Statens Museum for Kunst, Sølvgade 48-50, 1307 København K, tel. +45 33 74 84 94, www.smk.dk, is at the southeastern corner of the Østre Anlæg park where it meets up with the large parks of the botanical garden and the Rosenborg castle park. Buses 26 (from the city center, station and Tivoli) stops across the road, as do bus A6. It is an easy walk from Østerport or Nørreport stations – more pleasant via one of the parks than along the busy roads.
Other Sights Near the National Gallery
- The Hirschsprung Collection of nearly 2,000 Danish artworks from 1800 to 1910 is just behind the National Gallery in the Østre Anlæg park.
- Directly across the road from the SMK is the Geological Museum as well as the free botanical garden.
- Diagonally across from the National Gallery is the Kongens Have (King’s Park) with the Renaissance castle Rosenborg Slot – home of the Danish crown jewels.
More Art Near Copenhagen
Three very popular modern art museums are amongst the most-popular day-trip destinations from Copenhagen:
- The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (may easily be combined with Helsingør (Kronburg / Hamlet’s Castle) and / or Fredriksborg Castle) is one of the top contemporary art museums in the world.
- Arken Museum of Modern Art has huge exhibitions a few times per year in addition to its smaller permanent collection.
- Ordrupgaard – particularly strong on impressionists and late-19th-century, early 20th-century artists is in the northern outskirts of Copenhagen.