Niels Hansen Jacobsen – a short biography

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This picture of the artist was presumably taken some time during the 1880’s.

Niels Hansen Jacobsen (1861-1941) was born and grew up in Vejen, where his family belonged to the Grundtvigian circles at Askov Højskole.  He was educated as a sculptor at Kunstakademiet (The Royal Academy) in Copenhagen during the years 1884-1888. There he met his first wife, Anna Gabriele Rohde (1862-1902). She was also a practicing artist, and a relative of the painter Johan Rohde.

In 1891 the couple went on honeymoon throughout Europe. They settled in Paris, at Boulevard Arago 65, where they lived from circa 1892 until the turn of the century. The sculptor was widely represented at the 1900 World Fair in Paris. His ceramics were bought for museum collections in France and Germany. His studio in Paris became the meeting place for a group of Danish symbolists: The draughtsmen Johannes Holbek and Jens Lund, alongside the sculptor Rudolph Tegner – all three artists are represented in the museum’s collection.

Gabriele and Niels Hansen Jacobsen sitting on the door step of their Paris home at 65, Boulevard Arago.

In 1901 Niels Hansen Jacobsen held a large exhibition of his own works in Copenhagen. His wife died the following year. He then moved back to Denmark for good, with an alternating living arrangement. In the winter he lived on the outskirts of Østerbro, Copenhagen, in an apartment and ham a studio near by. In the summer, he lived in Vejen – his place of birth. Until 1924 his residence was Hytten (“The Hut”), a pensioner’s house belonging to the family farm. There he had his studio, kilns for the ceramics and utility shed, where he carved his stone sculptures. In 1908, he married again, this time to Kaja Jørgensen (1882-1928), a grocer’s daughter from Vamdrup with an interest in literature.

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To the left stands ”Huggehuset” (the chopping house) where Niels Hansen Jacobsen cut tombstones and sculptures. In the middle stands ”Hytten” (the Hut) where he lived until 1924. Barely visible on the right is his studio with the tall chimney – telling of his kilns. In the fore ground stand some of the many stones he turned into unique tombstones.

His life’s work consists of large sculptures, ceramic statues, bowls and jars, as well as a substantial number of unique gravestones and memorials, of which more than 200 are catalogued on the museum website.

Vejen Art Museum was inaugurated on July 1st 1924. The symmetric buildings served three purposes: 1st) The northern part formed the private residence of the artist and his wife. 2nd) In the middle stood the octagonal hall, the museum proper. 3rd) The southern wing was intended as a studio but soon found use as an exhibition venue for the growing collection of paintings. In 1938 the studio, which the artist had had constructed in 1914, in nearby Skibelund Krat was moved to Vejen. Since then it has served as the southern domed hall.

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The Vejen Art Museum was built in 1924 for three different purposes: To the left/north was the sculptor’s home. 2) In the centre stood the Sculpture Chamber. 3) to the right/south was his studio. But it soon became a part of the museum as the collections grew. Troldespringvandet – the Troll Fountain – was inaugurated in the summer of 1923.

From the construction of the museum until his death in 1941, Hansen Jacobsen lived in the private residence, and the couple ran the museum together. Per agreement, the museum became the responsibility of Vejen Municipality, which to this day is the owner and operator of the state-renowned art museum.

LITERATURE:

  • Niels Th. Mortensen: Niels Hansen Jacobsen, Odense 1945
  • Lise Buurgaard og Agner Frandsen: Træet i Stenen – Niels Hansen Jacobsens grav- og mindesten, Herning 1989 (”The Tree in the Stone – Niels Hansen Jacobsen’s Grave- and Memorial stones”)
  • Teresa Nielsen: NHJ – Niels Hansen Jacobsen, Vejen 2011
Museumspladsen10. Vejen Kunstmuseum. Photo Pernille Klemp

The symmetrically built museum was put out of balance in 1938. Niels Hansen Jacobsen’s octagonal 1914-studio was moved brick by brick from Skibelund Krat and placed to the south of the museum. Photo: Pernille Klemp.