Niels Laurits Høyen

male / Danish
art historian, art critic, curator
Niels Lauritz Høyen was Denmark’s first art historian and taught at the Academy of Fine Arts and at the University of Copenhagen.He introduced order to the national collection of portraits at the Frede­riksborg Museum and was curator of The Royal Collection of Paintings (later National Gallery of Denmark). He was on the board of the exhibition venue “Kunstforeningen” and was Denmark’s leading art critic. What was good Danish art according to Høyen? Høyen defined, acquired, and exhibited what he regarded as good Danish art. A firm nationalist, he believed that art should serve the people and the nation, not just Beauty. Eckersberg was his hero, Abildgaard quite the opposite, and several artists were caught in between. C.A. Jensen, who painted the portrait of H.C. Ørsted (r), had too coarse and un-Danish a style for Høyen’s liking; he had to give up his career because of Høyen; Høyen played a vital role in Danish nationalistic painting’s development around the middle of the 19th century. He advised young artists against going abroad to study art; rather, he insisted, they would be better served to remain in Denmark, undergo training and become independent before allowing themselves to be exposed to foreign influences. Høyen encouraged them to paint native landscapes and Danish monuments to the illustrious past, as well as to paint the people and surroundings of humble agricultural origin where life had not changed so much under industrialization; His influence on art and artists also had its opposition, such as painter and Academy professor Wilhelm Marstrand who wrote, "Hvad menes der med, at kunsten skal være national? [...] ligesom den samme Sol skinner over hele Verden, saaledes er Kunsten ikke bundet" ("What does it mean that art needs to be national? … In the same way that the same sun shines over the whole earth, so is art not bound (to a specific land)."); Art in Denmark was split into two groups during this period, those oriented towards the Nordic (known as ”the blondes”) and those internationally oriented towards Europe (known as ”the brunettes”). At the higher levels the Nordic trend won, but it meant isolation for Danish art. At the World Exhibition in Paris 1878, a critic wrote that "nok er Danmark repræsenteret ved kunstnere, men ikke med kunst" ("Denmark is well represented with artists, but not with art");Only parts of his lectures have been preserved in writing, and only a single one has been published. His works were published as a final act by the Nordic Art Society 1871-1876 ((J. Harboe in : Turner e.a. 1996, p. 815); ( (February 2015)
Copenhagen 1798-06-04
Copenhagen 1870-04-29
Biographical information
Period of activity
1822 - 1870
With economic support from his father he left Copenhagen in September 1822 for a three-year student travel through Germany, Austria and Italy
Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten (Kopenhagen)
He started his higher education in 1816. He first studied law, then theology, and then history, before finalising his studies with art history. He received a cand.phil.He then became a student at the Drawing School of the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) where he learned perspective and anatomy, and had access to such artists as Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Christian David Gebauer and Jens Peter Møller. He took part in establishing the Student Union (J. Harboe in : Turner e.a. 1996, p. 815)
Teacher at academy/university
Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten (Kopenhagen)
in February 1829, he became Professor of History and Mythology at the Academy of Art, of which art history was a part of the curriculum. Soon art history became the focus of his teaching, and in 1831 focus was also placed on his compiling a history of Danish art
born in
active in
died in
Creation date: 2015-02-05; Last modified date: 2020-03-12


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