The Danish contribution to the last 250 years of art history, although esteemed in Copenhagen, has never quite enjoyed the wider reputation that some say it deserves. A few isolated figures have crossed national borders into the bigger picture of European art: the painters Kobke, Kroyer, and Hammershoi, and perhaps the sculptor Thorvaldsen, spring to mind, but these are the exceptions.
So, The Face of Denmark, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, is a welcome survey of what we've been missing all these years, at least as far as portraiture is concerned. In return, the Danes, who are probably just as unfamiliar with the history of Scottish art, will be treated to Four Hundred Years of Scottish Portraiture at Frederiksborg Castle in September.
Some of the Danish artists may be little known, but the catalogue of their subjects reads like a Who's Who of European history. Hans Christian Andersen appears, looking very grand in fur collar and lilac cravat; the philosopher Kierkegaard looks silly, his huge head atop a tiny body; the Arctic explorer Rasmussen cuts a romantic dash in reindeer hide; the writer Karen Blixen is photographed as Pierrot; another writer, Peter Hoeg, appears without his shirt; and, perhaps the most famous of all (to us at least), the Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel is photographed amongst a group of coal miners.
The Face of Denmark is the first of Scotland's exhibitions for the 1997 Edinburgh Festival and it gets this year's celebrations off to a fine start. The second, a Surrealist extravaganza from The Gabriel Keiller Collection, opens today at the Gallery of Modern Art in Belford Road and with Raeburn and Sargent still to come, it looks like being a good summer for art in Scotland.
EYE ON THE NEW
Glen Onwin, one of the stars of A Quality of Light, the summer festival currently running in West Cornwall, has just opened a show of recent paintings, titled Evaporates, at Michael Hue-Williams, 21 Cork Street, London WI (0171-434 1318). If you can't get to Cornwall, make your way to Cork Street.