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A self-portrait by the Danish artist Peder Severin Krøyer (1851–1909) has been discovered within the Kirpilä Art Collection. Dated 1899, the work was previously attributed to Krøyer’s Finnish contemporary, Sigfrid August Keinänen (1841–1914).

The small (20.5 cm x 17 cm) self-portrait was made using the drypoint engraving technique on paper, and has been on display in the Kirpilä Art Collection’s Portrait Room for the last few years. It is signed “SK Jan-99” at bottom right. Our archives show that the art collector Juhani Kirpilä (1931–1988) purchased the work, believed at the time to be a self-portrait by Sigfrid Keinänen, in 1983, as part of an extensive portrait collection sold by the Hyvinkää-based collector Urho Laiho (1909–1991). It was also displayed in the exhibition Omakuva (“Self-Portrait) at Galerie Finnforum in Helsinki between 17 November and 2 December 1979. The basis for the original attribution is unknown.

Confirming the actual author of the work was ultimately very easy, by comparing the artists’ signatures. Keinänen used to signed his works “SAK” or “S. A. Keinänen”, whereas Krøyer’s “SK” signature and handwriting match the ones on our portrait. The reattribution was finally confirmed by curator Mette Harbo Lehmann of Skagens Museum in Skagen, Denmark.

Skagens Museum is home to a significant collection of artworks by Krøyer, including three prints of the etching found at Kirpilä. One of the prints is signed “P S Krøyer” in pencil, in addition to the engraved “SK” signature.

Peder Severin Krøyer was born on 23 July 1851 in Stavanger, Norway, from where he soon moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, with his foster parents. He took up art studies privately at the age of nine. In 1870, Krøyer graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and he enjoyed the patronage of the German-born Danish tobacco magnate and art collector Heinrich Hirschsprung from 1874. Krøyer travelled around France, Spain and Italy between 1877 and 1881, thanks to a scholarship from the art academy and financial support from Hirschsprung. Studying in Paris under the French artist Léon Bonnat had a pivotal impact on his style. On his return to Denmark, Krøyer settled in the country’s northernmost part, Skagen, whose artistic community would be an important source of support for him in the following years. Krøyer is known in Denmark and internationally for his depictions of ordinary people, as well as for his blue-toned Skagen landscapes that often incorporate members of the local artistic community, including his wife, the artist Marie Krøyer (née Triepcke). Krøyer died in Skagen on 21 November 1909, at the age of 58.

Juhani Kirpilä is said to have avoided buying foreign art because it was harder to confirm its authenticity and origins; in this case, what he had bought as a Finnish artwork has been revealed to have been authored by a foreign master. This increases the number of non-Finnish artists included in the collection from four to five, and adds the first Danish work to the collection.

We are very grateful to Arto Isotalo for first bringing the misattribution to our attention.

Image: Peder Severin Krøyer, Self-Portrait, 1899 / Kirpilä Art Collection

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