Johannes Larsen: Birds of Passage in Art and Poetry

Johannes Larsen: Birds of Passage in Art and Poetry



This exhibition shows Johannes Larsen’s work on birds which are a motif of his illustrations for Steen Steensen Blicher’s poetry collection Birds of Passage (1838).

The exhibition is an homage to the art book which Johannes Larsen created during 1911-13 when he produced woodcuts for a reprint of Blicher’s well-known selected poetry. The show presents the book and the woodcuts in dialogue with the artist’s other ornithological work along with contemporary Danish writers’ re-interpretations of Blicher’s poetry in New Birds of Passage (2014).

‘Johannes Larsen: Birds of Passage in Art and Poetry’ celebrates the 150th anniversary of Johannes Larsen’s birth and complements the Museum’s exhibition ‘Johannes Larsen and Japanese Woodcuts’ which focuses on the influence of Japanese woodcuts on the artist.

Birds of Passage in Art and Poetry


Birds of Passage is Steen Steensen Blicher’s poetic masterpiece of 30 poems on birds which considers each bird in turn and begins with a prelude and an overture. The poems were composed during a period of serious illness and the ‘Prelude’ in particular is known as ‘The time draws near, when I must away’ with death as a motif. Johannes Larsen who worked throughout his life with bird subjects, knew Blicher’s poems and let the verse add new dimensions to his own work on birds which he thought gave nature a voice and a soul.

Word meets image in the exhibition as it moves through a selection of the book’s migratory birds and sees the woodcuts and the printed poetry complement works from the Museum’s collection. Johannes Larsen worked on the book’s birds in watercolour and oil on canvas. When Faaborg Museum opened in 1910 Johannes Larsen was the most affluent artist represented in the collection and the majority of his works are connected with illustration.

Behind Johannes Larsen’s work with woodcuts lay a thorough and almost scientific knowledge of birds. He had worked with birds as a subject in his art for many decades and Faaborg Museum’s collection holds a series of his ornithological illustrations in addition to the work for the book Birds of Passage.

Blicher’s poetry is complemented from a contemporary, literary perspective through a re-interpretation in the volume New Birds of Passage (2014). Thirty-two Danish writers were invited to compose new poetry and short stories on Blicher’s migratory birds. Amongst the contributors are leading poets such as Pia Juul, Peter Laugesen and Klaus Rifbjerg as well as younger writers such as Amalie Smith, Kristina Stoltz and Christel Wiinblad. The volume received glowing reviews but has not been previously shown within a fine art context.