Pupil of A. Hellesen and C.V Nielsen. Educated at the royal Academy of arts in 1873. Henningsen was one of the leading artists in Danish naturalism during the 1880ties. Together with the artists Holger Drachmann and Christian Krohg, Henningsen changed the Romanism in art and chose his motifs and scenes as if he was reporting for a newspaper. Henningen works often depictured grim realism like paupers being thrown our of their homes, trial scenes with murders and other sad situations in the human life. Henningsen wanted to be objective in his works and used great effort to depict each situation as accurate as possible.
This let Henningsen to work with a new point of view that made the audience feel they participated in his works. For example: Flower shop scene seen from the florists point of view. This new angle often caused great debate since the works changed from being a piece of art into a manner of provocation. The works encouraged ideas and action instead of just being something pretty to behold. Henningesen worked primarily in Scandinavia but he also traveled and worked in Germany, Italy, France and the Nederland’s from 1892. Exhibitions: Charlottenborg: 1879-1931. – International Art Exhibition, Wienna:1882. – The world fair in Paris: 1889. – International Art exhibition, Berlin: 1892. – Munich: 1892. – Nord Art Exhibition, Lübech: 1895. – City Hall: 1901. – Glaspalast, Munich: 1909. – Gallery Bergenholz: 1922-1923. – The national gallery of arts, Copenhagen: 1930, 1961.
Ref. Josephine Rydeng
Erik Henningsen was born on 29 August 1855 in Copenhagen to Frants Ludvig Henningsen (1820–1869), a grocer, and Hilda Charlotte Christine née Schou (1824–1880). He showed an early artistic talent and was articled to decorative painter A. Hellesen. He also took drawing lessons privately with C. V. Nielsen and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1873. He graduated in 1877 and won several awards and distinctions, including the Academy’s Annual Medal in 1887 and 1890, the Ancher Prize in 1889, and in 1892 a travel scholarship of DKK 100.
His travels took him to Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.
A meeting at Bogstaveligheden on 1 March 1882, drawing by Henningsen from 1910
Henningsen became part of the group Bogstaveligheden, a forum for the Realists’ humanitarian ideals about creating a better society through illumination and debate.
In his paintings from the 1880s and 1890s, Henningsen was preoccupied with the rights and living conditions of groups such as the unemployed, women, workers, children and the elderly. Examples are Summum jus, summa injuria. The infantcide (1886, The Hirschsprung Collection and Evicted (1892, Danish National Gallery).
He also depicted the lighter aspects of human life, as in his paintings of street life in Copenhagen.
Henningsen’s mural in the aula of the University of Copenhagen: H. C. Ørsted, the president of the meeting, is speaking. Other people seen in the picture are Christopher Hansteen standing in front of him, and Japetus Steenstrup standing to the left
Towards the turn of the centory Henningsen mainly painted historical scenes. An example is his mural in the banquet hall of the University of Copenhagen’s main building on Vor Frue Plads in Copenhagen. It depicts the banquet at the Scandinavian Scientist Conference held in Roskilde in 1847. It completed a series of murals depicteding the history of the university of which the earlier painting had been created by Vilhelm Marstrand, Carl Bloch and Vilhelm Rosenstand.
During the two first decades of the 20th century he mainly painted genre works from the lives of the bourgoisie.
Illustrations and decorative works.
Tuborg poster. The Thirsty Man, 1900
Henningsen also worked as an illustrator, both for the weekly magazine Ude og Hjemme and books such as Pietro Krohns Peters Jul (1914).
In 1900, the Tuborg Breweries announced a competition for a “decorative advertisement poster” to mark its 25 years jubilee. The first prize, which was rewarded with a sum of DKK 10,000, was taken by Jens Ferdinand Willumsen, but it was ultimately Henningsen’s entry, known as The Thirsty Man, which was put into production by the brewery. It has since obtained iconic status and become one of the most immediately recognizable posters in Denmark.
Morning in Adressekontorets Gaard (1881)
A snowy day at Gammeltorv (1886)
Summum jus, summa injuria. The infantcide (1886, The Hirschsprung Collection)
Break at Efterslægten School (1887)
Parade of the Infantry (1888, Danish National Gallery)
A constitutional celebration in the country (1891)
Woman at the Grøndalshuset (1892)
Evicted (1892, Danish National Gallery)
A wounded worker (1895, Danish National Gallery)
A lecture in the Dagmar Hall, Askov Folk High School (1903, Ribe Art Museum)