Danish painters

Ib Spang Olsen (1921-2012)

Danish illustrator, who was a great friend of and never forgot the dirty, rugged naked man-eating troll of early folklore.despite a very busy career spanning many decades.

Here is one of his (as usual quite scary and hairy and very un-Bauersque) trolls:

Plus a smirky couple:

and another scruffy troll from his and Halfdan Rasmussen's now classic ABC:

Ernst Køie (1872-1960)

Danish artist from the island of Bornholm, who throughout his life drew many of the island's local trolls.

Herman Stilling (1925-1996)

Danish painter who spent most of his life painting and writing about trolls. You can see his work in his own museum, the Herman Stilling Museum in Copenhagen. Stilling's trolls may seem 'arty' at first sight, but are closely related to both Asger Jorn's and Lundbye's Danish trolls - which are clearly projections of the artists themselves, stripped bare of civilisation and modernity - all that is left is their pure natural, instinctual, maybe even sensual being as "trolls". Or that is at least how I choose to interpret them.

Here is one his paintings, borrowed from the above site, called "Red Troll":

Another one simply entitled "A Troll" (1976):

And here is a painting from 1969 of a resting troll:

A small "Troll in Forest":

Hermann Stilling Trold i Skov

A troll and a mermaid:

Here's an engraving from 1950 called "Troll which digests" (notice the human inside him):

And finally a troll girl by the name of Emma from one of his funny troll stories:

Niels Skovgaard (1858-1938)

Danish book illustrator, son of P. C. Skovgaard, Danish landscape painter, and brother of Joakim Skovgaard, famous for his wall paintings in Viborg Cathedral. Niels Skovgaard has illustrated many books, incl. Icelandic sagas and Axel Olrik's collection of Danish myths and fairytales, Danske Sagn og Æventyr fra Folkemunde (1913) - check out his illustrations for the story Skalle here. Here are a few other trolls from Olrik's collection:

See full illustration here

And finally a design for a plate with a subject from an old folk song - the Giant Bermer ('rise' being another word for 'giant') and the young hero Orm.

H. A. Brendekilde (1857-1942)

Danish painter, well-known for dark social realist themes and naturalist winter landscapes, but the underworld also preoccupied him, esp. as the illustrator of Wilhelm Bergsøe's retold folktales about the Danish Nisse (pixie), but here is a rare and rather wild looking troll of his with a certain reminiscence of Louis Moe's style.

Next a painting from 1888 called “Troll at a Barrow at Dusk” (54 x 71 cm) - a quite dark and gloomy picture:

Here is a personal christmas card by H. A. Brendekilde with a goblin/troll/dwarf, seemingly on a drinking picnic with an owl.

Expressionist Troll Painters

Asger Jorn (1914-1973), Richard Mortensen (1910-1993) and the Dutch painter Lucebert (1924-1994) were all modernist painters painting in an expressive style.

Asger Jorn returned to the subject of troll several times through his career, celebrating the childhood vision, using oil and lithography instead of crayon to visualise the uncivilised monsters that World War II and the Cold War revoked.

First Trold (1955):

And here is one called Trolden og fuglene (The Troll and the Birds) from 1948 (the troll is on the left side):


A second Danish abstract painter that also touched on the subject of troll in the development of his abstract language was Richard Mortensen. Here is a great example of a traditional violent troll rendered in a modern visual language:

Richard Mortensen Trold

Finally, a great gouache from 1973 by Lucebert called "Trolls":

Louis Moe (1857-1945)

"A troll looks like a human and in many cases a human is a troll!"
(Louis Moe in an interview)

A good craftsman, Louis Moe was Norwegian by birth, but spent most of his career in Denmark where he studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen and became a Danish citizen in his later years. One of his most famous works is Ragnarok, an illustrated account of the Norse myth of apocalypse or Doomesday (see example). But he also illustrated the beautiful Darwinian fairy tales of Carl Ewald and various children's books incl. picture stories about Santa Claus on the North Pole, the Sea King and the Troll king and his family (see below). He also illustrated Emma Kraft's book of children's songs called 'Mellem Trolde' (Amongst Trolls) from 1896, where you find this little running troll:

Here are some other examples of his great artistic talent, both with etchings and ink drawings. First a troll or perhaps faun (a Greek demigod that was also popular in late 19th century art):

Then a naughty troll child:

Moe was also a great bear painter as the following two works show:

Moe mainly painted troll children (maybe as a result of not having any children of his own?). In this etching from 1933 we see a big brother dancing for his little sister:

Then the cover and one illustration from Troldebogen (The Troll Book), a story about a troll family that doesn't wake up when their cat eats the rooster that usually awakens them at sunset. Louis Moe didn't just illustrate other writers' stories, but also wrote his own while waiting for new assignments. This is one example:

Moe also drew many one page cartoons like the following from 1924 about a poor little troll that noone wants to play with:

Lille Trold by Louis Moe
(click for bigger version)

Moe could however also draw more wild looking trolls like the three sleepy ones on the painting below (from around 1918). are the Trolls awakening after the terrors of World War I:

Awakening by Louis Moe 1918

Let us end this quick exhibition of Moe's great troll art with this etching from 1923 of trolls being swept away by a gigantic brush - held by whom? The artist, history, Christianity? You decide!

Trolls Being Swept Away 1923

C. O. Zeuthen (1812-1890)

Here is a very rare pencil drawing/water colour of trolls/pixies dancing and playing music. It is dated 1856 and the artist is mainly known for his wall paintings in various houses in Copenhagen. The picture is called "Troldtøj" which in Danish is the collective name for trolls, pixies, dwarfs and similar. They wear the traditional red cap that later became associated with the christmas pixie but that trolls originally also wore in rural folklore.

Not great art, but trollologically of great interest!

Lorenz Frölich (1820-1908)

Danish illustrator whose classical training and classicist style is reflected in this picture of Ymer, the first troll according to Norse mythology.

Alfred Schmidt (1858-1938)

A Danish political caricaturist and illustrator. His first trolls from 1915 illustrated a story in a funny magazine about a Norwegian art exhibition in Denmark, where a symphony seemingly made the trolls so scared that they immediately ran home to their Norwegian mountains.

Schmidt also captured trolls' political potential, eg. in the following caricature from 1926 of a Danish trade union leader as an awakening troll getting ready to act against striking workers:

Arne Bang (1901-1983)

Danish sculpturer and ceramicist, best known for his sculpture of the so-called Fladså-trold in Næstved, Southern Sealand, a troll who was very angry at the loud church bells in the town and decided to drown it in sand, but on his way to the town, the sand fell out of his sack and created a big hill. The troll now guards the town hall.

Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818-1848)

Lundbye's alterego, the cavetroll Sindre, shortly before Lundbye went to war and got killed.

Johan Thomas Lundbye, a respected landscape painter, was maybe the first serious Scandinavian artist who became occupied, if not obsessed, with folklore. Having painted many of Denmark's burial mounds from the Bronze Age in a fresh naturalistic style, he became interested in their inhabitants, the hill trolls, with whom he identified in his sketchbooks, Troldom og Hule-Tanker (Magic and Cave Thoughts), reprinted 1955, produced shortly before his far too early death in 1848, only 30 years old, during the war between Denmark and Prussia. He invented the cave troll Sindre as his alterego. Lundbye also illustrated Just Mathias Thiele's collection of Danish folk tales inspired by the Grimm Brothers. Lundbye's troll resemble other artists' elves or pixies, tailless and attractive, wearing a red cap and smoking a pipe, but this may be closer to how trolls were viewed in traditional folklore than how John Bauer and other late-Romantic artists chose to interpret them a few decades later when symbolism reigned. Sindre is however first and foremost Lundbye himself.

Sindre and a Stork

Sindre in the Forest

Sindre and a farm pixie eating porridge

You can see some of his landscape paintings here.

Here is an illustration from J. M. Thiele's Danish Folktales of a "dwarf" borrowing beer and later returning with more beer that brings good luck. Dwarf - troll - nisse, in the folk tales generic distinctions between the supernaturals don't matter, they are just different and powerful.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

The great Danish fairy tale writer also did paper cuttings. Here is one of a troll guarded by four soldiers from a picture book he made for a girl called Christine and which you can see here.

Suzette Cathrine Holten (1863-1937)

Danish ceramicist. The ceramic sculpture below from 1888 is called "The Troll Which Emptied the Lake":

Mogens Zieler (1905-1983)

Danish painter, famous for his simple style and esp. his cats but he was also a good and original troll painter as the two pictures below show. His work can be found in Horsens Art Museum in Denmark.

Niels Hansen-Jacobsen (1861-1941)

("Troll Scenting Christian Blood" from 1896)

Danish sculptor occupied with the Underworld, rather seen in biblical than folklore terms. World famous in the small Jutland town of Vejen.

L. Mahler - Krølle Bølle

A famous Danish troll, Krølle Bølle, from the Danish island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, drawn and written by a L. Mahler. The text next to the picture is a curse, Krølle Bølle learns from his father, the Troll King, and that he uses to protect himself whenever he is in danger - until he, unfortunately, runs into a deaf person who doesn't like his manners... The big smoked herring is the national dish of the island by the way! Bornholm also has many traditional troll stories.

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