SMK Open
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SMK Open

Happy Public Domain month 2021!

This year, we welcome the turn of the year with excitement for several reasons — the obvious one being that we left 2020 behind — but also because a host of new, outstanding artists are now part of the Public Domain.

Artists who passed away in 1950 have now officially entered the Public Domain. At SMK, we’re especially excited to share our collection of Vilhelm Lundstrøm (1893–1950) with you. In our online collection SMK Open, you’ll find no less than 156 pictures* for free download by one of the biggest names in Danish modernism. Lundstrøm experimented profoundly with his style and radically changed it several times throughout his artistic career.

Three periods of Lundstrøm

His works fall into three main periods: First up was the cubist period from 1916–18, where he drew inspiration from French cubism and experimented with mundane materials like roughly cut scraps of wood and paper. He caused a veritable scandal with his so-called packing box pictures that were deemed to be an expression of mental illness by professor of bacteriology Carl Julius Salomonsen in his infamous 1919 lecture on Dysmorphism in art.

Lundstrøm’s second period from 1919–1923 is dubbed the ‘curly period’ due to his voluptuous curly brushstrokes and oddly undulating way of depicting objects and figures alike. This too was a period of experimentation and playfulness, based in a newfound optimism after the end of World War I that caused new artistic ideas to flourish. During this time, Lundstrøm gained a reputation as a young genius, but so far only within a narrow circle of likeminded artists.

His third period, however, would earn Lundstrøm a place among the absolute classics of Danish art. Starting in 1923 and lasting right to the end of his life, it’s called the ‘purist period’ — for obvious reasons. His motifs became simplistic and monumental, purified of any interfering details and boiled down to their very essence. Objects as well as human figures were constructed around the basic geometric shapes — the sphere, the cube, the cylinder — and appear like monumental sculptures rather than mundane things and living human beings.

His friend, the author Otto Gelsted, has captured Lundstrøm’s puristic style in these words:

“He perceives man monumentally, as sculpture. He simplifies and enlarges in order to let the body of the shape curve with all its strength […] In Lundstrøm’s hands, quite mundane motifs gain a mystical power and through its brilliance, the colour obtains an overwhelming force.”

For years, we’ve had a fabulous collaboration with Danish Wikipedia, dedicated to enriching the information about art and culture. Thanks to the Wiki Labs Culture community, just a few days into the new year the Wikipedia article on Lundstrøm is already overflowing with images that could now legally be added to illustrate his biography in the open encyclopaedia.

Impressive sculptures

Apart from Vilhelm Lundstrøm, we’re excited to see the magnificent sculptural work of Rudolph Tegner (1873–1950) enter the Public Domain. We just have one of his works available for download in the SMK collection, but it’s the stunning Sepulchral Monument to the Artist’s Mother from 1899. You can also enjoy one of his key works, The Victory (1921), shared in Europeana by the Rudolph Tegner Museum and Sculpture Park which is uniquely located in a nature reserve north of Copenhagen.

Expressive paintings and drawings

Finally, one of the great artists of German Expressionism, Max Beckmann (1884–1950) has also joined the Public Domain. This January, Beckmann’s works have become much more useful because of their new copyright-free status, but alas — the three works we hold of Beckmann in the SMK collection have not been photographed. Yet! They are now queued up for digitisation as soon as our photographer is permitted to go back to work in at the museum. In the meantime, you can relish in a large number of openly available works by Beckmann at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.**

Entering a new year is always a good occasion to check our online collection and see, if the artists that are now freely usable are also accessible. We hope you’ll enjoy our ever more open collection, and we can’t wait to share new stories of artists entering the Public Domain next year!

* There are 209 works in total by Lundstrøm in SMK Open. Of these, 177 are photographed. However, a portion of graphic works were published by Axel Salto, who is in copyright. That’s why only 156 images are available for free download. Tick off the boxes ‘Free to use’ and ‘With photo’ to find the public domain images.

** The Städel Museum provides images of works of art in the public domain under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license (Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike). This means that you may freely use the images, but you have to give proper attribution, and if you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.



Making the National Gallery’s art collection freely available to everyone — for any purpose, ranging from fun to serious production. The objective is to make art relevant to more people. The project is made possible by Nordea-fonden.

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Merete Sanderhoff

Curator/Senior Advisor of digital museum practice @smkmuseum. Art historian, OpenGLAMer, chair of Europeana Network, initiator of Sharing is Caring.