Traveling Images: On Carl Rasmussen’s “Greenland Paintings”

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In 1870–71, the Danish painter Jens Erik Carl Rasmussen traveled to Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland). Not much is known about the visit, yet his travels to Nuuk and Maniitsoq provided the artist with visual material for his paintings for more than twenty years afterwards. One outcome of Rasmussen’s travel was the work Midnight Atmosphere by the Coast of Greenland. The Danish Royal Gallery acquired this painting, an idealized imagination of a colonial setting, in 1872, where the work came to represent the first collection of a “Greenlandic” motif. Subsequently, this artwork continued to travel in and out of other political settings, such as the 1931 colonial exhibition in Paris. This article follows the trajectory of Rasmussen’s Midnight Atmosphere through the archives and through its institutional settings in order to consider how images travel and how travels create images. It is argued that while the itinerary of the artist remained entangled within the colonial system, the trajectory in and through various institutions was similarly central to the colonial control of Kalaallit Nunaat as both place and image.
Original languageEnglish
JournalKonsthistorisk Tidskrift
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)106-124
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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