Kroyer was a prime mover in the establishment of the artist’s colony at Skagen, the small village on the Northern tip of Jutland in Denmark where he spent his summer months. Danish painters working here produced a distinctive type of plein air landscape influenced by the empty beaches and clear light.
This particular painting, while it features Skagen’s beach, is a night scene titled Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach.
The 19in x 2ft 7in (48 x 79cm) signed and dated oil canvas was painted in situ on midsummer eve in 1903 as a study for the much larger well known final work of 1906 that is now in the Skagen museum.
The execution is broad and spontaneous and, like some of Monet’s plein air sketches, sand is ingrained in some areas of the paint.
The scene features friends and family and includes other key Skagen artists such as Anna Ancher, who is shown standing in front of the boy seated lower left, and her husband Michael Ancher whose straw-hatted head is just visible to her left. Also depicted is the writer Holger Drachmann and his wife Soffi.
The figural arrangement differs slightly from the finished work which also included Kroyer’s daughter Vibeke, his wife Marie and the Swedish composer Hugo Alven.
This was Kroyer’s final trip to Skagen. At the time of painting the artist was in ill health spending periods in Middelfart mental hospital and was plagued by the failure of his marriage to Marie, who had fallen in love with Alven. Kroyer died three years later in 1909.
The painting, which has a provenance back to 1910 when it was owned by Doctor L. Ortmann, has come from a Danish private collection and was last under the hammer in the same rooms in 1999.
Offered at Bruun Rasmussen’s sale on February 28, it has an estimate of DKr3m-4m (€405,000-540,000).