J. C. Jacobsen and Carlsberg
The story of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek cannot be told without relating the story of the Jacobsen Family, and their story cannot be told without mention of the Carlsberg Brewery. The Carlsberg Brewery was founded in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen (1811-1887) and became an important and extremely profitable business thanks to new industrial processes in the making of beer.
Personal wealth and public philanthropy
The impressive profits allowed J. C. Jacobsen to finance the rebuilding of the Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød north of Copenhagen after it was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1859. The castle was subsequently turned into a museum of national history. Thus, J. C. Jacobsen introduced the Jacobsen family’s idea of using personal wealth for public philanthropy.
Conflict between father and son
However, his reason for doing so was not merely benevolent charity, but an outcome of a bitter conflict with his only son, Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914). Instead of letting Carl be the heir of his fortune, he created the Carlsberg Foundation in 1876 and made it his principle heir. The Foundation was to promote an awareness of history and an appreciation of beauty.
In 1882 Carl Jacobsen founded and achieved economic independence with his own brewery, the Ny Carlsberg Brewery. The rivalry between father and son was not limited to brewing beer, but was extended to their respective acts of philanthropy. While J. C. Jacobsen believed in the educational importance of history, Carl believed in the refining capacities of art.
Carl Jacobsen´s collection of art
Carl Jacobsen collected works of art, first by contemporary Danish sculptors who followed in the footsteps of the renowned Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), then painters of the Danish Golden Age, French Salon sculptors, and finally also works of ancient art. In 1882, he opened his home to visitors, making his private collection public.
The necessity of a museum
With the continued expansion of his collection, Carl Jacobsen and his Scottish wife Ottilia (1854-1904) decided to donate the more contemporary part of their collection to the public in a deed of gift. It was signed on March 8th 1888, the day after the birth of their seventh child, Thorvald. For this collection, a museum was required, and thus the idea of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek was born.
The brink of ruin
The first section of the museum, built by the architect Vilhelm Dahlerup, opened in 1897.
In 1899, a new deed of gift bequeathed the collection of ancient art to the museum, which was then in need of an enlargement. However, Carl Jacobsen’s extensive purchases of art had brought his brewery to the brink of ruin.
The Ny Carlsberg Foundation
In 1902, Carl Jacobsen donated the Ny Carlsberg Brewery to his father’s foundation, on the condition that a Ny Carlsberg Foundation was created. This agreement allowed Carl Jacobsen to loan money from the Carlsberg Foundation to finance the extension of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which was inaugurated in 1906.
The son, Helge Jacobsen
Carl Jacobsen’s son, Helge (1882-1946), was to continue the Jacobsen family tradition. When the first-born son Alf died at the age of ten, he became the eldest child, and the heir to the Carlsberg line. Helge, like his father, was fond of art, and would probably have pursued studies in art history if his role had been a different one.
In the footsteps of his father
As his father before him, he was moulded as a brewer and a businessman, and received a strict upbringing away from home, first in Birkerød north of Copenhagen, then in England to study modern brewing techniques.
Director of the Glyptotek
Again in the footsteps of his father, he found his bride in Edinburgh: Josephine, the daughter of a Scottish banker. Following Carl Jacobsen’s death in 1914, Helge became director and chairman of the Glyptotek, the latter of which he remained until his death in 1946.
An interest in painting
While his father had had a predilection for sculpture, Helge’s heart was set on Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. He started transforming the Glyptotek’s collections, purging them of plaster casts and replicas, switching the focus from Salon sculpture to Modernist painting.
Helge Jacobsen´s collection of art
In 1914, he was one of the main organisers of an exhibition of French Modernist art from Manet to Matisse at Statens Museum for Kunst (The Danish National Gallery). Because of the outbreak of World War I, the works remained for an extended period of time in Copenhagen, allowing for several of them to be purchased by Danish collectors, and among them naturally Helge Jacobsen himself.
In 1927, two years after he had resided as director of the museum, he bequeathed his extensive private collection of French nineteenth- and twentieth-century art to the Glyptotek, thereby continuing the Jacobsen family tradition.
The benefactors of the Glyptotek
To this day, the Carlsberg Foundation and the Ny Carlsberg Foundation remain the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s most important benefactors. Thanks to the Jacobsen family, their funds not only benefit the museum they naturally are affiliated with, but art and culture in all of Denmark.