In 1895, Marie Krøyer gave birth to her only child with husband P.S. Krøyer, daughter Vibeke. Demanding perfection of herself in every realm, Marie never achieved a balance between painting, motherhood, and domestic responsibilities. Overwhelmed, she gave up painting by the end of the 1890s. Unlike her fellow women painters in Skagen, Marie doubted the future of women in the arts: “I sometimes think that the whole effort is in vain, we have far too much to overcome … what significance does it really have if I paint, I shall never, never achieve anything really great … I want to believe in our cause, even if at times it may be terribly difficult.”¹
Marie redirected her artistic energy to the interior design of her homes in Copenhagen and Skagen. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, she designed furniture and fireplaces, wove furniture fabrics, cushion covers and tablecloths, refitted kitchens, and stained wall panels. Some of her designs sparked new trends in Skagen and beyond: the Ancher family’s Brøndum’s Hotel in Skagen commissioned new furniture based on her designs, and Ulrik Plesner (1861–1933), the architect who brought Marie’s designs to fruition, often used her plans as inspiration for his work.
During this time, Marie suffered the deterioration of her marriage. Plagued by mental illness, Krøyer spent much time in a mental hospital. In 1902, a weary Marie traveled to Sicily for a rest where she met the dashing Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén (1872–1960). They began a passionate affair, and Marie petitioned Krøyer for a divorce—a request he refused until Marie became pregnant by Alfvén in 1905. In 1906, Marie gave birth to daughter, Margita, and cohabited scandalously with Alfvén until their marriage in 1912. Notoriously unfaithful, Alfvén humiliated Marie with numerous affairs. After 10 years of courtroom disputes, the couple divorced in 1936. Lonely and dismayed by unaccomplished artistic dreams, Marie died in 1940.
Best known during her life for her beauty, marriage, and personal drama, Marie was not recognized as an artist in her own right until 1986, when her daughter Vibeke died, leaving many of Marie’s paintings to be purchased by the Skagens Museum. To the delight and surprise of the art world, Marie Triepcke Krøyer has emerged as talented, capable artist, who, had her potential been realized, could have been among the greatest of the Skagen artists.
—Raphael Fitzgerald is an art historian and researcher.
1. Ska, & Gl. Holtega. (n.d.). Portraits of a marriage: Marie and P. S. Krøyer. (DCWA‑1 T, Ed.). Denmark: Gl. Holtegaard/Skagens Museum, p. 113.
Other Works Consulted
Ebbesen, L. V., Jensen, M. B., & Johansen, A. (2009). The Skagen Painters: Introduction to the Skagen Painters and Skagens Museum. Skagens Museum.
Svanholm, L. (2004). Northern Light – The Skagen Painters. Gyldendal.