Simony-Jensen, Olaf (1864-1923)

Simony-Jensen, Olaf (1864-1923)

Danish artist Olaf Simony-Jensen had a penchant for capturing the whimsical character of everyday life. Although little is known about this artist, there are some clues to be found about him in the large oeuvre of genre scenes that he produced.

Predominantly, Simony-Jensen executed interior scenes. These had become popular in Denmark since the Danish Golden Age of Painting in the first half of the 19th-Century. Contemporary to Simony-Jensen, Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) was increasing the popularity of interiors. As industrialisation grew, a fondness for the everyday, traditional folk life became desirable in art.

Simony-Jensen certainly lives up to this desire, and his humongous artistic output suggests much about the audience that were willing to purchase such art. His works are executed with a whimsy and strength of character which is very appealing. People gathered in inns or around the hearth in the home are depicted with a rosy jubilance. Despite the oftentimes wan and earthy gloom of their surroundings, smiles are common, and Simony-Jensen utilises highlights of brighter colours to inflect his interiors with even more warmth. There is a realism in these depictions, in the shadows which fall across rooms and in the posturing of his subjects, and yet a cheeky spirit which transcends each painting and becomes an artistic signature.

Simony-Jensen might have derived inspiration from the Skagen painters, an artist colony active in the latter half of the 19th-Century. This group drew upon much inspiration from the impressionists and the naturalist tendencies of the Barbizon School in France. Retreating to the northern-most tip of Denmark, they gained inspiration from the everyday and from their natural surroundings. Simony-Jensen often depicts sailors, dressed for their trade against a background of an azure sea. In these works, he is incredibly reminiscent of Skagen painter Kristian Krohg (1852-1925). One wonders if he perhaps travelled to Skagen for a period of time.
Whilst it is unfortunate that the details of Simony-Jensen’s life have been lost to time, his works speak volumes about the great character and energy he put into his passion.





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