Troels Brandt – portrait painter

Troels Brandt (1909-1992) came to Greenland in 1938, and he drew and painted portraits of Greenlanders and Danes. At Nuuk Art Museum, you will find two paintings – two portraits of two Greenlanders.

The artworks are painted with thick visible strokes, but are at the same time very detailed. Going up close, you will discover, that the color isn’t just one, but many. The paintings are figurative in their motive and in their recognizability, but is also abstract and dissolved in the broad strokes and many nuances of color.

Troels Brandt received his diploma from an art academy in Denmark and came to Qeqertarsuaq in 1938 to work for the magister Morten P. Porsild at the Arctic Station, where he among other things was to draw plants. He was supposed to travel back to Denmark in 1940, but he had to stay for another five years because of the war in Europe at the time. From 1940 to 1943, he worked different places on the west coast of Greenland. In 1943 he was hired as a controller in Qassiarsuk – close to the American base in Narsarsuaq. In the fall of 1945 he went back to Denmark, but he visited Greenland repeatedly later on.

He found the models in the local area. In his diary – which is published as a book by Atuagkat – there is nothing citing that the portraits were done as commission pieces. Nor are there bigger reflections about his portraits or his art in his diaries – most often, it is a registration, that now he drew this or that person.

One of Nuuk Art Museum’s portraits is of a man on a bright background. It is Edvard from Narsaq. It is painted in November 1941in Qaqortoq. Troels Brandt has played with the light and the shadows in Edvards bright hair. Looking closely, you will find that the hair is almost a glowing dark blue today. There is no way of knowing if his hair has been blue from the beginning. The other portrait is a grey-haired elderly woman on a matte green background – a sort of odd choice for a background color, which is often repeated in many of Brandts portraits. It is painted in 1943 in Igaliko, and is of Inger Olsen.

His diary is primarily overviews of excursions by sleigh or hiking, and overviews of the weather, the company he had, people and landscape. But specifically his landscapedescriptions are colorful – especially those in Southern Greenland. Here, there are three examples of Troels Brand’s registration of and understanding of the colors, which in many ways make their way into his portrait paintings:

Yesterday, I was out with the box to paint the Southern Greenlandic high summer, with dominating and strong yellow and green field colors, something violet and red rocks, glowing green water, and light white summer clouds.*

This morning I was out painting: the beginnings of yellowed fall colors, red and violet rocks.*

This morning I was out with the painting box and I painted a landscape with the snow bright from the sun and blue shadows, yellow and brown land spots, grey and red rocks, a Greenlandic hut and distant blue mountains against a blue sky.*

* Troels Brandt – Dagbog fra Grønland 1938-1945, Forlaget Atuagkat, 1999.