Thomas Kluge's new portrait of the Danish royal family

Thomas Kluge’s new portrait of the Danish royal family (via

You may have thought the Kate Middleton debacle was enough bad royal portrait news for one year, but no, there’s more. Behold, a new portrait of the Danish royal family.

I’m really not sure where to start with this one — the art historical background that transforms into a deep, dark black hole? The supremely eerie lighting? The tiny man mounted on a tiny horse at the bottom? Or is it the the way Prince Christian looks just like Chuckie?

Prince Christian or Chuckie? (Chuckie via)

Prince Christian or Chuckie? (Chuckie image via blogspot)

The work was painted by artist Thomas Kluge, and the Danish Royal Collections website explains that it’s a reference to another Danish royal family portrait, a work by Laurits Tuxen from the 1880s. That one is considerably less terrifying:

Laurits Tuxen's portrait of Christian IX and Queen Louise and their family from the 1880s

Laurits Tuxen’s portrait of Christian IX and Queen Louise and their family from the 1880s (via

The Royal Collections website also offers this prime piece of artspeak by way of an explanation of Kluge’s style:

In his works the precise depiction of humans and objects known from reality forms part of a universe which challenges the interpretations of the spectator, as they encompass something other and deeper than immediate, accurate likeness.

Still, I have to say, I give props to the Danish royal family for branching out a little and giving “magical realism” (their description) a try, rather than the standard photorealism used for these types of paintings. It may be really awkward and really creepy … but at least it’s something different?

h/t Henry Chalian

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

8 replies on “Another Royal Portrait Disaster”

  1. Anyone notice the two oldest in the painting both look like they are healing up from facelifts. WTF is that? I would put that guy in a tower for such a portrait. Looks like a poster for a royal family chainsaw massacre.

  2. I actually kind of love it.
    And I particularly love that they accept it as it is, despite the fact people ridicule it.

  3. I really like it. The painter has the talent to take the painting further than the traditional family portrait. I am a photographer. When taking a family shot, it is difficult to go beyond the standardized portrait set-up. So many photographers take the safe route, and present the client with a technically correct but dull as can be shot. I am guilty on some occasions of doing the same. Sometimes, and usually after getting a clue from the client, I stretch the boundaries, and try to convey a sense of the family dynamics in the shot. The shot may not be technically correct. The lighting may be off, the composition a bit unconventional,the subjects expressions less than flattering, but there is a certain feeling that comes out of the shot- a feeling that hopefully expresses that family’s dynamics. It’s hard to do.

    This painting is great. It goes beyond the dull and uninteresting. I like how the grandparents in the center are both relaxed and proud. I like how the individual families are in their own world. I like how the front center kid has all that history behind him, and a whole life in front of him.

    A portrait like this is a collaboration between the artist and the subject. Equal praise goes to Kluge for stepping outside the norm, and to the Danish royal family, for allowing him to!

  4. Goya also accepted royal commissions, ostensibly to glorify the Spanish royal family, but he savagely satirised them while consummating it … perhaps this is what the Danish royal portrait aims to do.

  5. HORRIBLE. Poorly executed, cut-and-paste image. Might as well have presented a giclee of the terrible Photoshop comp this surely came from.

  6. Dear Thomas Kluge

    I have just been to Amalienborg to see your new painting ” The Royal Family ” . In my opinion, the painting has several weaknesses , especially one : inconsistency . It is a major problem because the context of a naturalistic group portrait is crucial .

    Your ” Royal Family ” is inconsistent because:

    1. The light coming from different directions . It makes all the characters separated from each other. For example, Prince Christian as the centrally located little boy , light from his left, right and bottom , while the others have the light from different directions.

    Laurits Tuxen’s painting ” King Christian IX and Queen Louise with family in the Garden Room at Fredensborg ” , ( called ” Fredensborg picture ” in my following text ). Here can be seen how the main light falls from the left window and sheds light on the whole group. It keeps the group together.

    H. M. Queen Margrethe notes also in the beautiful book ” Back to Fredengsborg ” (2013) by Thyge Christian Fønss on ” Fredensborg picture ” (p. 173) ” … the lighting is focused on the whole composition . ”

    2. Your ” Royal Family ” has no harmony in color. Let me take Laurits Tuxen’s ” Portrait Study of Crown Princess Louise and Princess Thyra ” as a counter- example . Portrait study is a preliminary study for ” Fredensborg picture ” . Crown Princess Louise goes in red dress . The red color reflects on her face , arm , hand and Princess Thyra’s cheek. Just like I have something of yours, you have something of mine . You may see such color relations in Tuxen’s ” Fredensborg picture ” every where , in this way, even people go in very different kinds of clothes , such a color relation makes harmony , and keeps the group together.

    3. You arrange the characters’ contour almost identical. As if all people are cut in the paper, then you paste them on the canvas. There is inadequate correlation between them . They are separate and seems dead . Again, we can look at Tuxen ” Fredensborg Picture” as a counterexample . The contours are very varied, somewhere emphasized, elsewhere withdrawn in the background or completely disappeared. In ” Fredensborg picture” there are thousands of lines and contours that merge into each other. It creates space, and makes the painting as a whole.

    4. The way you paint – as evidenced by Thyge Christian Fønss’ book ” Back to Fredensborg ” – is “from part to part ” . It’s hard to get the painting as a whole. When you draw or paint a portrait, regardless one person or a group, you need always thinking of a whole, from the beginning until the end , the whole process of painting is similar to developing photo in the old day.

    Painting is about a thousand things, I have here highlighted only one thing ” the whole” . No correlation is a major problem in your painting ” The Royal Family ” .

    You work hard and serious, but you are lack of some basic knowlege and training : fx. . drawing , colour , perspective , anatomy ……

    You would like to learn something , but it was a pity that you were refused three times to enrol the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts .


    Duo Duo Zhuang

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