Today Dürer’s works form part of the museum’s collection of art, and his gift sparked an interest in art at the Danish court. Subsequent generations of kings kept that interest alive, even if their ardour for art and sense of quality varied somewhat.
Over the years the museum’s collection of art has grown steadily to the point where it now numbers more than 260,000 works. Many of the museum’s modern works were donated by major art collectors.
For example, the museum’s collection of French art holds a unique position in Denmark and internationally because the engineer Johannes Rump donated his collection of French art to the museum in 1927, including 25 works by Henri Matisse.
In 1959 the museum received an extensive bequest of paintings, watercolours, and graphic art from the artist Emil Nolde upon his death. Only the Nolde Foundation in Seebüll owns a more important collection of his art.
Since 1985 the museum’s collection of Danish contemporary art has also been supplemented by international art. Specific criteria apply to the purchase of international art: it must have had an impact on the Danish art scene. Great emphasis is placed on the interplay between Danish and international art when the most recent art is presented at the SMK.