Running all the way from Rosenlundskanalen southeast to Götaplatsen is the wide, cobbled length of Kungsportsavenyn. Known more simply as Avenyn, this “avenue” teems with life and is Gothenburg’s showiest thoroughfare. The ground floor of almost every grand old nineteenth-century home has been converted into a café, bar or restaurant, which the young and beautiful inhabit whilst sipping overpriced drinks and posing at tables that, from mid-spring to September, spill out onto the street. Avenyn is arguably one of the best places in the city for people-watching, and no visit to Gothenburg is complete without a stroll down it. At the southern end of the avenue on Götaplatsen is the fascinating Konstmuseum, which contains a fine collection of international art from various periods.
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Behind Poseidon stands Götaplatsen’s most impressive attraction, the superb Konstmuseum, its massive, symmetrical facade reminiscent of the fascist architecture of 1930s Germany. This is one of the city’s finest museums, and it’s easy to spend half a day absorbing the diverse and extensive collections, the highlights of which are picked out below. A delightful little park, Näckrosdammen, lies just behind the museum; with its late-spring rhododendrons and big, duck-filled pond, it’s a lovely place for a stroll.
On the ground floor, to the left of the ticket desk, the Hasselblad Center contains excellent exhibitions of contemporary photography. Displays are temporary and aim to showcase the work of internationally renowned photographers as well as those from up-and-coming Nordic artists.
European and Swedish collections
The Konstmuseum’s collections of European art date from fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries and fill a total of six rooms. Pride of place is taken by Rembrandt’s Knight with Falcon, although Rubens is also well represented with works such as Adoration of the Magi on display. Elsewhere, you’ll find paintings by the celebrated masters of French Impressionism and artists closely linked to them: Monet, Gauguin, Renoir and Cézanne, for example. Look out, in particular, for Van Gogh’s Olive Grove, Saint Rémy from 1899 which is widely considered to be one of the artist’s most powerful works in terms of vitality and expression. Collections of Swedish art are dominated by Alexander Roslin who is represented by a portrait of French aristocrats and a group portrait of the well-to-do Grill family.
Best of all, and the main reason to visit, are the Fürstenberg Galleries on the top floor, which celebrate the work of some of Scandinavia’s most prolific and revered early twentieth-century artists; well-known works by Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn and Carl Wilhelmson reflect the seasons and landscapes of the Nordic countries, and evoke a vivid picture of Scandinavian life at that time. Paintings to look out for include Larsson’s Lilla Suzanne, which touchingly depicts the elated face of a baby and is one of his most realistic works; Anders Zorn’s Bathers, flushed with a pale pink summer glow and exemplifying the painter’s feeling for light and the human form; and the sensitive portraits by Ernst Josephson, most notably his full-length portrait of Carl Skånberg – easily mistaken for the young Winston Churchill. The Danish artist Peter Kroyer’s marvellous Hip Hip Hooray again plays with light, and a couple of works by Hugo Birger also deserve your attention. One depicts the interior of the original Fürstenberg Gallery, while his massive Scandinavian Artists’ Breakfast in Paris, dominating an entire wall, puts some faces to the artists’ names – a pamphlet in the room will help identify them. Also worth a look is an entire room of Larsson’s bright, fantastical wall-sized paintings.