The painter, lithographic artist and sculptor Poul Rytter was born in Copenhagen on 20th September 1895. His father was the late military musician R. P. Rytter, and his mother was Marie Rytter, born Merrild. Both parents came of strong Jutlandic stocks, that have produced recognized artists such as the female author Tove Kjarval, born Merrild - a cousin of Poul Rytter - and ballet master at The Royal Theatre, Carl Merrild, also a cousin.
In the marriage between R.P.Rytter and Marie Merrild there are, besides the son Poul - the eldest - two other sons. Like Poul Rytter both have chosen the artist's way - not as painters but as musicians. One is the wellknown and highly esteemed pianist Max Rytter, the other is the gifted, but too early departed, cellist in the Danish Broadcasting Orchestra, Erik Rytter. As to Poul Rytter his father had decided already from the outset that he was to become a violinist, but the violin and Poul Rytter never made close friends. Much more than strum on the violin Poul Rytter loved to whittle "funny" figures from a piece of wood, to draw, to play with colours, etc..
The result was that Poul Rytter gave up his violin studies and was put into an apprenticeship as a house painter, so he - as the saying goes - would have something to fall back on if his artistic talents turned out to be insufficient. Now a toilsome time began involving regular work and transporting paint pots on a handcart. Rytter learned his painting trade from the bottom, and he learned it well. Yet he soon realized that this way of life did not give him any satisfaction, and that his fantasy's urge for forming lied fallow. With the uncompromising attitude and energy, which charactarize Rytter's artistic physiognomy, he also this time breaks off and changes to a new occupation.
He throws away the big brushes, applies for and is admitted to the Academy, where his teachers are Julius Paulsen and Viggo Johansen. From now on the way is clear. The academy life and fruitful interaction with his fellow students fully absorbs him. After having finished his Academy education Poul Rytter now, like his fellow students, starts his artistic career by sending in his works for evaluation by the strict censorship to the yearly recurring art exhibitions.
In 1916 he succeeded in conquering the censorship, and from now on he becomes a Member of "Kunstnernes Efteraarsudstilling" where he exhibits in 1916-18-20-29-33-35. Almost simultaneously (in 1919) he submits works to and is admitted to "Charlottenborg", where , until 1939, he is represented as a lithographic artist, a painter and a sculptor in exhibitons in as well the Spring as the Autumn exhibition. Considerations of space forbids me to go into details concerning Poul Rytter's total and abundant production. It is also premature to make an evaluation of this production at a time where the Artist is still in the middle of his full productive capacity.
However, the purpose of this sketchy outline is to inform briefly about the area of Poul Rytter's artistic achievements, where he already has gained recognition as the outstanding artist he is - the graphics. As a graphic artist Poul Rytter is already known far beyond the borders of Denmark. Before the age of 30 he has exhibited in London, Amsterdam and USA. Later in Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm.
In 1923 he sells several wood engravings to the British Museum, London. The same year he also becomes plentiful represented at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The wood engravings sold are Marabou storks - Parrots - Old Tree - Group of Trees - Owl - Resting Marabou. A similar number of his works are bought by the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in 1926.
These sales give him a tremendous push forward. The art press from abroad starts getting interested in his production. The English art magazine The Studio reproduces several of his wood engravings, and the same year he is mentioned in a work about the best graphics in the world, published in London. Also, domestic acknowledgement does not fail to come. In 1928 his wood engravings are bought by "Selskabet for Grafisk Kunst", Copenhagen. He receives the Academy's Travelling Scholarship and leaves for Paris. Returned from there he exhibits in "Den Internationale Grafikudstilling",Copenhagen, and in "Aarhushallen", Jutland etc. Furthermore, in the course of time he has become a member of "Kunstnerforbundet", "Foreningen af 18. November", "Grafisk Kunstnersamfund" and "Kunstnersamfundets Malersektions Charlottenborg Malere".
It is characteristic that the work with woodcuts, this peculiar art form, the result of which - the so-called wood engraving - in itself probably combines three art forms: Drawing, Sculpture and Bookprint - in the course of time becomes Poul Rytter's most distinguished and proper forum. According to himself there exists between him, the knife and the wood a somehow mysterious connection, a deep love, as if in previous reincarnations he had been a primitive woodcutter. Everything comes to him so easily that there are no problems. I myself have seen him work out rather big wood figures using only a penknife and a chisel and without sketch of any kind he rushes straight to the wooden block. It was marvellous.
And then we have his big love for and interest in the animals he portraits. He does not just "draw" them, he experiences them directly with their entire furry animal soul and body. His form is plain, insistent, primitive and strong. When he depicts an owl, then it is not the owl which happens to sit there at the moment that becomes the result. Far more it is The Owl of all Times and all Owl Generations with its primitive instinct - predatory instinct - shining from its calm, experience-loaded look, and characterized in every surface, in every line. -
For those who do not know Poul Rytter's animal woodcuts, this portfolio will be a great experience. And those who have already earlier experienced them will certainly again get enthusiastic about the woodcuts showing owls, cockatoos, parrots or cats - because in this area Poul Rytter is the Master, and for a Master one have to bow one's head.
Poul Rytter is now 47 years of age and has a great production to look back upon. Therefore, this year's publication of the present portfolio - by Henry Thejls, teacher at "Fagskolen for Boghaandværk" and "Chr. Sørensens Stentrykkeri" - is not only a very deserving act; it is a legitimate demand that has hereby been honoured.
Copenhagen, 19th December 1942
English translation by Lis & Verner Markussen, Luxemborg