Sometimes distance adds value by offering a different perspective that is impossible with excessive familiarity and proximity. Someone who knows this well is Inge Lise Rasmussen, of Danish origin and upbringing but a resident of Siena for many years. Currently employed at the university as a language teacher and an experienced translator, Inge Lise has spent many years learning to appreciate and assimilate the colours, contours and light in the landscape around her, influenced by the traditions of Tuscan figurative art and her wider knowledge of the European artistic panorama. Having observed intently, she went straight to the palette to create Mediterranean trees full of northern ambience, silhouettes of birds (dancing cranes, aquatic and rapacious species) and human figures (singers, actors, clownish types and masked performers) not so unlike the colourful renderings of her beloved Hans Christian Andersen. However, the exhibit in Siena’s Magazzini del Sale makes no direct reference to this great author of fairy tales whose work was also significantly influenced by his travels to Italy many years ago.

Rasmussen’s mixed technique allows her to avoid excessively delineating her figures while portraying the colourful spirit of this world, whether in the form of landscapes, flowers, trees or even human figures seen from a new perspective.

I might be wrong, but it would seem that the non-professional origin of Inge Lise’s painting has given her an advantage over many precocious young “masters”. Her brush is free to dance among cultures and impressions, from Gauguin to Macke to Cézanne, to whom she has dedicated pieces, weaving a fascinating tapestry of North and South, with winter beeches and silvery green olive trees, tulips and poppies, humid woodlands and sun-drenched colours.

The winning banner painted for the 1995 Palio in Casole d’Elsa, bearing the wheat stalks and wildflowers so typical of Siena’s countryside thus blend easily with more exotic views from a trip to Turkey, and lonely country houses in Tuscany are natural companions to visions of a somewhat mysterious Venice with its incessant procession of visitors.

This is Europe in the new millennium: a continent with shared traditions, ever-changing but bound together by its sense of family, which Rasmussen portrays in this exhibit with sensitivity, intelligence and elegance almost as if to symbolize her harmonious integration in the city of Siena.

 Maria Antonietta Grignani
Professor of Italian Linguistics
at the University for Foreigners in Siena
and Cultural Commissioner for the Municipality of Siena

October 2005


In this world a vagabond is accompanied by his memory, his experiences and his culture. Our dear artist comes from northern Europe and has endowed our sun-drenched existence with the precious treasure of a faraway civilization full of myths and introspective contemplation. In fact, the mixed-media works by Inge Lise Rasmussen expose us to a hidden world in which oniric images and enchanted dreams blend with instinctive hopes and dreams of creative origin and aspiring to some mysterious authenticity. Within this context, her palette of bright and contrasting colours sends messages through the pictorial registers of a language that feeds off the contrasting effects of simplicity and complexity.

This artist is primarily inspired by mountain landscapes and settings that communicate idyllic experiences of sunny dreams steeped in the naturalistic culture so characteristic of northern countries. Light and colours dominate her compositions, cutting through the winter fog and darkness to reveal the short-lived, intense colours of spring and summer in all their glory. In these creations life and joy overcome the nostalgic melancholy of our human existence.

In the artist’s works mountains, houses and trees, accompanied by occasional human figures, all stand out with their bright colours and linear shapes against a deep blue sky that expresses the harmony of nature’s festive abundance. This original expressive language reveals a dreamy, utopian desire to simplify and symbolically represent the mystery of human existence. In fact, the pictorial works in the exhibition Percorsi di colore display an undeniable continuity with the ongoing developments that have taken place in Inge Lise’s work over the past decades.

To conclude, it should be noted that although Inge Lise is involved in numerous cultural endeavours in addition to painting (such as linguistic work in the academic field), the images in her paintings are particularly free of all cultural complication, achieving the absolute naïveness and eloquent spontaneity of heartfelt existential sensation. In harmony with colour, these sensations dwell in the absolute silence of images that evoke musical inspiration in their arcane allusions to iconic representations.

Aurelio Rizzacasa
Professor of History of Philosophy
at the University of Perugia
September 2005




Few artists are capable of expressing nature’s mystery like Inge Lise Rasmussen, an artist who knows how to wed the mystery of North European landscapes with sweeter, tamer Mediterranean scenery.

So if some paintings are bathed in the shadow of trees dominating a pristine landscape with every brushstroke hinting at the existence of hidden elves or fairies, in others the warm hues of the palette act as a sail, taking us to the sunny shores of the local coastline.

The forest has been an enigma and a symbol for all cultures and civilizations. What was a sacred temple for ancient peoples becomes a place of sweet enchantment in the watercolours by Rasmussen. But these tales are imbued with beauty that cannot be trusted, with happiness ready to turn into sadness.

It is no coincidence that Denmark, the noble land where the artist was born, is also home to Andersen’s stories and the drama of Hamlet.

Both joy and regret persist among the silent trees painted by Inge Lise. Accept this reserved invitation to contemplation, with the awareness that beyond the apparent peacefulness of the branches a fire awaits, and that amidst the leaves gently rustled by the wind, embers burn.

 Riccardo Benucci
February 2004



Strange as it might seem, in the year 2000 Siena witnessed the birth of “l’Accademia dei Lenti” or the “Circolo dei Lenti”, which meets at “Bar Il Palio” in Piazza del Campo, thereby creating a literary café scenario in Siena along the lines of “Giubbe Rosse” in Florence or “Caffè Greco” in Rome. A sizeable group of citizens whose private lives are occupied in a variety of professional fields meet in the afternoon at “Bar Il Palio” to discuss culture, organize field trips, present new literary publications and organize art exhibitions. “I Lenti” have their own statutes and president and have created a sort of free artistic platform without any sort of political affiliation. The “Lenti” group is now extending an invitation to the inauguration of the painting exhibit entitled “Trees” by the artist Inge Lise Rasmussen, born in Denmark but a long-time resident of Siena. She teaches Scandinavian Languages and Literature at Università della Tuscia in Viterbo and German at Università degli Studi di Siena.

“Trees” (the title of the exhibit), is a collection of impressions formed since adolescence by the Danish painter in her innermost consciousness. These northern landscapes are rendered with nostalgia and a new perspective imparted by the influence of warm, magical Tuscany. These paintings are full of imagination. Visions of Mediterranean vegetation are expressed with fleeting, luminous emotion full of poetry and a palette with a complete range of colours. Watercolours and other media are applied and mixed with uncommon precision. These works are never dull or predictable. The “Lenti” group brings us together just like in Rome at the “Caffè Greco” or in Florence at the “Giubbe Rosse”. This is a way for members to meet socially and share both human and cultural values.

Gilberto Madioni
Art critic


What impressed me most upon seeing Inge Lise’s paintings for the first time was how dreamlike her images are, although not in the sense that they expressively reproduce an oneiric experience. Instead, they produce a deconstruction of a dream-like or vaguely fantastic state under painting’s spell. It’s almost as if the means, the prevailing use of temperas and the effect of the colours were intended to remove matter itself; the free use of colours and prevalence of colouring over drawing seem to accentuate a sense of atmosphere and evanescence.

Some mention references to storytelling, but these stories are more closely tied to painting than reality: a forest in Provence is not so much a place of enchantment as the wood painted by Cézanne, full of painted trees and still capable of casting its spell and inspiring new forms of representation. Such is the case of the works inspired by Cézanne, Gauguin or Hokusai, whose smaller format, reduced support and lighter hues combine to create a dreamy effect. But it is not an actual wood or stand of trees that inspires the artist’s dreamy interpretation; rather it is the unreal image of another painting or the sentimental rendering of some colour… The closer Inge Lise observes Cézanne’s trees or bathers, the more she paints the dreams they generate: thus among the vertical trees Inge Lise reveals the profiles of faces or in the distant blueness imagines a fabulous sea. Ali this compounds the play of the colours and the treatment of the subjects, by varying, illustrating and literally dreaming them. Instead, when Inge Lise’s painting addresses reality it loses its colour, becoming the direct depiction of a given image, such as in Ritratto di donna or Omaggio a Catherine Deneuve, which are chromatically sterile in the sense that they represent what the eye sees rather than reality transfigured in a dream. It is therefore interesting to observe the relationship Inge Lise creates between painting and poetry, between colours and words. If her figures and landscapes are poetic, we might say that her poetry is essentially rooted in painting, a kind of “painting with words” (“painting with words is art too”, van Gogh once said), so that painting and poetry, colours and words end up evoking each other to represent reality with splashes of colour, to enact a metamorphosis of reality into a dream. This dream can erase any negative or absurd vision of the world, while transforming our secret vision of reality into art, revealing the miracle that our eyes alone are incapable of seeing or understanding. More than representing reality as it is, painting – as Rilke says in his Letters to Cézanne – “keeps reality in balance” and requires that objects “become real”, beautiful, pleasing and indicative of a timeless world of happiness, thus revealing themselves in their timeless, mysterious splendour. Everything is imbued with light and colour and transfigured by a secret language. Thus these paintings tell their stories as a tale is told through poetry, with the poetry lending added meaning to the light and meaning of the paintings. And if Rilke is right when he says that “colour creates painting”, here colour predominates not only in the paint itself but also in the poetry, as if everything were transformed by some innate colour filter. As such colour becomes the principle of representation: “Painting – said Cézanne – does not involve copying objects, but rather expressing sensations. Painting means recording coloured sensations.” In this recording images acquire a separate existence subject to the influence of poetry and draw from poetry a new awareness of the mystery hidden in every object for those capable of seeing it. Van Gogh knew that everything was “full of meaning”, and hoped: “that people can say of my work: ‘it is deep, it is tender’ “.

This depth of emotion, this tenderness in observing our surroundings is still sometimes capable of surprising and dreaming. This is probably the most precious and tangible talent that transpires in the painting and poetry of Inge Lise, in which the dreamy beauty of the images and the soft lightness of the words have the power – and the magic – to fill us with hope for a new world transfigured by the colours of goodness that is more than a dream or reverie.

 Anna Quinzio
Professor of Aesthetics at the University of Perugia
November 2001

A work of art has only one worthwhile quality, and it is precisely this quality which defies description. These words were penned by Georges Braque. They may serve as a starting point in approaching art and being receptive to what we see, since in painting what we see obviously acts as our subjective reality. Pictorial reality is plainly exposed to the attention of the observer and requires nothing more than the observation of its shapes and their reaction with chromatic intensity, dimensions and tonal unity within the global context of a painting’s composition of light and shadow.

But if this were the case, the work of Inge Lise Rasmussen may be easily interpreted, given that its shapes and colours, or rather, the shapes of its colours are executed so as to harmoniously break down space using tonalities that are appropriate both in their intensity and application. We are clearly dealing with a pictorial language solidly grounded in knowledge of the “rules” of painting, so as to eliminate any critical necessity for an analysis of details in order to explain the structural makeup of the works in general. All one need to do is observe and let himself pass from one painting to the next, led by the links between the expressive elements in their chromatic crescendos and decrescendos. This occurs throughout the work of Inge Lise Rasmussen and represents the key to interpreting her pictorial universe, so original in its apparent simplicity.

After having repeatedly studied her flowers, animals and human figures, I feel confident in saying that this artist aims to perform iconic research by scanning the subconscious. She is well suited to this task, possessing vast knowledge of fables and having composed essays on a variety of authors and in particular on H.C. Andersen, and therefore all images represent a rediscovery of memory. Her approach frees her from traditional figurative techniques and pictorial conventions while facilitating a form of expression enriched with fables and mystery. This is the clue to interpreting those images that seem to emerge from entangled pools of colour and subsequently assume a formal identity in order to communicate a message which remains eternally ambiguous and undeciphered. This was precisely what Braque intended in his citation.

What meaning lies in those winding vines, those stalks of wheat or those female figures soaked into the watercolour paper in colours as transparent as the sky? Do they possess the same meaning as the landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes, flowers, branches that form improbable arabesques and leaves rendered as bits of green trembling in the sky? The paintings by Inge Lise Rasmussen, like all works of art, mean whatever each of us, while gazing at them, finds within his innermost self.

Giuseppe Ciani
Painter and art critic
November 1999



In an article published in La Repubblica on 7 November 1999 Günter Grass wrote: “Paper itself is white. Its destiny is that of being marked upon, enlivened with decisive or uncertain lines or filled with words that tell the truth in ever new and innovative ways.”
I have known Inge Lise Rasmussen for many years, given our shared origins and similar experiences, and so I know that Inge Lise did not paint during her youth. She studied, carried out research and worked with energy and unlimited determination. Her curriculum vitae lists her considerable academic and research achievements which have led to the publication of numerous articles.
It was only as she reached maturity that Inge Lise began to paint, at first just for fun, she would say, although I take this as another sign of her innate curiosity and love of research. I witnessed the creation of a rapidly growing body of work consisting of a variety of iconographic subjects, techniques and chromatic intonations. Many of these revealed (since art reveals the nature of its author more than scientific works) aspects of my friend’s personality and sensitivity I had previously been quite unaware of, since Inge Lise had kept them to herself.

I have now discovered another of her forms of expression: poetry. Her poems represent a veritable key for interpreting her paintings. Upon reading her poetry I came to understand that her paintings are an equally poetic effort to capture or crystallize sensations of the soul associated with real or imaginary experiences. The artist does not simply present the visual interpretation of a simple naturalistic image, even if nature serves as the basis for her painting. Rather, she respectfully and sometimes almost timidly investigates the visual components that make up emotion and which are furthermore transformed by emotion into dreamlike fairy-tale apparitions.

I should like to avoid excessively emphasizing the fact that Rasmussen, being Danish, has inherited a special national and cultural heritage through the figure and work of Hans Christian Andersen, who has been a continuing subject of research and publication by Inge Lise. I would like to recall Hans Christian Andersen not only as the author of enchanting stories but also of theatrical works and illustrated diaries, which capture particularly evocative and refined images. I believe that Rasmussen’s (scientific and poetic) writing and painting (not incidentally in mixed media), like such a special diary, makes reference to the author’s personal journey during which she is discovering, by way of interior investigation, her innermost emotions and the means to communicate them. These emotions are light, luminous, poetic and only occasionally melancholic although often meditative, as are the emotions of any human being who by observing, touching and feeling, marvels at the naturally lyrical aspects of our world.

Inge Lise Rasmussen’s art interweaves painting and poetry to express sensations through a variety of media. Her poetry, like miniature paintings, evokes colours and evanescent images. Her paintings are poetic works expressed in single instances in order to illustrate an enchanted moment in time.

Bente Klange Addabbo
Professor of Medieval Art History at the University for Foreigners in Siena
November 1999



I believe that the Northernmost geographic extremes are subject to a magnetic attraction toward the colours and luminosity of the South. A palette naturally dominated by whites, greys and deep greens may thus be enriched with glowing images linked to memories of the Mediterranean. Goethe needed only cross the Alps to feel the attraction of this contrast. Inge Lise Rasmussen has established her home and daily life in the midst of this contrast and has expressed these dissimilar emotions in the fragile medium of watercolour.

In her art the predominance of form is only relative; it blossoms and vibrates in the liquid halo of colour. Precarious and volatile, it makes discreet allusions and mysterious references while affording the imagination unlimited freedom.
It is effortless to abandon oneself of an allusion to a forest or Springtime flowers, while more complex and unsettling questions are raised by potentially identifiable figures navigating to unknown destinations by means of unfathomable routes. One of the mixed-media compositions of figures in movement inspired me to imagine a secret view of Venice during the Mardi Gras, a sea of masks, hats and capes concealing faces and glances. I also imagined the Middle Ages as viewed by Simone Martini in the form of a red-caped knight fleeing on his galloping horse, a sort of Guidoriccio da Fogliano who has lost his grace and his aim and bounds away on his steed. However, here he is no longer in the midst of the solid, well-defined Sienese hills, but rather floats in a strange atmosphere whose sky betrays an undeniable Northern pallor reminiscent of harsh Jutland prairies and stinging North Sea air.

It arouses curiosity that a mind as rational and determined as that which we have come to know through Inge Lise’s work as writer and critic should be able to break away from its usual style and analytical instruments. Inge Lise submits herself to a universe as dissimilar as that of painting, which would seem much less controlled than the universe of words she normally inhabits. In reality this apparent descent into a dream world and game of reflected images reveals the other half of her personality, in which tales may be told without betraying her logical/analytical self. Inge Lise Rasmussen uses paper for both writing and painting: that is, she analyses and synthesizes by means of two distinct but complementary processes. As dictated by the dual nature of her personality, when necessary she is able to dissect words into their smallest significant components or alternately generate a fusion of images as the blinding sun fills our eyes with colours and breaks them down into an explosion of light.

Marta Morazzoni
December 1999



Inge Lise Rasmussen, in her adopted Italian home of Siena, has long been involved in the task of increasing awareness of Danish literature and culture in Italy and that of Italian culture in Denmark. Her painting exhibits are her newest accomplishment, given that she is renowned in Denmark and among her Italian colleagues primarily for her numerous translations and monographic works. I might mention as examples her books on the travels of Giovanni Jorgensen in and around Siena, on Karen Blixen and on Friederike Brun. Friederike Brun lived between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s, and wherever she was, be it Italy, Switzerland, Germany or Denmark, she surrounded herself with the most important artists and cultural figures in Europe at the time. An understanding of the links uniting such diverse works as the poetry of Giovanni Jorgensen, the stories of Karen Blixen and the poetry of Friederike Brun may be traced to Inge Lise’s heightened sensitivity and deep understanding of nature and the human condition.

If I have succeeded in interpreting Inge Lise Rasmussen’s work, I might venture that these are precisely the fundamental values that she seeks to illustrate in her painting. She is involved in intuitive research capable of freeing subconscious and previously unknown potential. Her palette is that of nature, the sky, the sea, the forest and the earth. She reveals a world of dream nature and atmospheres in invented landscapes in which single figures or groups of figures emerge and act as the starting point for the voyage of the observer into unknown realms.
She confirms the view of Cennino Cennini when he says that painting requires the desire and ability to search for an invisible element hidden in the shadow of reality. By manually capturing this, she demonstrates that the inexistent (or that which is invisible to the naked eye) actually exists.

Analytical ability and intuitiveness might be considered as two extremes, but this is not necessarily so. They might rather be seen as two alternative approaches to achieve an objective in a complicated and fragmented world with the aim of capturing given aesthetic images and obtaining both understanding and shared joy. I have always been convinced that a work of art is in no way coincidental. It may give life to something new, unexpected or unforeseen in a certain situation, but there is nothing coincidental about the content of an artwork.
There exists an old stereotype according to which people from the North react rationally and analytically (otherwise, how could they survive in such unforgiving conditions?) while people from the South react irrationally, impulsively and intuitively. This exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute challenges these old stereotypes. They are refuted by Inge Lise Rasmussen’s intuitive depiction of her subject matter. This exhibit furthermore illustrates an instance of fertile reciprocal inspiration between two diverse cultural poles.

Hanne Marie Ragn Jensen
Professor of Art History at the University of Copenhagen
February 1996




This banner painted by Inge Lise Rasmussen is sure to make the Palio race in Casole d’Elsa an even more international event. This work, as has also occurred in past, reflects the artist’s native Northern European culture, which has only been minimally influenced by contact with Italian art during her years at home in Siena.

I know Inge Lise’s work well enough in order to be sure of this. In fact, not even her delicate watercolour transparencies disguise the presence of solid plastic shapes which often crowd together or overlap rhythmically or in expressionist patterns. This banner for the 1995 Palio displays her typical themes and techniques. Earthly elements predominate: the horses, which are the focus of every banner, are surrounded by an enormous field of golden wheat spikes and giant poppies. The allusion to the countryside is clear and is furthermore a specific reference to abundance and fertiIity. It is precisely this rich, fruitfuI countryside which serves as the backdrop for the annual Palio race in Casole and which is invoked in local farmers prayers to St. Isidore. Wheat spikes symbolise in themselves the agricultural profession. The earth goddess Demetra’s gift of wheat to Tritolemus marked the birth of agriculture and it is spread among peoples. This is one of the most widely known Greek myths in the Mediterranean and the basis of the Eleusine Mysteries, which were so important to the ancient Greeks and are still studied for their secret rituals. Even St. Isidore may be considered a Mediterranean saint, his name signifying “gift from Iside” (Egyptian goddess of fertility). This saint arrived in Spain where he performed modest but useful miracles tied to the tending of crops and the attainment of high yields from them. The development of the legend of St. Isidore in Casole is a matter which Inge Lise Rasmussen and Bente Klange explain in detail in their book dedicated to the festival in Casole. I need not investigate it further here.

I would like, however, to underline the fact that it took two Northern European scholars like Klange and Rasmussen to reconstruct the history of the Palio race in Casole and its anthropological and ritual basis. But this shouldn’t come as such a surprise: it was Leonardo da Vinci who affirmed that “There is no perfection without hybridising”. The contact and curiosity of so-called “outsiders” toward a new universe often bear excellent fruits and the highest of achievements. The lovely banner painted by Inge Lise Rasmussen is a perfect example of this. Her perspective is satisfied and optimistic, dissolving shapes into a field of ripe wheat while the random eruption of giant poppies warns us of the frailty of such explosive but fleeting beauty. There is no trace of a Viking invasion in this banner – just a love of transparency seeking out the ethereal in a luxurious Mediterranean vision. Here the heart of this festival, and not only of the race which has been run for over a century, but its original spirit, has been done justice.

Mauro Civai
Director of Siena’s Public Museum
July 1995



The work of painter, writer and scholar Inge Lise Rasmussen on exhibit (March 1995)

I am by no means exaggerating when I assign Inge Lise Rasmussen three titles. She has worked in a variety of fields, for example as interpreter at the European Parliament and currently as researcher of literature at the Università degli Studi di Siena.
And she manages to find time to paint. She does it well, too, since her exhibit is one of the best we’ve encountered in this area.

Her story-telling ability is beyond doubt. Her paintings bring to mind A Thousand and One Nights, sagas, myths and legends. Some recall portraits of saints and ecclesiastical art. Her use of colour is in constant transformation, as is her subject matter.
Some of the paintings in the exhibit are crowded with figures; others display only one or two: one work, which I had originally considered a product of pure abstraction, suddenly revealed two female figures.
Inge Lise Rasmussen is a true master of surprises and has a technique all her own. She uses small, fine brushes and covers large surfaces using a pointilist technique which bears no resemblance to that of the last Impressionists, however. This technique is her own personal invention.

The exhibit is made up of a large number of works and highlighting only a few is an arduous task, especially since they would all merit consideration. I might however mention a group of three works which particularly drew my attention: although they are not sequentially ordered, these three works form a harmonious whole. I refer to paintings number 2, 17 and 22. The central work depicts bent, windblown Mediterranean trees while the two flanking works illustrate simple, beautiful landscapes.

Hugo Gammelby
Painter, art critic
March 1995