Blaafarveværke was founded by King Christian VII of Denmark-Norway in the 1770s. It became the largest industrial company of the country in the mid-19th century. The works mined cobalt ore and manufactured by smelting blue cobalt glass (smalt) and cobalt blue (cobalt aluminate) pigment. At the time, it employed more than 2,000 workers, and in its heyday supplied 80 percent of the world market for cobalt pigments.
In 1823, the company was acquired by Baron W. C. Benecke of Berlin and Benjamin Wegner of Königsberg. Wegner also took over as director general, a position he held until 1849, and in his time instituted many important social reforms for the workers. The production of pigment at the works ceased in 1857, but mining was kept up until 1893.
Since 1978, Blaafarveværket has hosted an art gallery, which over the years has exhibited the works of many major Norwegian artists, as well as some foreign ones. In 1993, one hundred years after mining ended, the old cobalt mines opened as a tourist attraction, and the entire area now serves as a museum.
- In the summer of 2003, the gallery hosted an exhibition of the paintings of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
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