Christen Købke (1810-48), The Garden Steps Leading to the Artist’s Studio on Blegdammen, Ca. 1845

While travelling in Italy Købke achieved a much greater degree of painterly freedom in his studies than before, particularly in his painted studies from Capri.

These images have a sketch-like quality not found in other Danish painters. Købke’s new style of painting had a knock-on effect on the studies done near his home on Blegdammen after his return from Italy.

Motif and angle

In the painting of the garden steps he evinces an unheard-of boldness in his choice of motif and angle – and in his cropping of the scene. We barely get an impression of the house; the gnarly tree by the steps is the key element of the painting together with the beautifully observed sunlight hitting the façade and tree, falling in through a window and upon the open door. The painting has no parallel in Danish art of the period.

Christen Købke, The Garden Steps Leading to the Artist’s Studio on Blegdammen, Ca. 1845. 22,5x33 cm. KMS6605
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On the one hand... and on the other hand... on Koebkes "Garden steps"

Christen Købke. The Garden Steps Leading to the Artist's Studio on Blegdammen, ca. 1845.

On the one hand:

Not a city scene. Not the artist’s studio. Not a complete view of the garden. Rather, this shows a passage out between the steps to the studio and the garden.  What is the meaning of painting a small passage in a private garden at a time when strolling languidly through the public settings of the city became modern? The colours are full of life, and Købke’s vibrant gaze takes in everything, yet this is an image of nothing. No screaming heroes, no figures frozen in movement. Here, Købke found a wide open, unoccupied space somewhere between the territories of the intellectual and orderly artists; a space that had never really attracted much attention before. When you paint nothing as if it were everything you run the risk of being forgotten, and indeed this happened to Købke for a while. You might also be remembered for being the very epitome of Danishness, unpretentious and immediate. It is nothing – and a picture.

Henrik Holm, Research Curator

På den anden side:

In the early 1840s Købke returned to a previous motif, painting several scenes from the Sortedam Lake that he had also painted before his departure for Italy. However, the motifs soon took on new significance to him. His father died in 1843, and after a few years it turned out that the family had to move out of their home on Blegdammen, which at the time lay outside of Copenhagen. This prompted a desire to capture the scenes that had been part of his everyday life since the family moved there in 1833. Thus, the garden steps, the back yard of the house (the painting to the right), and the garden gate (second right) were not random motifs; they had a very particular significance to the artist. He saw these scenes every day from his garden or while walking along the lake. The paintings were intended for his own pleasure only, and for many of them he employed highly unusual points of view, working exclusively to satisfy his own whims.

Kasper Monrad, Senior Research Curator

Close-up or another view

Here you can zoom-in on the work for a close-up view of all of the details. - Or you can gain a new understanding about the work by watching films where researchers, conservators and artists talk about the work from their viewpoint.

Zoom and see the details

More views of the work – see the films

Christen Købke's 'The Garden Steps' - in the artist’s view
The artist Hannah Heilmann tells about Christen Købke's painting: The Garden Steps leading the painter Christen Købke's Studio at Blegdammen, Copenhagen.

Mathilde Schytz Marvit
Camera and editing: Martin Pedersen
Contributory: Hannah Heilmann

Christen Købke's 'Garden Steps' - in the researcher's view
Our senior researcher Kasper Monrad tells about Christen Købke's painting: The Garden Steps Leading to the Painter Christen Købke's studio at Blegdammen, Copenhagen.

Mathilde Schytz Marvit
Camera and edit: Martin Pedersen
Contributory: Kasper Monrad

Christen Købke's 'The Garden Steps' - in the conservator's view

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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