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Albert Küchler (1803 - 1886), A Girl Selling Fruit in an Artist's Studio. 1828

Albert Küchler (1803 - 1886), A Girl Selling Fruit in an Artist's Studio. 1828

Art stories | 4.feb.2013

Contextualizing portaits of artists at work

The artist in his workspace became a popular motif among students of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts during the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s.

Depictions of artistic practice coincided with the Academy’s introduction of supplementary instruction in painting from life under natural light, plein air sketching excursions, and tutorials in the science of perspective, all of which were offered by Professor Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853). Such images, therefore, document the contemporaneous curricular shift initiated by faculty members of the progressive academic institution.

With the support of the Danish-American Fulbright Commission and the American-Scandinavian Foundation, I am conducting a comprehensive study of these pictures to be submitted as my doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. My examination aims to expand understanding of the origins, purpose, and critical reception of Danish scenes of artistic labour.

Central works can be found at SMK

Contextualizing any work of art requires meticulous archival research. Presently, I am examining letters, diaries, exhibition reviews, and the Academy’s papers. Visits to key collections are also requisite to my investigation. Statens Museum for Kunst’s holdings include many works central to my dissertation, such as Albert Küchler’s A Girl Selling Fruit in an Artist’s Studio (1828).

New art stories

Over the course of my Fulbright year in Copenhagen, I will investigate these works closely and contribute my findings to SMK’s online resource Kunsthistorier (“Art Stories”). An introduction to the subject of the artist at work is slated for release first, followed by a monographic consideration of the genre painter Wilhelm Bendz (1804-1832). In addition to my role as contributing author, I will also translate existing Kunsthistorier from Danish into English, assisting in the dissemination of scholarship produced by SMK’s research team.

On a tour of Charlottenborg Palace.

The topicality of the pictures’ subject matter has prompted me to visit sites important to their creation. Last week, Dr. Patrick Kragelund, Director of the Danish National Art Library, led me on a tour of the Academy’s storied Charlottenborg Palace. The photograph above shows the domed hall of the palace’s east wing, the previous site of the Academy’s exhibitions. Artists sought official recognition here. Paintings were displayed in a crowded ‘Salon hang’ in these two galleries prior to the construction of the current exhibition hall in the late nineteenth century.

The Royal Collection acquired many of its paintings at the annual spring exhibition, augmenting holdings foundational to the establishment of SMK. Today, portraits of former Academy members fill this space, which primarily functions as the institution’s boardroom. In the coming months, I look forward to sharing more findings from my art historical investigation in Copenhagen with visitors to SMK’s website.

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