Danish and Nordic Art 1750-1800
Abildgaard was the last full-time history painter in Denmark. He achieved his artistic breakthrough around 1775 on the international art scene of Rome, where he took part in the period’s typical celebration of overpowering emotion and great drama.
Upon his return to Denmark he was torn between official commissions and the imagery he personally favoured. He executed ten large-scale paintings depicting the history of Danish kings for the Christiansborg Palace in 1778-91.
Taking his point of departure in the books housed at his enormous library, Abildgaard created a number of paintings intended for his own amusement only. These would mainly feature motifs culled from Shakespeare, Ossian, Holberg, and the writers of Antiquity, often with a strong element of social critique and satire.
After the year 1800 his art took on a gentler aspect, and his paintings would treat humorous, and frequently erotic, subject matter. Abildgaard had only few significant followers, the most important of which would be A.J. Carstens and C.G. Kratzenstein Stub.