Tradition is an important theme in Abildgaard’s work. How can one as an individual and an artist relate to the past yet still find their own way?
Haunted by the past
The Latin word ’Traditio’ means passing something on. It refers to reception of something that has survived another person who went before. In a positive context, tradition is a type of enrichment. In a negative context, it is a type of haunting.
Abildgaard is extensively preoccupied with the meeting of the old and the new, and he creates images in which classical sculptures behave like spectres in new contexts.
The ghost of antiquity
It is often in choice of motif that Abildgaard shows his insubordinance. He wrestles free of the weighty heritage of antiquity by allying himself with a different set of cultural inheritances: Nordic literature, Ossian, Shakespeare, and mythology. Antiquity will haunt him just the same.