The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Nature and Art

  • Torsten Gunnarsson,, 1994
  • This is a re-publication of the article: Torsten Gunnarson: ‘Nature and Art – The relationship between nature, nature studies and idealization in Danish Glden Age landscape painting’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1994, p. 42-55.
    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.

The relationship between nature, nature studies and idealization in Danish Glden Age landscape painting

This article discusses the consequences for landscape painting of the new concepts of man and nature and their interrelation during the first half of the 19th century.

As a result a special interest was devoted to the artistic study of nature, and open-air oil sketching became an important part of the landscape painter’s practice.

This led to the discovery of a beauty inherent in new kinds of everyday motifs outside the established landscape formulas in art. Starting in Denmark in the 1820s, the landscape oil sketches marked the beginnings of a development that was gradually to change Scandinavian landscape painting and ended with the breakthrough of Realism during the 1870s and 1880s.

Even internationally, Danish painters were in the forefront of this development, owing to the pioneering role of Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, professor at the renowned Copenhagen Academy from 1818.

Still, for a long time and not least for Eckersberg himself the realistic trend was counterbalanced by a strong conviction of the need for idealism in art. The special Golden Age style was a product of the cross-currents of realism and idealism characteristic of the so-called Copenhagen School.

Taking examples from leading painters such as C. W. Eckersberg, C. Köbke, J. Th. Lundbye, C. Hansen and D. Dreyer, the article examines practical as well as ideological aspects of the interaction between realism and idealism in the study of nature in the art of the period.

Last updated 11.05.2017