The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The German Example

  • Kasper Monrad,, 1994
  • This is a re-publication of the article: Kasper Monrad: ‘The German Example – Frederik Sødring and Christen Købke and the painters of the Munich School’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1994, p. 61-73.
    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.

Frederik Sødring and Christen Købke and the painters of the Munich School

Among Danish art historians there has been a tendency to neglect the close ties between the Danish and the German painters of the early nineteenth century. But during the last two decades the evident parallels have been acknowledged (cf. note 1), and particularly Caspar David Friedrich’s relationship to Danish painting has been discussed (cf. note 2). Apart from this, yet another source of inspiration calls for attention – the painting school in Munich, which was considered the most important German art centre by the Danish landscape painters around 1840. Notably two Danish painters changed their modes of expression under influence from the Munich painters – Frederik Sødring (1809-62) and Christen Købke (1810-48). Both of them seem to have been studying particularly Carl Rottmann’s paintings with great interest.

Like a number of other Danish landscape painters, Sødring chose to stay in Munich for some time (1836-38). In his picture of the castle of Büresheim on the River Eifel (fig. 2) there are several parallels to Rottmann (fig. 4) with regard to the composition and the use of light. But a more specific example for the Danish painter seems to have been Ferdinand Jodl’s painting of the castle of Hohenschwangau (fig. 5). Even when Sødring later turned to Norwegian subjects and painted a waterfall (fig. 6), he found his inspiration in a picture he had seen in Munich, namely Joseph Anton Koch’s famous painting of the Schmadribach Waterfall (fig. 7).

Købke did not choose Munich as the main goal for his travels abroad, but on his way to Italy he passed through the city. In all probability he saw Rottmann’s mural painting of the Cliffs of the Cyclops near Catania in Sicily (fig. 9), which seems to have provided inspiration for his unfinished study of a view from Capri (fig. 8). In the same way Købke may have been influenced by the Austrian Joseph Rebell’s Sunset at Capri (fig. 11) when he executed his huge picture of the Marina Piccola at Capri at sunrise (fig. 10), and Købke’s very last picture (fig. 12) appears to have been based on an Italian genre scene by August Riedel (fig. 13).

Carl Rotmann’s pictures were exhibited in Copenhagen on two occasions in the 1840s (cf. notes 23 & 24), and even Johan Thomas Lundbye, who dedicated himself to painting Danish landscapes, could not help admiring them.

After the deaths of Købke (in 1848) and Sødring (in 1863) both painters were more or less forgotten for a considerable time. This may be seen in the context of the prevailing Danish nationalistic sentiments of the period, which were aroused by the conflicts of national interest concerning the Danish king’s two German duchies, Schleswig and Holstein. The evident German inspiration for their pictures aroused the antipathy of Niels Laurits Høyen, the leading Danish art critic and museum curator, who favoured artists who chose Danish subjects. For a long time Danish art historians followed the judgments of Høyen.


Under et studieophold i München i december 1988, bekostet af Ny Carlsbergfondet, havde jeg lejlighed til at studere München-skolens malere indgående. I forbindelse med fremlæggelsen af mit indlæg på guldalderseminaret nød jeg især godt af gode råd og oplysninger fra Erik Mortensen, dr.phil. Erik Fischer og dr.phil. Torben Holck Colding.

Last updated 06.03.2019