Son of a landowner in the province of Jutland, Christen Dalsgaard showed an early aptitude for drawing and in 1841 went to Copenhagen to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. There he learned the essentials from Martinus Rørbye, himself a faithful pupil of Eckersberg, father of Danish painting. He continued his training during the summer months, studying his native Jutland from life: interested in all its different aspects – landscape, costumes, folklore, people's everyday lives – he built up the repertoire of forms and subjects that would characterise his career.
In theoretical terms the young student was deeply influenced by the ideas of art historian Niels Lauritz Høyen, one of the most influential figures on the Danish art scene at the time. In his writings Høyen exhorted local artists to reject all foreign influences, and first and foremost that of France. It was during one of his lectures to the Scandinavian Society that Christen Dalsgaard was exposed to Høyen's theories about rediscovering "the soul of the Danish people" through the portrayal of the soil and vernacular scenes.
Dating from 1853, our Landscape Study shows Dalsgaard continuing to work "from the motif" well after finishing his training in 1847. His ability to capture outdoor light and transcribe nature down to the tiniest details recalls that of Eckersberg, whom he is frequently associated with, and provides an understanding of his status as a precursor of realism in Denmark, like his illustrious elder. In this instance, however, the paradoxical framing points up his personal poetic qualities. The lower two-thirds of the picture are taken up by a grassy slope that masks the horizon, but the foliage rising from behind it invite the viewer to mentally fill in what cannot be seen, with the female figure stimulating the imagination still further as it makes its way through this isolated place.
This feminine presence also hints at a attempt by the painter to amalgamate two of his major concerns: the portrayal of the Danish people and of Jutland, Denmark's largest peninsula, where Dalsgaard, motivated by Høyen's precepts, found most of his inspiration. The female figure is far from incidental to the overall tone of the oeuvre: seen here bathed in a typically Dalsgaard light, she is discreetly but quite visibly provided with a handkerchief that makes her the first in a long line of emotionally invested women. In the context of a neutral landscape, this injection of empathy with human beings comes as no surprise on the part of an artist who had always kept aloof from the foreign and devoted his painting life to Denmark and its inhabitants.
These are the two common factors in most of Dalsgaard's works, a typical example being the famous Mon han dog ikke skulle komme? (Isn't He Ever Coming Home?). On the threshold for the umpteenth time, a young Danish woman is edgily watching out for the return of the man she loves; in the background the sun is setting over the Jutland countryside. This is, however, more than just the standard genre painting narrative and its "romanticised" presentation: once again the Danish countryside, and specifically the Jutland so dear to the Danish art historian and the poet, is to be found, as in the Landscape Study, eloquently brought to the fore by the painter.
Price : on request
15 000 €