Skovgaard, P.C. (1817-1873)

Artist Description

Full name: Peter Christian Skovgaard Thamsen
Born on Apr. 4th 1817 in Hammershus at Ringsted.

Initially he took drawing lessons from his mother and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Copenhagen) in 1831 and ended his studies there in 1845. Parallel to his studies at the Academy he was a painters apprentice and became a journeyman painter in 1835.

Skovgaard made more study tours, starting with a tour to Italy during 1854-55 (accompanied by N.L. Höyen). He made tours to London and Paris in 1862, to Stockholm in 1866 and finally to Italy in 1869 (with Wilhelm Marstrand).

In recognition of his talent and work, Skovgaard won more prizes, medals and scholarships, e.g. the Neuhausen Prize (1843), the Exhibition Medal (1845), the Academy Travelling Scholarship in 1854 (which was used for his study tour to Italy) and the Ancker Prize in 1869.

Skovgaard debuted at the esteemed Charlottenborg Spring Exhibitions (Copenhagen) in 1836 and exhibited there almost continuously until 1875. He was also a frequent exhibitor abroad, e.g. at the Academy of Stockholm (1850 and 1866), at the World Fairs in London (1862) and Paris (1878 and 1889).

P.C. Skovgaard was one of the main characters of the so-called Golden Age, especially known for his grandiose depictions of the Danish landscape. During his education, he studied classical European landscape art in the collections in Copenhagen, but later he created a painting style based on nature studies, which formed the basis for an independent view regarding the genre's possibilities. After 1850 he developed a monumental, personal expression, which was of great importance for subsequent generations. Along with his artisan training Skovgaard was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, where his friendship with J. Th Lundbye, Lorenz Frölich and Dankvart Dreyer had great significance for him. He was a student of J. L. Lund, but had also the opportunity to participate in excursions that CW Eckersberg conducted with college students, including to the Royal Deer Garden north of Copenhagen. Skovgaard's early paintings shows both a romantic flow (moonlight pieces) and a realistic flow as seen in his paintings from his home area. His color scheme is clearly marked by JL Lund, also in detail studies, which can also be inspired by JC Dahl. The painting “Street in Vejby with rocker well”, 1836, shows an interest in daily life, which NL Höyen urged painters to portray. Skovgaard's first major work is the “View of Frederiksvärk from Tisvilde Forest”, 1839, where he managed to create a link between the sky and the rugged landscape by the sun's appearance through the clouds, which is characteristic of him compared to others in their time. Skovgaard and J. Th Lundbye often worked together. In 1842 they decorated the apartment that belonged Skovsgaards uncle with two doors and three monumental, almost square paintings: “Frederiksborg Castle”, “the Goose Tower” and “Höjerup Church at Stevns Klint”. In the summer of 1843 they resided at Skovgaard's home region around Vejby, where they frequently drew and painted sketches. Through the dates of the many surviving works, you can follow their journey of which several studies have formed the basis for the later masterpieces. In 1843 Skovgaard won the Neuhausen Prize for “Oaks in the north woods at Jägerspris”, who like several others were bought for the royal collection of paintings. In 1840 Skovgaard traveled around the country, including to Möns Klint, in the areas around Holbæk at Vognserup and around Kalundborg. In 1845 he received the Exhibition Medal for the painting “Skarritsö”, and the same year he ended his studies at the Academy. Höyens and N.F.S. Grundtvig's involvement in the Nordic and the National was co-determinant for Skovgaards portrayal of the Danish landscape. Moreover, he was in contact with national liberal politicians, including Orla Lehmann, who ordered paintings from him and supported him throughout life. In 1854-55 Skovgaard visited Italy for the first time, and were accompanied by W. Marstrand and Höyen. The trip was very important to Skovgaard, who after his return painted his most famous work “Beech Forest in May”, 1855. It has the grandeur and richness, and an expression of a Danish-ness, which, as has often been highlighted, corresponds to the stanza “Freya floor” of Oehlenschläger national anthem. Skovgaard had the ability to characterize the different tree species and strove to make the trees tall and monumental, including by keeping the spot shapes, children and animals, under the horizon line. In “Summer afternoon at a lake”, 1859, the composition dates back to Claude Lorrain, which Skovgaard had studied in Italy. As Skovgaard in 1862 visited England and France with Höyen, he was aware of the contemporary French art. Skovgaard's interest in the weather drama was stronger in his later years when his colouring became darker. After traveling to Italy 1869, his landscapes turned more magnificent, as seen in the “Summer afternoon with a departing rain shower”, about 1862-74. It shows one of his favorite places over the years, The Royal Deer Garden, where the sun gets power and casts rays through the trees and causes rain clouds to drag across the sky. The painting was of great importance as a lesson for both his sons Joakim and Niels as well as for his students. “Summer Afternoon at the Dairy site at Knabstrup”, 1874-75, testifies how far Skovgaard reached in landscape painting. Skovgaard was also an excellent portrait painter. His depictions of children, especially of “Suzette”, 1870, are highlights, like his portrait drawings are among the finest in contemporary society.

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