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Kasper Lægring

The (Re)birth of Genre Painting during the Danish Golden Age: The Case of the Studio “Portrait”

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In standard twentieth-century accounts of the state of painting during the Danish Golden Age (1801-1864),
genre painting is seldom credited with any share of the painterly innovativeness of the period. And although contemporary attempts at a scholarly revision have done much to remedy this situation, Danish Golden Age genre painting is usually not considered outside of its immediate historical context. In contrast, this article, which focuses on the genre of art students painting each other in their studios, argues that genre painting was a driving force in the Romantic turn in Danish painting. It concerns a series of interconnected paintings from the late 1820s, painted by Wilhelm Bendz, Ditlev Blunck and Albert Küchler, and it argues that these works not only stand in relation to past examples from the Dutch Golden Age, they also reinvent conventional concepts in the image of Romanticism. Furthermore, these canvases testify to an intense aesthetic exchange between theatre and painting, it is argued, which is substantiated with reference to the outputs by the poet and playwright Henrik Hertz and the philosopher F.C. Sibbern. Whilst this reciprocity constituted a rapprochement to realism, it by no means implies that the studio ‘portrait’ was just an outcome of an interest in the quotidian; in fact, it is argued that the term ‘reality effect’ might better explain the artistic ambition at work. Lastly, this article makes the case for an interpretation of the studio ‘portrait’ as being equally indebted to, and carefully balanced between, conventionality and experimentation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMDCCC 1800
Pages (from-to)53-80
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

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