KØBKE, Christen
(b. 1810, København, d. 1848, København)

Biography

Danish painter. He is the most internationally renowned Danish painter and, with his teacher, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, was one of the leading artists of the Danish 'golden age' of painting in the 1830s and 1840s.

Christen Schjellerup Købke, the son of a baker, entered art school in Copenhagen at age eleven and studied there for ten years. He continued studying both with a teacher and from nature, first making sketches outdoors and later reworking them into oil paintings in his studio. Købke combined an interest in light and atmosphere with an appreciation for Denmark's medieval monuments to create solemn architectural silhouettes. He also painted charming and intimate portraits of his family, friends, and fellow artists.

In 1838 Købke took his first trip abroad, visiting Dresden and Italy. Allying himself with the classical tradition of landscape painting inspired by Claude Lorrain, whom he greatly admired, he began altering small details to achieve sweeping, panoramic compositions. Upon his return home, his Italian scenes found little favour.

Despite his talent and the praise of various contemporaries, Købke was never inundated with commissions. When he applied for admission to the prestigious Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 1846, he was rejected. He died of pneumonia two years later, and the Danish public paid little notice. At the end of the 1800s, scholars and the public began to appreciate Købke, leading to his current reputation as the most internationally renowned Danish painter of his generation.

He is most famous for his intimate depictions of familiar landmarks in Copenhagen and North Zealand, notably Frederiksborg Castle, near Hillerod. The skill with which he rendered architectural silhouettes and the light of the Danish sky has won him great acclaim. His charming and intimate portraits of family, fellow artists and friends are among the best examples of Nordic portrait painting.