Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (2 January 1783 – 22 July 1853) was a Danish painter. He was born in Blåkrog in the Duchy of Schleswig (now in Aabenraa Municipality, in the southern part of Jutland in Denmark), to Henrik Vilhelm Eckersberg, painter and carpenter, and Ingeborg Nielsdatter. He went on to lay the foundation for the period of art known as the Golden Age of Danish Painting, and is referred to as the Father of Danish painting.
In 1786 his family moved to Blans, a village near the picturesque Alssund, where he enjoyed drawing pictures of the surrounding countryside, and taking sailing tours in his father's boat. After confirmation he began his training as a painter under church- and portrait painter, Jes Jessen of Aabenraa (1797–1800). He continued his training at 17 years of age under Josiah Jacob Jessen in Flensborg, where he became an apprentice in May 1800. He, however, had his sights set on being accepted at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) in Copenhagen.
Still under apprenticeship he produced proficient drawings and paintings. Having amassed some money, including financial support from local well-wishers, he arrived at Copenhagen's Tollbooth on 23 May 1803. He was accepted into the Academy without payment in 1803 where he studied with Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, among others.
He made good progress, painting historical paintings, portraits and landscapes. However, friction between him and Abildgaard impeded his advancement, and he did not win the Academy's big gold medal until 1809, after Abildgaard's death. He also worked to earn living money as a hand laborer, and he made drawings for copperplate etchings.
Although he received promise of a travel stipend in conjunction with the gold medal, the actual funds would not be made available until 1812. On 1 July 1810, he married E. Christine Rebecca Hyssing against his wishes, in order to 'legitimize' a son, Erling Carl Vilhelm Eckersberg, that was born to her. His son, Erling, eventually followed in his father's footsteps with an Academy education, and a career as a copperplate engraver.
Eager to travel, not only on account of his desire to stretch his artistic skills and knowledge, but also in order to escape the reality of this marriage, he made other arrangements for the financial support needed that would allow him to travel. On 3 July, a few days after the wedding, he began his travels out of the country. Along with Tønnes Christian Bruun de Neergaard, writer, enthusiastic art lover and financial supporter, he made his way over Germany to Paris. Here he studied under neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David from 1811 to 1812. He improved his skills in painting the human form, and followed his teacher's admonition to paint after Nature and the Antique in order to find Truth. It was here that he developed a lifelong friendship with Paris roommate, fellow artist Jens Peter Møller, and with engraver Johan Frederik Clemens, Jens Juel's collaborator.
After two years he traveled further via Florence to Rome where he continued his studies between 1813-1816. He worked on improving his skills as a history painter, and enjoyed painting smaller studies of the local life and area. He lived there three years among a store group of artists, with Bertel Thorvaldsen as the cultural head. Eckersberg and Thorvaldsen developed a close lasting relationship, and the master served the younger Eckersberg as both loyal friend and advisor. Eckersberg painted one of his best portraits, a portrait of Thorvaldsen, in Rome 1814, which was donated to the Academy of Art. Life in Rome agreed with him, and he was greatly affected by the bright southern light he experienced there. He produced a large body of work during those years, including a number of exceptional landscape studies.
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