Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, The Bombardment of Copenhagen, the night between the 3rd and 4th of September, 1807, 1807
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) was a Danish painter who laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Danish Painting and is considered the father of Danish painting. Born in a small town in southern Denmark, his father was a painter and carpenter. He began his training with a local church and portrait painter and then became an apprentice to a respected artist in 1800. He then went on the study at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen. Eckersberg had initial success there, but clashed with his teacher and he did not win the gold medal there until 1809 after his teacher's death. He traveled to gErmany and Paris where he studied under Jacques-Louis David for a time. He also studied in Florence and Rome. Eckersberg was successful with traditional Classical motifs and religious scenes, but where he really distinguished himself was in his figure painting. His portraits are quite celebrated and 1841's Morning Toilette is perhaps his most famous painting. He also produced beautiful landscapes and seascapes. The painting I have featured is a depiction of the Battle of Copenhagen, when the British navy lay siege to the city to commandeer Denmark's naval fleet. Eckersberg painted another rendition of Copenhagen burning, so, especially considering he lived in the city at the time, the event clearly had a significant impact on him. The most interesting thing to me about this painting is the light. The fire casts its glow over the entire scene, so that the people and buildings are bathed in orange light. The dark sky is red with fire and black with ash. There is great action in this scene, with the frantic movement of the many figures. The firelight seems to pulsate and flicker. Eckersberg manages to convey the sadness of this siege and the chaos and fear it engendered.