Christen Schiellerup Købke (May 26, 1810-February
7, 1848), Danish painter, was born in Copenhagen to Peter Berendt
Købke, a baker, and his wife Cecilie Margrete. He was one
of 11 children. Købke is one of the best known artists belonging
to the Golden Age of Danish Painting.
Childhood and early training
In 1815 the family moved from a bakery near Hillerød
to Kastellet, a military fortification area in Copenhagen, where
his father was head baker. At the age of 11 he suffered from a bout
of rheumatic fever. He made many drawings during his convalescence
and decided that he would become an artist.
In 1822 at 12 years of age he started his studies
at Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi).
He studied first in the drawing class, then under C. A. Lorentzen’s
painting studio, and finally 4 years under Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
after Lorentzen’s death in 1828. Eckersberg stressed observance
of nature, and Købke’s talent grew under Eckersberg’s
disciplined training. Eckersberg’s influence is readily seen
in Købke’s first mature work "View of Århus
Cathedral" (Parti af Århus Domkirke) painted in 1829.
The painting was purchased by the Art Union (Kunstforening) and
is now in the collection of the National Art Museum (Statens Museum
He received the Academy’s small silver medallion
in 1831 and a large silver medallion in 1833.
He lived in Kastellet until 1833 and made many
paintings of the area. His painting "Gården ved bageriet
i Kastellet" (ca. 1832) hangs in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
museum in Copenhagen.
In 1832 he shared a studio with friend, landscape
painter Frederik Hansen Sødring. He painted a portrait of
Sødring which now hangs in the Hirschsprung Collection.
In 1834 he moved, along with his parents, outside
of Copenhagen’s fortifications near Sortedamssøen,
a lake area. He painted many views overlooking the lake towards
the city and the embankments surrounding the city. His work becomes
larger, more monumental.
Like many of his contemporary artists he came under
the influenced of Niels Lauritz Høyen, art historian, who
promoted a nationalistic art. Høyen called for artists to
search for subject matter in the folk life of their country instead
of searching for themes in other lands, such as Italy (which was
at that time considered a requirement for an artist’s training).
On a visit to Hillerød in 1835 he painted a romantic picture
of Frederiksborg Palace, "Frederiksborg Slot ved Aftenbelysning"
("Frederiksborg Palace in the Light of Evening").
At the end of 1837 he married Susanna Cecilie Købke
(1810-1849), and shortly afterwards painted a portait of his young
Travel to Italy
In 1838 he received a travel stipend from the Academy,
left his new wife and traveled over Dresden and Munich to Italy
accompanied by decorative painter Georg Hilker. They arrived in
Rome by year’s end where he met brother-in-law Frederik Christopher
Krohn, sculptor and medallionist, and many other Danish artists.
He traveled, along with Constantin Hansen the following summer to
Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii and Capri where he painted out in the
Return to Denmark
He returned home in 1840 with a large collection
of sketches for later use and inspiration. Unfortunately, most his
later work with these Italian themes was uninspired, and they found
little favor. Købke even considered at the time becoming
a decoration painter, having participated in 1844-1845 in the decoration
of the Thorvaldsens Museum, a museum dedicated to the artistic works
of Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Two years after his father died in 1843 the family
sold the property outside Copenhagen, and Købke moved back
into the city. His application for admission to the Academy, which
was accompanied by one of his failed Italian landscapes, was rejected
in 1846. He died in 1848 of pneumonia, and is buried in Assistens
Købke, a national romantic, painted portraits,
landscapes and architectural paintings. Most of Købke’s
portraits show friends, family members and fellow artists. He found
most of his motifs in his immediate surroundings. Now he is recognized
internationally for his well composed and harmonic paintings, for
their coloristic qualities and for his sense of the everyday life.
But in his lifetime he was almost forgotten, especially because
of his early death and limited production. Despite his talent and
the praise of various contemporaries, Købke had never been
inundated with commissions.
Købke is recognized today as one of the
big talent among Denmark’s Golden Age painters and the most
internationally renowned Danish painter of his generation. The painterly
interpretations he made of his surroundings stand as highpoints
of the period.
His works are in the collections of not only Danish
museums but also such international museums as the J. Paul Getty