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Emanuel Larsen

(1823–1859, Copenhagen)

Boats in a Bay in Catalonia. Oil on paper, mounted on a wood panel. 28.5 x 35.5 cm. Signed, inscribed and dated “Emanuel Larsen Catalan. 1853.” at the bottom right.

Emanuel Larsen, a talented seascape and landscape painter who died young, studied at the Copenhagen Academy under Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg. He went to Iceland and the Faroes in 1845 and travelled through Holland, England and France between 1852 and 1854. Despite his premature death Larsen ranks among the outstanding representatives of the Golden Age of Danish painting. His oil studies draw their appeal from the subtle rendering of light and atmosphere and strong affinity with nature. Although several of his seascapes were bought by public collections during his lifetime, Larsen was never admitted to the Academy. Given his unquestionable talent, that seems hard to understand today.

The study, painted after nature in 1853, shows a quiet bay on the coast of Catalonia. The artist very likely went on a trip to the Spanish province during his stay on the French Mediterranean coast. Three little fishing boats rest on a deserted pebble beach patiently awaiting the next day’s fishing. The study is remark­able for the simplicity of the subject matter and the economy of artistic means. The intensive light of the midday sun, which is at its zenith, brings out the rich blue and brown hues of the sky and the naked rocks. Larsen has captured the bare, rudimentary architecture and the colourful little details on the boats and the bright beach pebbles with vigorous brushwork. It is almost as if one could feel the oppressive heat and smell the salty sea air.

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