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Peter Christian Skovgaard

(1817 Ringsted – 1875 Copenhagen)

Landscape Impression of the Island of Møn. Black chalk and oil colours on canvas. 58.5 x 40.6 cm. Circa 1843.

Peter Christian Skovgaard is considered to be an important representative of the painting of the Danish Golden Age despite not having been a pupil of Eckersberg. He studied under Johann Ludwig Lund at the Copenhagen Academy from 1831 to 1835, but it is recorded that Skovgaard took part in some of the study trips organized by Eckersberg. While at the Academy he took a particular interest in Dutch 17th century landscape painting, which he studied in the Royal Collection (later the Statens Museum for Kunst). Also of importance for his artistic progress was the fact that Skovgaard developed an interest in Denmark’s own countryside and landscapes at an early age. He belonged to the inner circle of the art historian N. L. Høyen, who taught his students that instead of the obligatory Italian tour they should discover the beautiful landscapes of their own country. Skovgaard disliked what he considered to be the excessively theoretical training at the Academy and broke off his studies to become self-taught. To this end he undertook excursions into the countryside with his fellow students, Godtfred Rump and Johan Thomas Lundbye, to paint directly from nature in the open air. A key experience came in the summer of 1843, which Skovgaard spent with Lundbye on the Kattegat coast, where the former had grown up. This resulted in numerous nature studies whose freshness and directness of observation testify to an intensive study of nature.

The present oil sketch was probably made in connection with the painting The Steep Coast of Møn (Maribo, Storstrøms Kunstmuseum), executed that same year. The picturesque chalk cliffs at Møns Klint were among the young painter’s favourite landscape motifs. Skovgaard had a particular love of rendering trees. With rapid chalk lines the artist has sketched in the vegetation in the unfinished foreground, while in the middle distance a slender, well-proportioned tree is situated, whose leaves and delicate branches are outlined starkly against the violet-grey autumnal sky. In this nature study it is the evening light that illuminates the vegetation, revealing muted, yet richly nuanced colour tones. A dip in the terrain permits a view of the motionless surface of the sea and the sunlit chalk cliffs of Møns Klint. The tiny sails of occasional ships gleam on the horizon, lending the scene a contemplative note. The painterly purism and restrained colouration are reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich, who had created comparable landscape impressions on the Baltic island of Rügen several decades earlier.  

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