The Danish Golden Age
Artists of the Golden Age
The Danish Golden Age, which spanned the years 1800-1850, was a period of cultural revival that brought forth the best in Danish art. The actual expression Golden Age stems from Greek mythology and refers to “a happy age”. Nevertheless, the foundation of the Danish Golden Age was a crisis which saw the Danish state involved in a war with Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, and with disastrous consequences: 2nd April 1801, the Battle of Copenhagen (or as it is known in Denmark, the Battle of Reden); 2nd September to 5th September 1807, the bombardment of Copenhagen and the plundering of the Danish fleet; 3rd January 1813, the bankruptcy of the Danish State; and 1814, Norway lost to Sweden. The series of disasters awoke patriotic feelings in Danish breasts along with a national romantic artistic blossoming: for example, C.F. Hansen designed the Law Courts (Domhuset), the Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke), the Metropolitan School and the University of Copenhagen; Bertel Thorvaldsen was creating marble statues in classic style; Adam Oehlsenschläger, Chr. Winter, N.F.S. Grundtvig and B.S. Ingemann wrote poetry and novels; J.L. Heiberg wrote vaudevilles for the Royal Danish Theatre; August Bournonville choreographed ballets; C.E.F. Weyse and Fr. Kuhlau wrote concertos and chamber music. National Romanticism also influenced the artists of the Golden Age, whose names include the father of Danish painting, C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853) and from his many pupils, Chr. Købke (1810-1848) and W. Marstrand (1810-1873), the latter who is particularly well represented at the above-mentioned online auction.
At only 24 years of age W. Marstrand had already produced a major work “Et musikalsk Aftenselskab hos Grosserer, Vinhandler Waagepetersen” (A Musical Soirée at the House of Wine Merchant Waagepetersen”) (1834). In this picture W. Marstrand demonstrates the vitality, naturalness and social intercourse which was to pervade many of his later paintings and drawings, produced both in Denmark and abroad. Thus he was much attracted by Italy, where he lived the Mediterranean life and used national holidays and everyday life as the subjects of his art. Of course, he experienced at close hand the national romantic movement in Denmark, but though he was a child of the Golden Age he was never a passionate devotee when it came to the choice of subjects. On the contrary, W. Marstrand continued his journeys to Italy, where he was captured by the life on the Grand Canal and the light reflecting on the waters. Only late in life did W. Marstrand really take up National Romanticism, among other things when he was commissioned to carry out the decoration of the Hall of Solemnity in Copenhagen University. However, he was only able to finish the central painting in the hall before his death: The Inauguration of the University 1479 in the Church of Our Lady.