Jul 1, 2014

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and His Male Models

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) grew up in southern Denmark, and at the age of 19 enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art.  He was schooled in the neoclassical tradition, but soon expressed an interest in more realistic-looking figures, like this beefy nude man.

In 1810 he was pushed into marriage, but a few days after his wedding, he left the country.  (His wife finally got a divorce.)

He moved to Paris, where he lived with Jens Peter Møller, and then to Rome, where he lived with renowned Danish painter Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Although he painted portraits, landscapes, historical scenes, and female nudes, his brightly-lit, naturalistic male nude figures brought him the most attention.

Here he revisits the scene from The Odyssey where Ulysses escapes from the cyclops Polyphemus, transforming it into a scene of two nude lovers in Romantic-era cave.

In another scene from The Odyssey, Ulysses returns after many years to find his wife fighting off suitors. Eckersberg made them all naked from the waiste down, and gave Ulysses a nude boyfriend, maybe Telemachus.

In 1817 Eckersberg returned to Denmark and became a member of the Academy of Art, later a professor, and then the curator.  He was commissioned to do a number of paintings for Christiansborg Palace, as well as landscapes, marine paintings, and altarpieces.

But he returned over and over to his romanticized studies of male nudes.  This one, called merely "Young Man," shows a naked young man talking to a muscular older man, his mentor, father, or boyfriend.

He often found inspiration at the Copenhagen Naval Station, where the sailors practiced swimming nude.

Eckersberg was married twice more, and fathered 10 children.  No one can deny his heterosexual interests.  But no one can deny that the Father of Danish painting found inspiration in the male form.

When he was 54 years old, he painted Carl Frørup, Standing Male Model (1837).  It was unusual for artists to include the names of their models in their titles.  I wonder if Carl Frørup was something more.

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