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Kristian Zahrtmann: 'Girls carrying water. Cività d'Antino', 1889

Travel scenes

From faraway Jutland to sojourns in Rome and Paris

Right from the first half of the nineteenth century, artists were encouraged and even expected to go on long trips outside of Denmark to study. That journey took them south via Germany, where many stopped for a while in Munich, while the main destination – especially during the first half of the century – was the Eternal City itself, Rome. The ancient ruins and relics from thousands of years of culture were not the only elements that attracted the artists. The vivacious hustle and bustle of Italian life gave rise to many folk scenes in the paintings, oil studies and drawings created during the artists’ time there. By the late nineteenth century, Danish artists came to favour the new centre of arts, Paris, whose vibrant cultural and entertainment scene exerted a strong pull.

Wilhelm Bendz painted the beautiful mountains around Munich in 1831. The city and general area was a popular destination and subject matter for the artists of the day.

The travels of Golden Age artists

Upon graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, many Danish Golden Age artists capped their training by going on a long study trips. Many followed in the footsteps of academy professor C.W. Eckersberg and set out for Rome or the coastline around Naples, and such journeys could extend for years. They would travel by sea on ships, or across land in horse-drawn carriages or on foot. Only later in the century did the railway and steam engines make it possible to travel through Europe at great speed. For some Copenhagen-based artists, the peninsula of Jutland also became a popular destination; for example, the painter Martinus Rørbye was among the very first artists to travel along the western coastline of Denmark and to Skagen back in the 1830s.

Ancient ruins were not the only thing to interest Danish artists in Italy. Folk scenes and portraits were also popular subjects. In this 1836 painting, Wilhelm Marstrand depicts a young Italian girl wearing traditional costume.
Martinus Rørbye was one of the most well-travelled Danish Golden Age artists, journeying as far afield as Constantinople in Turkey. But Jutland was also among his travel destinations, and in this oil study from 1848 he has painted a beach near Lønstrup on the west coast of Jutland.

Setting out for new inspiration and new artistic movements

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen was still greatly influenced by the methods of Golden Age art, i.e. from the first half of the century. In Europe, the centre of the art world was no longer Rome, but Paris, and the vibrant cultural scene and many new trends and movements of this great city exerted a strong pull on the young Danish artists. They went to Paris to study under masters such as the French painter Léon Bonnat, exploring new visual modes of expression and a freer approach to brushwork. Italy remained a popular destination, and in the 1880s a Scandinavian artists’ community was formed in the city of Sora and the mountain village of Civita d’Antino.

The artist Kristian Zahrtmann lived in the mountain village of Civita d’Antino for long periods at a time, and Danish fellow artists such as P.S. Krøyer and Joakim Skovgaard also came for long visits. Here, Zahrtmann has painted a folk scene from the village in 1889.