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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853), Standing male nude, Carl Frørup , 1837, Oil on Canvas, 94,5 x 62,5 cm, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Academy Council, Photo: Frida Gregersen.

HAMBURG.- OnWith an encompassing retrospective on Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), presented for the first time outside of Denmark in Europe, the Hamburger Kunsthalle is paying tribute to the most prominent Danish painter of the first half of the 19th century. On 9 May 1814 Eckersberg had bought a portable paintbox and a folding chair in order to paint in the Eternal City and in the Roman Campagna. He thus established the Danish tradition of outdoor painting in Rome. Innovations regarding the direct study of nature alongside geometry and perspective made up the principal components of his teachings at the Copenhagen Academy, where he was engaged as a professor for almost 40 years. Through his progressive approach of combining tradition with innovation, and classism with realism, Eckersberg not only became the most distinguished Danish painter of the first half of the 19th century, but also one of the defining figures for the European development of art during this period. 

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), Mendel Levin Nathanson's Elder Daughters, Bella and Hanna, 1820. Oil on canvas, 125 x 85,5 cm. Kopenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Foto: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark.

Eckerberg’s pictorial worlds blend the apparently coincidental and calculated construction, sobriety and magic. Appearing as moments solidified in an image or instants frozen in time, his works are capable of fascinating observers of today, while challenging their viewing habits. In their immediacy and compositional radicalism, Eckersberg’s artworks may strike us as the anticipation of the photographical view. 

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), A Sailor taking Leave of His Girlfriend, 1840. Oil on canvas, 34,5 x 26 cm. Ribe Kunstmuseum© Ribe Kunstmuseum

Exceptional in its scope, we find the full range of genres represented in Eckerberg’s oeuvre: portraits that bear witness to the sophisticated style of French art just as to the Danish striving for objectivity; historical paintings, whose protagonists are unable to deny their origin from the nude studio, and genre scenes which, in their exaggerated momentary nature, appear somehow to have fallen out of time. Not to forget his landscapes: Whether he presents the topography of Rome as a coincidentally chosen detail, whether he documents water, the phenomena of skies and light on his marine pictures or renders homage to the Danish nature in its sheer simplicity - all of Eckersberg’s paintings reflect his consistent commitment to reality.  

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum, 1815. Oil on canvas, 32 x 49,5 cm. Kopenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Foto: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark.

The exhibition Eckersberg – Fascination with Reality comprises around 90 paintings and about 40 drawings and prints from all creative periods, including all of the artist’s major works. Awaiting the visitor are highlights of art history, such as the group painting of The Nathanson Family or A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome

A richly illustrated catalogue will be published for the exhibition, featuring specialist contributions from both German and Danish perspectives. It can be purchased for 29,80 Euro in the museum shop and is also available online.

The exhibition will include loans from the Statens Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen, numerous Danish institutions, such as Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hirschsprung Collection, Thorvaldsens Museum, Ribe Kunstmuseum as well as American and German Museums and various private collections. 

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), Die Fontana dell` Acqua Acetosa bei Rom, 1814-16. Öl auf Leinwand, 25,5 x 44,5 cm Kopenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Foto: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, At a Window in the Artist's Studio, 1852. Pen, grey ink and brown wash over pencil framed in light blue watercolour, 274 x 231 mm. The National Gallery of DenmarkFoto: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark 

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, View of the Cloaca Maxima, Rome, 1814. Oil on canvas, 31,5 x 47,5 cm. National Gallery Of Art, Washington© National Gallery Of Art, Washington.

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Reclining Model, 1810-13. Oil on canvas, 22 x 27 cm 

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Portrait of Emilie, a Model, 1813. Oil on canvas, 25,5 x 20 cm. Davids Samling© Davids Samling

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Ulysses fleeing the Cave of Polyphemus, C. 1812. Oil on canvas, 81 x 64 cm, Princeton University Art Museum © Princeton University Art Museum

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, The Israelites resting after the crossing of the Red Sea, 1815. Photo SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark.

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, The Russian battleship Azov and a frigate moored at Elsinore", 1828, oil on canvas, 63 x 51 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst. Photo: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark.

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, End of the race figures on the Langebro in Copenhagen in the moonlight, 1836. Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 33.5 cm. Kopenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Foto: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Cloud Study on the Sound, 1826, oil on canvas, 20.5 x 32.3 cm. Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Photo: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark.

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Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Sailing trip from Copenhagen to Charlotte Lun, 1824, oil on canvas, 44.5 x 45 cm. Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst. Photo: SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark