Vilhelm Petersen, Fishing Village near Hornbeck
Vilhelm Petersen (1812-1880)

Fishing Village near Hornbeck, 1875

Oil on paper laid down on cardboard, H. 0.16 m; W. 0.27 m

Dated lower right: 18 Sept. 75

Initials handwritten on the back: R.J. ( ?)

Provenance: Private collection


Vilhelm Petersen – en glemt guldaldermaler, exh. cat. Helsingør Kommunes Museer – Marienlyst Slot, Helsingør, 1990, p. 96, no. 364.

Until the 1980s (1), Petersen was a nearly forgotten painter, but today he is considered an important member of the Danish Golden Age. His works are compared to artists like Th. Lundbye, P.C. Skovgaard and Vilhelm Kyhn.

He studied at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen from 1831 to 1838, where he was taught by two of its most famous teachers, Christopher Wilhelm Eckersberg and Johan Ludvig Lund. Petersen excelled in producing intimate, naturalistic studies of everyday subjects. In his numerous plein-air sketches of the Danish landscape, he was especially fascinated by the interplay of light when the sea meets the sky.

He obtained a scholarship from the Academy and travelled via Germany and Austria to Italy, where he stayed from 1850 to 1852. He found it so inspirational that he tried to prolong his stay there by writing to the Academy pleading for more money. As the funds were not forthcoming, he had to return home at the end of 1852. In Copenhagen, Petersen became a teacher of drawing and geometry at the Mariboe school, and also taught in various private homes. In the summer months he continued to do plein-air paintings. He got married quite late, in 1864, and had a daughter. He exhibited his landscapes at the Academy shows at Charlottenborg, nearly every year from 1833 to 1875.

The painting was probably done on the spot, and is typical of Petersen’s art and of Danish plein-air landscape painters. His talent is obvious in the richness of his handling of the oils, the perspective and the refined use of colour.

  1. Exh. cat. Kirk Varnedoe, The Golden Age of Scandinavian Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York and Corcoran Museum, Washington DC, 1982; M. Christensen and J. Faye, Wilhelm Petersen, a forgotten painter of the Golden Age, Copenhagen, 1990.[]