(Danish school, 1783 Blakrog – Copenhague 1853)
Young girl undressing
Pencil and gray ink wash on paper
187 x 147 mm
Verso : A ship
Inscription affixed during the sale after his death : Eckersberg 463
Provenance : Sale after death of the artist, January 17, 1854, n°463 ; acquired by Benjamin Wolff (1790-1866) (Lugt 420, lower left); then by his descendants
A leader of the Copenhagen School, the young Eckersberg won a prize that allowed him to study in France between 1810 and 1813. The year he spent in the studio of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) was crucial for his time in Paris. This artist’s teaching relied exclusively on study of the live model and was an innovation for Eckersberg. The historical scenes of the artist’s early works changed character immediately under the influence of the French master.
Eckersberg left France for Italy in June 1813 and settled in Rome, moving into the house where Thorvaldsen also lived, and they became close friends.
After his time in France and Italy, Eckersberg returned to Copenhagen in 1816 where he remained until his death. He became professor and then director of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and spent the rest of his life painting and teaching.
The drawings and paintings made from 1830 on evoking daily life in Denmark and Eckersberg’s many portraits of the Danish bourgeoisie show his interest in habits and manners, as well as secular scenes. When he returned to Copenhagen he made portraits of several of the generous patrons who had allowed him to study abroad. In these works, the French influence can be seen – especially that of David – in the arrangement of the models, which is impressive but simple, the rigorous composition, clear details and the rendering of the texture and quality of fabric.
Over the summer of 1837, Eckersberg made five paintings showing nude models almost in life size. For these paintings that would serve as examples for his pupils, he chose his models carefully, who were complementary for their age, physical type and expression, either concentrated or distant.
Our portrait is a preparatory drawing for the painting Jeune fille se déshabillant (Oil on canvas 34,2 x 30, 2 cm, 1844, see illustration, private collection).