Emil Carlsen

(Copenhagen, Denmark, 1853 - 1932)

North America, American, born Denmark

Born to a family of marine painters, Carlsen studied architecture at the Danish Royal Academy before immigrating to Chicago where he worked first as an architect’s then as an artist’s assistant. In 1875, he went to study for six months in Paris where he was greatly influenced by Chardin. During the 1870s, he specialized in still lifes. He returned to Paris in 1884 for a two-year stay financed by a New York art dealer. There, he produced for sale still lifes in the “French” style—using thin, dry paint and a light palette possibly inspired by Whistler and by Oriental art.

As an instructor at the National Academy of Design, Carlsen was a staunch advocate of the still-life genre. His statement that "...a two penny bunch of violets in an earthenware jug may make a great work of art, if seen through a temperament" suggested his belief that by combining technical skill and personal vision, an artist could transform the humblest of objects.

Returning to New York, Carlsen devoted himself to teaching and, in the 1890s, painting plein air landscapes in an Impressionist style, often in the company of Weir and Twachtman. Between 1910 and his death in 1932, as his landscapes assumed increasingly romantic and mystical qualities, he also turned to painting religious subjects.

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