Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 125

JOHAN JULIUS EXNER
    ‒     
Julius Exner was born in Copenhagen and died there after a long and productive life in the service of
national romantic genre painting. His father was a musician, an immigrant from Bohemia. The son
was apprenticed as a painter, and at the age of fourteen he was admitted to the Royal Danish Acad-
emy of Fine Arts. Here he followed instruction from

to

with the intention of becoming a his-
tory painter, training under professors J.L. Lund (


) and C.W. Eckersberg, among others.
The catalogues of the Charlottenborg exhibitions show that the young Exner started his artistic
career as a portraitist and that historical compositions were his special interest.
Thyra Danebod
forsøger at formilde Gorm den Gamle i sin vrede mod nogle fangne kristne (Thyra Dane-
bod Attempts to Mollify Gorm the Old in His Anger with Some Captive Christians)
was the
title of his
fi
rst major work in this latter genre. The title of the painting reveals that its creator had
an early sense of narrative style with anecdotal features. The work was exhibited in

and imme-
diately purchased for the Royal Collection of Paintings.
It might have been on this occasion that the art historian N.L. Høyen began to take particular
interest in the young artist, turning the painter’s attention to the special features of the farmers of
Amager as a motif for a national genre painting. The fertile
fl
at island of Amager in the Sound lies
in continuation of Copenhagen. The island encompasses the districts of Christianshavn and Sund-
byerne with Kastrup and Kastrup Airport in the north and the Taarnby, Store Magleby and Dragør
districts farther to the south. In

the Danish King Christian II summoned Dutch farmers to
Amager in order to have them cultivate Danish land. It was the naturalised descendants of these
immigrants who, even in Exner’s day, still dressed for festive occasions in beautiful traditional local
dress, and whose everyday lives di
ff
ered little from what had always been known. From

until as
late as the

’s, Exner found most of his motifs on Amager. In contrast to Dalsgaard, it was exclu-
sively the lighter sides of life he portrayed. Often making some narrative point in his paintings, he
was fond of picturing a
ffl
uent farmers in well-furnished interiors or outside their delightful resi-
dences, dressed in beautiful, colourful Sunday clothes, engaged in friendly conversation or pursuing
innocent pastimes.
In


, having been awarded the Academy’s travel bursary, Julius Exner went via Dresden
and Vienna to Italy and Switzerland, returning home via Paris. But apart from an atypical but inter-
esting picture from Venice,

,
En gondol (A Gondola),
Statens Museum for Kunst, the journey
did not bring any decisive changes in his circle of motifs. At the beginning of the

’s Exner visited
Sweden on several occasions and painted a small number of genre scenes. But it continued to be the
Amager farmers—and occasionally the population in the central Zealand Hedebo region—in which
he was particularly interested. Then towards

, he focused on the little
fi
shing community on the
small island of Fanø in the North Sea near the German border.
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