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The Danish painter, Carl Heinrich Bloch, was born on May 23, 1834, in
Copenhagen, Denmark. He was the son of merchant Joergen Peter
Bloch and Ida Emilie Ulrikke Henriette Weitzmann Bloch. Counter
to his parent's wishes, he became a painter rather than an officer in
the Danish Navy.
In January 1849, he began study at the Royal Danish Academy of
Art. In 1852, he was awarded a small silver medal for one of his
drawings, which was exhibited the following year at the Academy.
In 1855, Bloch joined the Royal Danish Academy of Art, where on August
1, 1859 he received a travel grant, which he used to study in Holland,
France and Italy with his best friend and fellow artist, Anton Dorph.
Here, Bloch's love and admiration for Rembrandt further developed, and
the old Master became a major driving force in Bloch's development as
He then went to Rome, which served as his "home base" until 1865.
Here the works of the Old Italian masters greatly influenced him, and
he did Italian genre and folklore paintings that brought him
popularity. However, portrait painitng became his signature work
In 1888 he was asked to paint his self-portrait that was to be hung at
the Uffizi in Florence, Italy, something that was a great honor.
After seeing many of Bloch paintings that were coming out of Italy, the
Danish maecenas of the time, brewer J. C. Jacobsen, commissioned Bloch
to paint 23 new paintings for the King's Praying Chamber in the newly
restored Frederiksborg Castle Chapel (which was ravaged by fire in
1859). This commission came toward the end of Bloch's time in Italy.
The assignment of this commission was to illustrate the life of Christ,
and Bloch worked on this monumental project for nearly fourteen
years. The commission to paint the 23 paintings for The Praying
Chamber changed not only Carl Bloch's personal life but also his
artistic legacy from portraiture to religious subjects. Carl
Bloch also excelled through his etchings.
Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, and the married in May
1868. They had a very happy and prosperous life together until
her early death in January 1886. The sorrow over losing his wife
weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight
children after her death was very difficult for him.
Besides his religious masterpieces, many of his genre-and portrait paintings are exhibited in the Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark.
Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. A prominent
Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher
toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that
date. Madsen also said "If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich,
warm and noble artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the
noblest of them all!"
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