Christian Krohg’s (1852-1925) style pf painting made him a leading figure in the transition from romantism to naturalism. The Norwegian painter was inspired by realism art movement and often chose motifs from everyday life. Read the fascinating story of an iconic Norwegian painter.
Christian Krohg was born in Oslo on August 13th 1852. His father, a lawyer, wanted his son to become a lawyer, so Christian went to the Royal Frederick University (now the University of Oslo) in 1869 to study law. His main interest, however, was art and maybe through an agreement with his father that if he studied for a law degree, he would be allowed to also attend art classes at the local drawing schools.
He attended both Johan Fredrik Eckersberg’s private art school from 1869 to 1870 and later the drawing class of Julius Middelthun, the Norwegian sculptor, at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiana (Oslo).
Krohg was additionally educated in Germany, first at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe under Hans Gude in 1874. The Norwegian Romanticist painter Hans Gude was one of Norway’s foremost landscape painters. Gude spent most of his adult life as a professor of art and was a leading figure in the advancement of Norwegian art.
Krohg also trained under Karl Gussow from 1875. He followed with study at the Königliche Akademie in Berlin from 1875 to 1878.
He was awarded the Schäffer’s legacy (1876–77) and received a government travel allowance during 1877–78 and in 1881. In 1879, on the encouragement of artist Frits Thaulow, he visited the Skagen artists’ colony. Skagen had become a summer meeting place for artists in the late 1870’s and remained such up until the end of the nineteenth century.
To learn more about Skagen, the Scandinavian summer paradise, press the image below.
Christian Krohg won a state stipend in 1881 and travelled to Paris, where he taught at an art school for women. In those days most of the prestigious art establishments denied women access to art tuition and Krohg could see the error of this dictate and wanted to be supportive of the female cause. Maybe Krohg was sympathetic with regards the plight of women in general as it is known that at about this time, he was also becoming more and more interested in painting pictures which highlighted people’s struggle with everyday life and especially the great effort women had to make just to survive.
In 1881 he completed a very poignant painting entitled The Sick Girl. It was the depiction of a girl who had been struck down by tuberculosis and was dying. Krohg would be painfully aware that this killer disease had also taken his youngest sister, Nanna, thirteen years earlier. It is a haunting depiction. The girl sits upright in a wooden chair with a cushioned back. A thick woolen blanket covers the lower part of her body. Look at the girl’s tight-lipped facial expression. It is a mixture of sadness and fear. Maybe she is aware that her life is ebbing away. Her hands are tightly clasped together, as if in prayer, as she clutches the stem of a pale pink rose, the leaves and petals of which are starting to fall to the ground. The rose like the girl is dying. One cannot help but be moved by such a depiction.
Krohg worked in Paris from 1881 to 1882. Inspired by the ideas of the realists he chose motifs primarily from everyday life – often its darker or socially inferior sides. Prostitution is the subject of his painting Albertine to see the police surgeon, and Krohg also wrote a novel about the depicted scene. The novel, Albertine, caused a scandal when first published, and it was confiscated by the police.
He returned to Skagen in 1882–84 and 1888. Through his periodic future residence at Skagen, he would influence other artists including Anna and Michael Ancher and provided early support to Edvard Munch.
Brøndum hotel in Skagen is a living museum. Click the image to learn more.
Charles Lundh, a Norwegian painter, lived together with Christian Krohg and the Swedish painters Johan Krouthén and Oscar Björck in a house in Skagen in 1883.
Krohg was the founding and editor-in-chief of the Kristiania Bohemian journal, Impressionisten from 1886 until 1890. He then became a journalist for the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang from 1890 to 1910. Christian Krohg was also associated with the Danish newspaper Politiken 1893–1894.
He taught at Académie Colarossi in Paris from 1902 until 1909. Later he became a professor-director at the Norwegian Academy of Arts (Statens Kunstakademi) from 1909 until 1925.
In 1914, Christian Krohg established residence near Frogner Park where he died in 1925. His wife, Oda Krohg, died in 1935. Both were buried at Vår Frelsers gravlund in Oslo.
A bronze statue of Krohg by sculptors Per Hurum and Asbjørg Borgfelt was erected at the crossing of Lille Grensen-Karl Johans gate in Oslo in 1960.
Want to know more about the National Museum in Oslo. Click the image below:
The Fascinating Story of an Iconic Norwegian Painter, edited by Tor Kjolberg.
Feature image (on top) Christian Krohgs «Leiv Eiriksson discovers America» (1893). Photo: National Museum, Oslo