Danish artist Knud Edsberg painted with a passion for his homeland and for the great history of art which had spanned before him. Producing mainly genre scenes and portraits, Edsberg’s works reveal an artist who combined his innate ability with a fascinating blend of inspirations.
Edsberg was brought up by a single mother who worked as a seamstress in order to provide for him and his sister. The young boy apparently showed a great interest in art and drawing from an early age. Indeed, as an adolescent, a selection of his works were shown to the eminent Danish artist Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927). Edsberg was keen to be taught by the master painter, however Tuxen encouraged Edsberg to gain experience as a commercial painter first to truly understand the challenges and rewards that the art world could offer. Only after that could he return for some crucial insight.
Edsberg did as asked, but by the time he returned to Tuxen, the elder was too ill to offer lessons, and could only provide Edsberg with advice. Having grown up in difficult circumstances, Edsberg, whilst disappointed, was undeterred and began to teach himself the facets of art.
This he did mainly through the study of both the old masters of the Baroque and Renaissance, such as Rembrandt and Titian, and his more recent Danish heroes. Artists such as Carl Bloch (1834-1890) and Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909), as well as artist of neighbouring Sweden Anders Zorn (1860-1920), were key inspirations in style and approach. He emulated their impressionism, often working outside, studying colour and light. He also greatly admired their passion for the Danish countryside, which they featured often in their works. ‘I was born fifty years too late,’ Edsberg would lament.
This, however, did not stop him from producing works depicting the Danish countryside in glorious colour and vivacity. Often staying on a friend’s farm in Jutland over the summer, Edsberg presents nature in thrall and life at a peaceful pace. Cows lazily grazing or horses suavely striding are common motifs placed into landscapes of sweeping scale. Grass spreads out towards far-off hills which falter under the weight of a glorious, crystalline sky. All seems harmonious, humanity and nature caught in an idyllic, cooperative relationship.
Edsberg exhibited these works frequently in his homeland, in particular at the prestigious Charlottenborg Spring exhibition in Copenhagen. Edsberg was fulfilling a desire amongst the Danish to see works which celebrated the traditional, rural way of life, so different from the gritty industrialisation swamping the country, dimming its skies.
Edsberg also became successful as a portrait painter. His canny studies of the old masters lent to his brush a shrewd and perceptive realism. Edsberg was able of capturing both the likeness and, crucially, the spirit of his sitters. During the 1950s, he worked for the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen, producing portraits of their staff. He was in much demand as a result of the success of these portraits. He also worked for a while in the United States, producing portraits of important figures such as Senator Orin Hatch.
Perhaps it was whilst he was in the States that Edsberg became better acquainted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 1961, Edsberg converted and became an influential figure in the Mormon mission in Denmark. His name features often in publications, and his portraits of Mormon leaders grace the front covers of these works. Faith was certainly incredibly important to Edsberg and must have surely influenced his art.
Edsberg passed down his artistic passion, and his Mormon faith, to his son, Soren Edsberg (1945-2021). During Edsberg’s trips to the country, he would often paint with his son. Whilst the younger Edsberg developed his own style of art, there are examples which echo the teachings of his father and those heady days of summertime creativity. The younger Edsberg would also become an influential figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Knud Edsberg was a man of devotion and faith. He was passionate about art and the artistic traditions of his country, and he devoted much of his career to presenting it in all its beauty. The same dedication he applied to his portraits, and his works for his church community. His works are held in a number of collections across Europe, including at the Carlsberg Museum in Copenhagen.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Son Soren Edsburg born.
Became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Died in Holmstrup, Denmark. Buried in Holmstrup Cemetery.