Forup, Carl (1883-1939)

Forup, Carl (1883-1939)

Danish artist Carl Forup’s vivaciously coloured and idealistically impassioned works are a unique snapshot of a painter resisting the tide of the modernist movement in art in the early 20th century. His oeuvre of predominantly landscape and exterior genre scenes of traditional, folk life demonstrate a singular artistic style which came to be known as ‘romantic naturalism.’

In his early years, Forup was encouraged in his blossoming artistic interests by landscape painter Hans Agersnap (1857-1925). Such an impression must have stuck, for it stayed with him even as he attended the Royal Academy. Even, still, when he travelled to Paris and enrolled in the painting school of fauvist artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Fauvism’s modernist mode of a more abstract derivation of reality, with the use of unrealistic yet vibrant colours and dramatic brushstrokes, occupied Forup for a time. It seems, however, they could not beat the allure of the more traditional methods of capturing figures and landscapes, as had been instilled in him from a young age by Agersnap. Forup began to experiment with a unique approach to art.

His works are an effective blend of the more traditional realism with a smattering of inspiration picked up from his time under Matisse. Views of idyllic landscapes are captured in piercingly bright colours evocative of fauvism which are realistic in shade and application. Trees alight with a fire of verdant tones cast shade over a sun-baked road. A far-off river is caught up in a haze of lighter colours evoking the dense heat which sits over the scene from the crystal-cut sky and the beating sun. Such attention both to the natural world presented to him, as well as to his own, artistic, emotional tendencies, is demonstrative of his unique style coined ‘romantic naturalism.’

His portraits, too, are a fascinating study of this blend of styles. A portrait of a ballerina, posed with one leg slung coyly, seems to suggest an intentional recognition of Forup’s distinct blend of styles. His figure, with long limbs compositionally sound, face painted with a cherub-like cheeriness evocative of the 18th-century Rococo style, sits in front of an abstract painting. the painting is decentred, revealing the backdrop part it plays in the portrait, the side of the room revealed to the ballerina’s right. Forup is seemingly placing both the ballerina and himself, in the crux between a more modernist style of art and a love for older, more traditional modes.

Forup found a lot of appeal in rural and traditional folk life. He often depicts scenes of country workers, collecting hay in the fields, or simply enjoying the vibrant verdancy that he places them in. Traditional folklife in Italy in particular appealed to his painterly instincts. He undertook many study trips to the country, finding an affinity with its natural beauty and infecting his subjects with such beauty, too, adding a gentile, innocent joy to the faces of cheery children. Everyday life becomes heightened, encased in an aura of idyllic vibrancy.

Forup’s wife, Eugenie, often features as a model in his works. Indeed, Forup was also interested in studies of female nudes which evoke a much more classical spirit and yet possess his distinct, vibrant colour palette.

Forup’s works were popular within Denmark, and he exhibited frequently both in his homeland and abroad in Paris and Germany. Today, a number of his works are held in museums within Denmark, including at Hosens and Vejle.


Born in Vejle, Copenhagen.


Studied at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


Travelled to Germany and Venice, Italy.


Exhibited in Munich.


Studied at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


Awarded the Hielmstierne-Rosencrone Scholarship.


Married Eugenie Augusta Isabella Schmidt.


Awarded the K. A. Larsen Scholarship.


Studied in Paris under Henri Matisse.


Died in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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