Pedersen, Stefan Viggo (1891-1965)

Pedersen, Stefan Viggo (1891-1965)

Danish artist Stefan Viggo Pedersen was entranced by the theatricality and grandiose splendour of frescoes and figure paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Working in the early 20th century, Pedersen based a large part of his artistic oeuvre on these two styles.

Pedersen grew up surrounded by artistic hearts and minds. Both his grandfather, Vilhelm Pedersen (1820-1859), and his father, Viggo Pedersen (1854-1926) before him had successfully established careers as artists. As a consequence, the family home was often a meeting place for the artistically minded. It seems that the Skovgaard brothers, Niels (1858-1938) and Joakim (1856-1933), in particular, were influential. Their ecclesiastical frescoes must have stayed with Pedersen and offered inspiration, as we shall see.

His time studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, however, was the decisive time of inspiration for Pedersen. Sheltering under the wing of Jens Adolf Jerichau (1816-1883), Pedersen was introduced to artist and art critic Vilhelm Wanscher (1875-1961).

Wanscher was encouraging a move back towards the ‘great styles’ of the Renaissance and the Baroque art movements, which combined an idealisation of the human form with a dramatic flair. A traditional subject matter for these styles was often religious imagery and allegory. With the prior influence of the Skovgaard brothers’ frescoes, Pedersen became entranced.

Pedersen successfully completed a number of frescoes in churches across Denmark. Here, he utilised the idealised form of the human body, depicting Jesus Christ with lithe, muscular limbs. He hangs upon the cross, the centre of the composition, crowded on either side by mournful figures. Their sorrowful emotions twist their limbs into gesticulations of despair, the physical transmuted by the emotional. A scene of an angel, bursting through clouds buoyant with pearlescence, captures a divinity translated by the perfect posturing and the adornment of smooth, slick sheets upon the body.

It should be noted that Pedersen also found influence from his father in the number of landscapes he executed during his career. Viggo Pedersen had made a name for himself with his natural, emotional evocations of the Danish countryside. This eye for nature he seems to have passed down to his son. Pedersen captures the play of shadows upon the dappled forest floor or the sentinel rocks on sandy beaches.

His use of colour if effusive, heightened to add dashes of drama to the scenes laid out before him. He does seem to paint with more modernism than his father, his works taking on an impressionist, and at times abstract, form.

Pedersen’s interest in ‘high art’ only increased as he made a number of study trips to Italy, and the homeplace of the Renaissance, throughout the 1920s.


Born in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Studied at the Technical School, Copenhagen.


Studied at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


Awarded the Ronge scholarship. Awarded the Helmet Star-Rosencrone scholarship.


Travelled to Paris and Holland.


Married Gertrud Helene Klem.


Travelled to Germany.


Travelled regularly to Italy.


Married Elfriede (Fritzi) Emilie Strambach.


Travelled to Oslo, Norway.


Worked as an anatomical drawing teacher at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


Travelled to Oslo, Norway.


Died in Frederiksberg, Denmark. Buried in Hillerød Cemetery.

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