Tom-Petersen, Peter (1861-1926)

Tom-Petersen, Peter (1861-1926)
Tom-Petersen, Peter (1861-1926)

Danish painter, etcher, and illustrator Peter Tom-Petersen depicted gloriously bright and natural views sweeping right across Europe, from its abundant landscapes to its bustling cityscapes.

Born to pharmacist parents and one of six children, Tom-Petersen displayed artistic aspirations from a young age. As a result, he received a thorough arts education. He first began his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, before moving onto the Artists’ Free Study School, which offered a more open-minded, modern approach to arts education. He continued his studies further with attendance at the studio of Léon Bonnat (1833-1922) in Paris, before spending a short time learning under Danish artist Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909).

It is clear this education offered him both a broad perspective on art and allowed him to develop his natural talent. Even before his studies were completed, Tom-Petersen was exhibiting his work. He began in Denmark, at the eminent Charlottenborg exhibitions in Copenhagen, before moving onto European exhibitions. He received an honourable mention at the prestigious Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889.

He also readily began work as an illustrator for the Danish publications ‘Out and Home’ and the ‘Illustrated Newspaper.’ These illustrations have been described as being ‘reportage-like,’ quickly and slickly executed, depicting key moments that were the subject of articles. He would continue this line of work for a number of years during the late 19th century.

Being able to capture a moment in time is something common to Tom-Petersen’s paintings as well. He is most well known for his landscapes and his cityscapes, capturing the seemingly tranquil mood of nature and the hustle and bustle of the man-made metropoles. These works are imbued with a light, airy naturalism. Tom-Petersen seemingly breathes every glorious aspect of nature into his landscapes with his use of colour. The sea ripples and warps with various shades of blue. A considered use of verdant shades injects a luscious, fresh quality into his works.

In his city scenes, the same vibrancy of colour is to be found, even when Tom-Petersen is attending to the grittier, earthier palette of the buildings and streets. Combined with his sophisticated, delicate hand, no aspect of his cityscapes appears heavy. Even when capturing busy scenes, pedestrians bustling to and fro, and market stalls huddled under the shade of the looming buildings, there is no congestion, only elaboration. The scenes before him are his to transform into oil on canvas.

Tom-Petersen’s inspiration came from the numerous trips he took across Denmark and Europe during his career. His scenes from Italy are amongst his most well-known, in which Tom-Petersen cannily captures the glorious rays of sun as they soak like butter into the building facades. He also travelled to Germany and to Sweden, often taking trips to Mölle with fellow artist and friend from his Academy days, Georg Achen (1860-1912).

At home in Denmark, Tom-Petersen worked for a number of years principally from the capital, Copenhagen. Here his scenes of the busy market areas such as those of Gammeltorv and Nytorv formed part of a growing trend in depicting Danish city scenes. Other Danish artists such as Edvard Petersen (1841-1911) were representing city life in a similarly naturalistic manner. Indeed, Tom-Petersen’s work would go on to influence later painters such as Karl Schou (1870-1938) and Jens Birkholm (1869-1915).

Petersen was also keen to travel throughout his country, spending a number of summers in Elsinore, and most of the later months of the year in Faaborg. It was in the grounds of Brahetrolleborg Castle, slightly northwest of Faarborg, that Tom-Petersen would meet his wife, Marie Elisabeth Lorentzen, daughter of the estate manager. The castle’s grounds become a common motif in Petersen’s work, suggesting it was a sentimental place for him to visit.

It was also in Faaborg that Tom-Petersen would become a founding member of the Faaborg Museum during the early 20th century, a project devoted to ensuring the artistic and cultural revitalisation of the area. Such a theme would become common in Tom-Petersen’s other efforts. He served on the jury of numerous exhibitions, including the Charlottenborg exhibition and the Baltic exhibition in Malmö, Sweden. He was dedicated to improving and encouraging the arts across Scandinavia.

Tom-Petersen was also influential in the graphic arts, taking up etching in 1900. A medium he often worked on in the winter, when perhaps the weather was too inclement for painting, Tom-Petersen would refine his talent at this painstaking skill and become an influential proponent. In 1909 he became a founding member of the Graphic Artists’ Association.

In the later years of his life, Peter Tom-Petersen purchased a house and built a studio in Nørregade, Ærøskøbing. It was here he would continue to paint during the summer until his death in 1926, continuing to depict Denmark’s beauty and truth until his last breath.


Born in Thisted, Denmark.


Moved to Copenhagen, Denmark.


Studied at C. Mariboe's Latin and Real School.


Studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.


First exhibited at the Charlottenborg Winter Exhibition.


Studied at the Artists’ Free Study School.


Exhibited frequently at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Studied under Léon Bonnat in Paris, France.


Travelled to France, Holland, and Belgium.


Received an Honourable Mention at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, France.


Travelled to Germany and Italy.


Married Marie Elisabeth Lorentzen.


Travelled to Italy.


Awarded a travel grant from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.


Exhibited frequently at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Became co-founder of the Graphic Artists’ Association.


Member of the censorship commission at the Charlottenborg Exhibition, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Member of the board of the Faaborg Museum, Faaborg, Denmark.


Member of the jury for the Baltic Exhibition, Malmö, Sweden.


Purchased a house in Nørregade, Ærøskøbing, Denmark.


Travelled to Avignon, France.


Died in Ærøskøbing, Denmark. Buried in Ærøskøbing Cemetery, Denmark.

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