Danish artist Emil Wennerwald executed many landscapes in the classic, Danish national romantic style. Each painting is a homage to the natural beauty of his homeland whilst also celebrating its great painting tradition.
Wennerwald received a thorough education from an early age. Not only did he study at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts and attend C.V. Nielsen’s drawing school, but he received training from two artists in his youth who surely recognised his natural talent and were keen to encourage him. Most significantly, Carl Gotfred Würtzen (1825–1880). Würtzen painted in the national romantic style of the Danish Golden Age, something that would rub off on Wennerwald.
The Danish Golden age occurred predominantly during the first half of the 19th-century, when a more specific Danish identity was being created both politically and culturally. Landscape paintings which celebrated the glorious natural beauty of Denmark became increasingly popular. These tended to be a combination of realism with just the right amount of romance to emphasise Denmark’s splendour. Painters such as Frederik Vermehren (1823-1910) gained icon status for their national romantic depictions of the homeland.
By Wennerwald’s time, national romantic paintings were beginning to bow to impressionistic stylings in popularity, but their importance was still, nonetheless, recognised. On Wennerwald in particular, they had a great impact. The influence of both Würtzen and Vermehren on his work is clear. There is a sharpness of quality in the fine detailing he bestows upon heathland and moors. The glossy sheen of river surfaces makes them appear polished, pristine. The wildness of nature itself seems harmonious, conducted in a convivial mixing of colours by Wennerwald to create a pleasant yet passionate view. Wennerwald was particularly keen on depicting farmhouses within his scenes, and they, too, become embellished with a romantic eye. Rich roof tiles burn ochre under a glorious sun, whilst whitewashed walls are stark canvases on which nature encroaches.
Wennerwald had difficulty in making a living from his art. Although he worked for a brief period as a drawing teacher in Copenhagen, he was forced to travel around Denmark working as an actor to make ends meet. This would have impacted his ability to exhibit and sell his art in the cultural capital of Copenhagen. However, he did receive a number of scholarships from the Academy and elsewhere which allowed him to continue to practice his trade. He became fond of depicting the wilds of Jutland and the woodlands of Vejle and Himmelbjerget. The landscapes around the city of Svendborg, where he lived for a while, also became creative fodder for his feast.
As well as garnering much inspiration from his homeland, Wennerwald also found it abroad, in countries such as Germany and Italy. He cultivates images infused with as much romanticism as he instils into those of Denmark. Italian courtyards become vine-raptured secluded spots, perfect for the meeting of two lovers. A town becomes a gentle wash of sun-baked colours amidst a hazy sky and enticing vinery.
Wennerwald exhibited extensively, both in Denmark and in Berlin, Germany. In his homeland he often displayed his work at both the esteemed exhibits in Copenhagen, such as the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition, and in the provincial exhibits of the Dyrehaven Painters. He must have made an impression with his vivid, crystal-clear scenes of the Danish countryside.
Indeed, Wennerwald himself seems to have made an impression on the Danish art world. When he eventually established a home for himself in Copenhagen, he would often allow visiting or struggling artists to stay with him until their fortunes changed. Perhaps he had not forgotten his struggles to make a living out of his art and wanted to ensure there was support there for artists who needed it.
From the days of his youth, Wennerwald held a passion for depicting the scenes of his homeland in all their glory. In fact, he would be capturing with his crystalline coherency Denmark’s natural beauty when he suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack and passed away in 1934. Until the very end, Wennerwald’s love for painting came before all else.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
Exhibited frequently at Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Worked as a drawing teacher in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Married Carla Christine Ludovica Rongsted.
Married Ingeborg Johanne Emilie Hansen.
Lived in Svendborg, Denmark.
Travelled to Germany.
Received the Raben-Levetzau Scholarship.
Moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. Received the Hielmstierne-Rosencrone Scholarship.
Died in Copenhagen, Denmark.