Eilif Peterssen

(1852 - 1928)

Eilif Peterssen was born in Christiania, now Oslo, on 4th September 1852. He studied in Oslo at the School of Johan Fredrik Eckersberg (1822-1870) a landscape painter who had lived and worked in Düsseldorf where many Scandinavian painters studied.

Following the death of Eckersberg, in 1870 Peterssen continued his studies in Copenhagen before moving to Karlsruhe in Germany and then in 1873 to Munich where Peterssen studied at the Academy under Wilhelm Diez (1839-1907).

Peterssen was, in his early years, a painter of historical and biblical subjects, and portraits. In 1876 in Munich he painted “Christian II Signs the Death Sentence of Torben Oxe”, now in the National Gallery Oslo. He painted numerous portraits, including the artist Anton Windmaier, Hanover and the composer Edvard Grieg, (Utne) and the philosopher and writer Arne Garborg now in the National Gallery Oslo and Ibsen and Harriet Backer; he was perhaps the premier Norwegian portrait painter of the period.

In Oslo Peterssen received commissions to produce paintings for the Churches of St. John an altarpiece for St. Jakob, and for the cathedral; his ‘Garden of Gethsemane’ hangs in the Korskirken in Bergen.

In 1882 his wife, Nicoline died, the same year that he painted her portrait. Peterssen continued to travel and with the years his style and palette reformed. During the 1880’s Peterssen would visit Skaagen in Denmark, staying with Michael and Anna Ancher and was friends with Peder Kroyer and Christian Krohg. In 1885 he was in Venice with Frits Thaulow, in 1886 he spent the summer with fellow Norwegian painters at the farm of Christian Skredsrig (1854–1924) on the Island of Fleskum where he contributed to the founding of The Norwegian Neo-Romantic Movement. In 1889 he was awarded a gold medal in Paris for “Salmon Fishing at Nesoya”.

The 1890’s saw Peterssen producing Impressionist works, in 1891 “Magda Sewing”’, showing his second wife Frederika Magdalene Kielland (1855-1931), who he married in 1888, seated outside a clapboard cottage overlooking a fiord, stylistically, and painted ‘en plein air’, this bears comparison with the paintings of Berthe Morisot and Edward Manet.

Peterssen exhibited internationally, in Chicago in 1893 and in 1907 Boston, Indianapolis and St Louis, in addition he exhibited in the United Kingdom, in Liverpool and London.

In 1896 Peterssen visited Normandy and the following year returned to Rome. Peterssen continued to travel in Europe and Scandinavia making his final visit to France in 1920-21.

Amongst the finest of Norwegian painters Peterssen was both successful and highly regarded throughout Europe, exhibiting and travelling widely.

His works can be found in museums in: Breslau; Copenhagen; Florence; Gothenburg; Hanover; Lillehammer; Munich; Oslo; Rogaland; Stavanger; Stockholm and Utne.