Friday, April 13, 2012


Knud Erik Edsberg (1911 – 2003, Danish) was born to humble circumstances in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 22, 1911. His mother was a seamstress earning a meager income to support him and his sister. Despite his underprivileged upbringing, Knud found escape and solace in drawing and showed great talent early in his life. Edsberg continued painting through his adolescence and was introduced to Laurits Tuxen, a very prominent, well-respected artist known especially for his classical training and techniques, and for his royal crown-head portraits around Europe. After having his works reviewed by Tuxen, Edsberg hoped he would be accepted for future study and training with him. Although his paintings were well received, Edsberg was told, as most young artists without financial means were at that time, to go and attain a legitimate education as a painter. This education would teach aspiring artists the vast trades of the commercial painter, enabling them to earn an income to provide for themselves and future family; as living off of paintings alone could rarely support even the artist.
After years of hard, arduous work and study he finished his education and returned to Tuxen only to find his health failing and to learn that he was no longer able to take on students. Tuxen could only offer Edsberg words of advice and guidance, and a beautiful bronze sculpture. Edsberg felt that Tuxen’s passing truly ended the era of the Golden Age Danish painters he greatly admired.
(Hope Gallery at

Uma tarefa diária, 1980
A Daily Chore Mowing the Calfs

Jersey Calfs

A Tempting Carrot
All images from Hope Gallery at

Becoming an artist was a long, hard, rough road for Knud Edsberg. As a young boy, he exhibited unusual ability in drawing, and his mother early recognized that he had a special talent; but being alone and very poor, she was unable even to buy him a brush and some paints. Knud attended the public schools in Copenhagen for the usual six years, then started serving a five-year apprenticeship as a house painter. The house in which he and his mother and sister lived in Copenhagen was next door to an art supply store, and Knud obtained a part-time job doing what tasks a boy of his age could perform and was paid for his services in bits of canvas, an occasional brush, and some paints. Now at last the boy could begin to make his dream of being an artist come true.
And so he started, completely on his own, with no professional guidance or help from anyone. While his friends were playing in the streets or parks, he was learning to stretch canvas and mix paints and was experimenting with methods and techniques of applying the paints to canvas, wrapping paper, cardboard, or whatever he could find when canvas was not available.
He still has, hanging on the walls of his home in Kalundborg, two tiny paintings from those early days: one, a six-inch-by-ten-inch landscape done on a cookie sheet from a pastry shop, and the other, a six-by-eight-inch painting of a fisherman done on canvas. Although his progress often seemed slow to him, he was never really discouraged, because the overwhelming desire to be a great artist that he seems to have been born with grew stronger through the years.
His mother desperately wanted to get him some help, so she took him, along with some of his paintings, to see the famous artist Tuxen. This painter was so impressed with the ability of the young man that he gave him a small statue to sell to help him in his work; however, he advised the mother to have her son finish his apprenticeship as a house painter and then to come back to see him as a student. The boy prized the statue so highly that he refused to sell it, and it was only years later when he decided to get married and desperately needed the money that he parted with it. Unfortunately, Tuxen died before Knud finished his five-year apprenticeship, so the one chance he had to get some professional help was lost.

Portret Mlodej Baletnicy
Images from

Retrato de David B. Haight

When he was 22 Knud started on his first portrait. His subject was himself, and he worked on it off and on for over a year, changing this, redoing that, experimenting with new colors and methods, until he felt somewhat satisfied with the results. When he was 24, he decided that he was ready to start on another model, and his mother was pleased when he asked her to pose for him. Again it was a slow learning process, but after a number of months it was going well and he called his mother in to see the new colors he had mixed and remixed and experimented with. In her excitement over the new results he was getting, she sat on his palette, ruining his efforts of many weeks as well as her dress. He attributes the sad look on her face in the painting to this experience.
As his fame spread, people started to come to him to have their portraits painted. He has long since lost track of the number he has done, but estimates that it must be between 400 and 500. Mayors, government officials, industrial leaders, directors of banks and lodges, and presidents of clubs have all come to him for portraits.

Matando a sede

Cena de fazenda

Gado descansando sob a luz da tarde

All images from

Edsberg spent many of his summers at a friend’s large farm in Jutland where his time spent painting and sketching ignited a great love for his country. He would employ much of his days out in the fields with his sketch books drawing animals and livestock with great attention to detail - resulting in a proficient understanding of their anatomy, postures and instinctive mannerisms. It was with these paintings that the integration of his technical understanding of, and appreciation for, both the Old Masters and Early Impressionists is evident in his palette, skill and technique. The countryside genres from his later years were mainly painted during the winters in his studio, as opposed to his favored "plein air" painting during his time on the farm.
Finally, Edsberg’s legacy left for all who knew him personally, and through his art, is a legacy of kindness, generosity and a love for all things good and beautiful. He had a great love of the Arts, science, mathematics, physics and history. However, it was his deep faith that led him to choose the path along life which he followed. As his faith stayed with him until his death, so did his love for painting. He died of age-related complications on July 15, 2003 in Holmstrup, Denmark. Edsberg looked forward to meeting his Creator, wife and daughter on the other side. Today, his paintings hang in private and public collections in Europe and the United States.
(Hope Gallery at

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