C. W. Eckersberg
Hagar and Ismael in the Desert, 1812
Oil on canvas, 65 x 80 cm.
Inventory number: 0075NMK
Acquired before 1895. Bestowed to the museum in 1908
The theme in this painting stems from The Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The painting depicts Hagar and Ishmael, an Egyptian servant girl and the son she had with Abraham. It is the story of God, who puts Abraham to the test twice to see how strong he was in faith. He asks Abraham to sacrifice what is most dear to him, namely his sons Ishmael and Isaac. Eckersberg has chosen to depict the moment when Hagar and Ishmael have fled into the desert in safe perdition, when a spring appears as their rescue. The desert in the painting is therefore more reminiscent of a lush, Nordic forest landscape than of a sandy, rocky desert. The painting is carried out in Paris during the period where Eckersberg was studying under the neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David, and the classically elegant figures are clear signs of this. Hagar is graceful and sensual, Ishmael shy and almost luminous on the rock in the background.
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853)
Eckersberg studied under Nicolai Abildgaard and art historically, he has been proclaimed the Father of Danish Painting, because he was the first professor to establish a school and his students include many of the most famous Golden Age painters. He broke with the idealising art of the 1700s and introduced a new form of realism based on nature studies and compositional principles. In 1810, he won the Academy’s prestigious gold medal, and subsequently spent a year in Paris studying under the great neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David. Eckersberg was the very first to introduce direct study from nature at the Art Academy, and in doing so, had a decisive impact on the development of Golden Age art in Denmark. He was greatly influential for numerous young artists such as Martinus Rørbye, Christen Købke, Constantin Hansen, Jørgen Roed and Wilhelm Marstand.