A grey-bearded Italian farmer, 1856
Oil on canvas, 46 x 37 cm.
Inventory number: 0154NMK
Acquired in 1875. Bestowed to the museum in 1908
This head and shoulders portrait of an elderly villager with a grizzled beard belongs to the group of colourful portraits that Frederik Vermehren completed throughout his stay in Italy from 1855-1857. Like his colleague Wilhelm Marstrand, the artist enjoyed using local people as models to work on his portraiture. However, Vermehren’s portraits from this period are characterised by their seriousness, which distinguishes them from Marstrand’s often carefree depictions of the Italian way of life. His portrait studies from Cervara, Gerano and Rome demonstrate the artist’s finely honed ability to portray his models in an unsweetened and true-to-life manner.
Frederik Vermehren (1823-1910)
Vermehren exhibited a painting of a shoemaker at Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall in the spring of 1847. The honesty of his unadorned depiction of normal everyday life was central to Vermehren’s output. The national romantic conception of art that reigned in this era led many artists of the day to heed N.L. Høyen's desire that they portray the life of the common people. The fishwives, sowers and other figures from peasant life depicted by Vermehren are beautiful examples of this.
As a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vermehren was not blind to the aspiration among artists of this era to achieve greater realism; nor was he oblivious to the talent of the artist P. S. Krøyer. As a national romantic painter of everyday life, Vermehren himself remained, nevertheless, a firm believer in depicting situations. The people and environments he depicts are frozen in a timeless state, something which has frequently led to his paintings being used to illustrate for example reprints of Steen Steensen Blicher's short stories. However Vermehren was never an outright realist in keeping with the style of the French Realist movement.