This monumental and highly detailed scene was composed by Paul Gustav Fischer, a leading Danish painter of the Belle Époque era. Inspired by his many travels to Paris between the 1870s and 1890s, Fischer began incorporating elements he saw in the works of the French Impressionists into his own paintings – not just in technique, but in the subject as well. His compositions soon reflected the complexities of modern life in the city, with brilliant depictions of bustling streets, public squares, and society at large. The present work, entitled An Evening at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen, exemplifies the elegant, cultural subjects of his very finest works.
Fischer's approach was unique in that it was far more personal and congenial than many of his French counterparts. While Edgar Degas' ballerinas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir's working-class dancers were detached and anonymous, Fischer's subjects are notable friends, colleagues, and members of society. Among them are the poets Henrik Pontoppidan and Christian Winter, artist Otto Bache, pharmacist Otto Benzon, actor Olaf Poulson composer Niels W. Gade, actress Miss Emma Lange, Lord in Waiting Mr. Fallesen and ballerina Miss Charlotte Hansen.
As his cast of characters in the audience fills the theater, the Danish Royal Family - the Crown Princess Louise of Sweden, Crown Prince Frederik (later King Frederik VIII of Denmark), Queen Louise and King Christian IX of Denmark - watch the activity from their private balcony.
Daily life in Copenhagen was an inspiration for Fischer throughout his long and successful career. The son of the artist Phillip Fischer, he began to paint when he was still young, guided by his father. He became a pupil of C. Möller but was formally educated in art for only a short time when he spent two years at the Royal Danish Academy of Art. Rejecting the traditional curriculum of the Academy, he aligned himself with a group of young artists the celebrated a new modern era of Danish art, including Peder Severin Krøyer, Carl Locher, and Laurits Tuxen. His first breakthrough came in 1882 when he created illustrations for the magazine Ude og hjemme.
It was not long before Fischer gained fame as a painter of cities, not just Copenhagen, but scenes from Scandinavia, Italy, and Germany. He benefited from contemporaries in Norway and Sweden, especially Carl Larsson. Besides Paris, Fischer traveled and worked extensively in Germany and Italy. The artist’s greatest triumph came when Denmark transferred the sovereignty of Norway back to the Norwegians, and he was awarded the royal commission by King Haakon of Norway to paint the event over the more prominent painter Laurits Tuxen.
Canvas: 86 5/8” high x 67 3/4” wide
Frame: 97 1/8” high x 78 1/4” wide
Signature: Signed and dated “Paul Fischer 1887-88” (lower right)
Copenhagen, Kunstforeningen, Dengan i 80 ‘erne, Danske miljoer I Malerkunsten, 1880-1890, November-December 1983. no. 20.
Sotheby's, London, June 19, 1984, lot 83, illustrated;
Private collection, West Coast, United States
M.S. Rau Antiques, 2012
Private collection, California
M.S. Rau Antiques, 2017