Martinus Christian Wedseltoft Rørbye

1803 - 1848

Place Born


Place Died



One of the foremost artsts of the Danish Golden Age, Rorbye grew up in the family of a Danish official in Drammen, Norway. His father was a storehouse manager and later a senior war commissary, until the family moved to Denmark after the cession of Norway to the Swedish Crown. He was admitted to the Academy under C. A. Lorentzert, under whose tutelage he won both classes of silver medal and, after several attempts, the minor gold medal. From 1825 he studied privately under Eckersberg; the two men were to form such a close association that in 1832 his protégé joined the Freemasons under Eckersberg’s sponsorship. Rorbye exhibited at Charlottenborg almost every year between 1824 and 1848, and in 1849 his widow showed twelve of his paintings there. Rorbye was known as an inveterate traveller and in 1830 and 1832 he explored the Norwegian countryside. On his first grand tour, made between 1834 and 1837, he travelled to Paris then on to Rome, Sicily, Greece (noting his visit to this scene and the production of a sketch in February and March 1836), Turkey and back to Rome. While in Paris he studied French contemporary art, writing extensively on the subject to Eckersberg.

He was particularly impressed by the exotic oriental subjects of Horace Vernet and also admired Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa but expressed his dislike of the work of Eugène Delacroix. Rorbye wrote that he felt like turning away in distaste from Delacroix’s early masterpiece, The Massacre at Chios, referring to the painting’s ‘distortion of nature and the display of its darkest side. He (Delacroix) is currently one of the first of the so?called romantics, striving to bring French art back to the level from which David and the others sought to elevate it.’ Rorbye was surprisingly sceptical about the abilities of Jean?Auguste?Dominique Ingres. He wrote ‘Vernet is now about to retire from his post as a Director of the Academy in Rome, Ingres is mentioned as his successor. 1 very much doubt that he is, at this moment, the right man to hold art on its correct course.’ (Danish Painting. The Golden age, 1984, p. 179). After Paris, Rorbye travelled to Rome, to Sicily and then, with the architect Gottlieb Bindesboll, to Athens and Constantinople. Later in life, he undertook many more journeys including ones to Italy in 1839?41 and to Sweden in 1844. That same year Rorbye was appointed Professor at the Model School at the Copenhagen Academy. Rorbye was essentially a painter of genre subjects and architecture following Eckersberg’s example. His pictures were factual, but displayed a uniquely sympathetic view of the people he painted. He also painted a few portraits and landscapes, the latter often inspired by Dahl and, to a certain extent, by Caspar David Friedrich.

Art Works Sold

Two Shepherds Boys in the Campagna

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Historical Period: 1840-1900 Realism to Impressionism
Two Shepherds Boys in the Campagna