Eilif Peterssen
Hjalmar Eilif Emanuel Peterssen (September 4, 1852 in Christiania
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

 - December 29 1928 in Lysaker
Lysaker is a section of and a postal code area of the Norwegian municipality of Bærum, just west of Oslo.Geographically, it is bordered by Lysakerelven on the east, which also forms the border to Oslo; Fornebu to the south; Stabekk to the west; and Jar to the north...

) was a Norwegian
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...



Hjalmar Eilif Emanuel Peterssen was born in Christiania, now Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

, Norway. He grew up in the neighborhood of Hegdehaugen
Hegdehaugen is a neighbourhood in the borough Frogner of Oslo, Norway. It is located in the West End between Homansbyen and Majorstuen. The name origins from the man's name Heide....

 in the district of Frogner
Frogner is a borough of the city of Oslo, Norway. In addition to traditional Frogner, the borough incorporates Bygdøy, Uranienborg and Majorstuen....


He attended the Johan Fredrik Eckersberg
Johan Fredrik Eckersberg
Johan Fredrik Eckersberg was a Norwegian painter most noted for his landscapes. Eckersberg was a prominent figure in the transition from Romanticism to Realism in 18th century Norwegian art, both as an artistic painter and a teacher at his own art school in Oslo.-Background:Johan Fredrik...

 School of Painting in Oslo in 1869. In 1871 he left Oslo to study at the Art Academy in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

. Later that year he moved to Karlsruhe
The City of Karlsruhe is a city in the southwest of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, located near the French-German border.Karlsruhe was founded in 1715 as Karlsruhe Palace, when Germany was a series of principalities and city states...

, where he was a student of Ludwig des Coudres
Ludwig des Coudres
Ludwig des Coudres was a German historical, portrait, and genre painter.He was born at Cassel in 1820, and pursued his first studies under J. von Schnorr, at the Academy of Munich...

  and Wilhelm Riefstahl  at Die Grossherzoglische Kunstschule . In the fall of 1873 Peterssen travelled to Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 where he got Wilhelm von Diez as a teacher. In Munich Peterssen was partly a pupil of Franz von Lenbach
Franz von Lenbach
Franz von Lenbach was a German painter of Realist style.-Biography:Lenbach was born at Schrobenhausen, in Bavaria. His father was a mason, and the boy was intended to follow his father's trade or be a builder. With this view he was sent to school at Landsberg, and then to the polytechnic at Augsburg...

 as well and he got to know other famous artists like Arnold Böcklin
Arnold Böcklin
Arnold Böcklin was a Swiss symbolist painter.-Life and art:He was born at Basel. His father, Christian Frederick Böcklin , was descended from an old family of Schaffhausen, and engaged in the silk trade. His mother, Ursula Lippe, was a native of the same city...

 and Karl von Piloty
Karl von Piloty
Karl Theodor von Piloty was a German painter.Von Piloty was born in Munich. His father, Ferdinand Piloty , enjoyed a great reputation as a lithographer. In 1840, Karl was admitted as a student of the Munich Academy, under the artists Karl Schorn and Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld...



Peterssen made his breakthrough as a painter in Munich with the history painting Christian II signs the death sentence of Torben Oxe (1876) which was acquired by the Verbindung für historische Kunst in Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

. In Munich he also painted one of his biggest paintings, the altarpiece The Crucifixion (disappeared) for the Johannes church in Oslo. Later he was to paint 9 more altarpieces and a church decoration,The Ascension (1908-1909) in the Ullern church  in Oslo.

Peterssen is famous also for his portraits. In Munich he painted some of his best portraits, of artist friends such as Harriet Backer
Harriet Backer
Harriet Backer was a Norwegian painter who achieved recognition in her own time and was a pioneer among female artists both in the Nordic countries and in Europe generally...

 and Hans Heyerdahl and of the German painters Anton Windmaier and Adolf Lier . He painted the 19 year old Princess Anna Elisabeth Reuss  at the Schleiz palace in Gera
Gera, the third-largest city in the German state of Thuringia , lies in east Thuringia on the river Weiße Elster, approximately 60 kilometres to the south of the city of Leipzig and 80 kilometres to the east of Erfurt...

 in 1878.

Peterssen was influenced by the brownish palette of the Munich painting. However Peterssen was soon to adopt the increawingly popular En plein air
En plein air
En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism...

style when he traveled to Italy in 1879. He visited Sora in 1880 together with the Danish painter Peder Severin Krøyer
Peder Severin Krøyer
Peder Severin Krøyer , known as P.S. Krøyer, was a Norwegian-Danish painter. He is one of the best known and beloved, and undeniably the most colorful of the Skagen Painters, a community of Danish and Nordic artists who lived, gathered or worked in Skagen, Denmark, especially during the final...

, and in this mountain village he painted his great naturalistic work Siesta in an osteria in Sora. A sharp realism is characteristic of his big canvas Piazza Montanara (1883) painted in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


After the death of his first wife Nicoline in 1882, Peterssen visited Skagen
Skagen is a projection of land and a town, with a population of 8,515 , in Region Nordjylland on the northernmost tip of Vendsyssel-Thy, a part of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark...

 in Denmark together with a group of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian artist friends, among them P.S. Krøyer, Michael and Anna Ancher
Anna Ancher
Anna Ancher was a Danish artist associated with the Skagen Painters, an artists' colony in the very north of Jutland.-Background:...

, Christian Krohg
Christian Krohg
Christian Krohg , was a Norwegian naturalist painter, illustrator, author and journalist.-Life and career:...

 and Oscar Bjørck in the summer of 1883. At Skagen, Peterssen painted some of his first evocative landscapes, such as Summer Evening at Skagen (1883). In the summer of 1884 Peterssen stayed at Sandø, a small island in the Oslofjord
The Oslofjord is a bay in the south-east of Norway, stretching from an imaginary line between the Torbjørnskjær and Færder lighthouses and down to Langesund in the south to Oslo in the north....

, where he painted several versions of Summer Evening, Sandø. These paintings with a contemplative woman sitting in the foreground would influence the famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionist art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.- Childhood :Edvard Munch...

 in his later "Melancholy" paintings.

During a visit to Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 in 1885 together with the Norwegian painter Frits Thaulow
Frits Thaulow
Frits Thaulow was a Norwegian impressionist painter, best known for his naturalistic depictions of landscape.-Biography:...

, Peterssen painted some of his most impressionistic paintings, like Canal Grande and From Riva degli Schiavoni. These paintings are clearly influenced by French painters, particularly Manet
-MANET as an abbreviation:*MANET is a mobile ad hoc network, a self-configuring mobile wireless network.*MANET database or Molecular Ancestry Network, bioinformatics database-People with the surname Manet:*Édouard Manet, a 19th-century French painter....

 and Monet. But it was on his return to Norway in 1886 that Peterssen painted his most famous evocative landscapes Summer Evening and Nocturne (1887). Summer Evening has been shown in many exhibitions abroad, among them the great "Northern Light" exhibition in America in 1982-1983.

Peterssen continued to paint portraits of famous Norwegians, among them authors Alexander Kielland
Alexander Kielland
Alexander Lange Kielland was one of the most famous Norwegian realistic writers of the 19th century. He is one of the so-called "The Four Greats" in Norwegian literature, along with Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Jonas Lie.-Background:Born in Stavanger, Norway, he grew up in a rich...

 (1887) (whose cousin Magda he married in 1888), Arne Garborg
Arne Garborg
Arne Garborg, born Aadne Eivindsson Garborg was a Norwegian writer.Garborg championed the use of Landsmål , as a literary language; he translated the Odyssey into it...

 (1894) and Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

 (1895), whom he had painted as early as 1875. He also made a portrait of the well-known composer Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.-Biography:Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in...

 in 1893. Peterssen made a success at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889
Exposition Universelle (1889)
The Exposition Universelle of 1889 was a World's Fair held in Paris, France from 6 May to 31 October 1889.It was held during the year of the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, an event traditionally considered as the symbol for the beginning of the French Revolution...

 with Salmon fishermen at Nesøya, a painting combining the evocative and the naturalistic painting style. This was followed by landscape paintings and motifs of salmon fishermen at Jæren
Jæren is a traditional district in the county of Rogaland. The others are Dalane, Ryfylke and Haugalandet.Jæren is the largest flat lowland area in Norway, stretching from the municipality of Randaberg in the north to Hå in the south. The coast is flat compared to the rest of the Norwegian coast,...

 in the southern part of Norway where Peterssen stayed in the summertime in the small village of Sele. During the 1890s Peterssen made several paintings influenced by impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

, among them the most important is Sunshine, Kalvøya (Magda sewing) (1891). This painting made the Swedish art critic Erik Wettergren  compare Peterssen with the French impressionist Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.In 1864, she exhibited for the first...

. Another impressionist painting is From Akershus (1893).

Eilif Peterssen made several trips to France and Italy. In 1896 he went to Arques-la-Bataille
Arques-la-Bataille is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France.-Geography:Arques is situated near the confluence of the rivers Eaulne, Varenne and Béthune, with the forest of Arques to the north-east...

  in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, where he painted several landscapes, and from France he went together with his family to Rome in 1897. In 1903 Peterssen again visited Italy and in Rapallo
Rapallo is a municipality in the province of Genoa, in Liguria, northern Italy. As of 2007 it counts approximately 34,000 inhabitants, it is part of the Tigullio Gulf and is located in between Portofino and Chiavari....

 near Genova
Génova may refer to:* Spanish spelling of the city of Genoa, Italy* Génova, Quindío, a municipality in the department of Quindío, Colombia* Génova, Quetzaltenango, a municipality in the department of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala...

 he painted the impressionist motif Winter in the South (Washerwomen in Rapallo). During the dissolution of Union between Sweden and Norway
Union between Sweden and Norway
The Union between Sweden and Norway , officially the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, consisted of present-day Sweden and Norway between 1814 and 1905, when they were united under one monarch in a personal union....

 in 1905, Peterssen was commissioned to design the new coat of arms of Norway.

Inspired by Symbolist
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 and Pre-Raphaelite art Peterssen painted a series of pictures with motifs from a mediaeval French legend, Gujamar's Song (1905-1907) for the publisher William Nygaard
William Nygaard
William Nygaard is a retired Norwegian publisher who graduated with a degree in economics in 1967. He is also chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.-Business career:...

, and four years later another series of paintings based on a Norwegian folk song, Rikeball and the Proud Gudbjørg (1911) for the shipping magnate Jørgen B. Stang.

In his later years Peterssen travelled all over Norway to paint landscapes. He made several visits to Skogstad in Valdres
Valdres is a traditional district in central, southern Norway, situated between Gudbrandsdal and Hallingdal.Administratively, Valdres belongs to Oppland. It consists of the municipalities Nord-Aurdal, Sør-Aurdal, Øystre Slidre, Vestre Slidre, Vang and Etnedal. The main town in the region is...

, where he was particularly inspired by the great mountain landscape. In 1920-21 he made his last travel abroad to Cagnes and St. Paul in Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

 where he painted several landscapes of the small villages on the hills between Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

 and Cannes
Cannes is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a Commune of France in the Alpes-Maritimes department....


Personal life

Eilif Peterssen was first married in 1879 to Inger Birgitte Cecilie Nicoline Bache Ravn (1850-1882), a daughter of the court marshal, Major General Johan Georg Boll Gram (1809-1873). After his wife died, he married for the second time in 1888 to Frederikke Magdalene ("Magda") Kielland (1855-1931), daughter of Lieutenant Commander Jacob Kielland (1825-1889).

Other sources

  • Kokkin, Jan: Eilif Peterssen. Between Moods and Impressions (Pax Forlag, Oslo: 2009)
  • Hoff, Svein Olav m.fl.: Eilif Peterssen : historiemaler, realist og nyromantiker : retrospektiv utstilling (Lillehammer kunstmuseum, 2001) ISBN 82-91388-32-6,
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