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Peder Henrik Kristian Zahrtmann
(March 31, 1843 - June 22, 1917) Denmark

Kristian Zahrtmann



Born in Rønne, he died in Frederiksberg. He studied in Copenhagen at the Kongelige Akademi for de Skønne Kunster in 1864 - 68. He worked as a teacher and as Head of the Kunstnernes Studieskoler (Free Arts Schools) in Copenhagen from 1885 to 1908. His works can be divided roughly into history and genre paintings. From the outset he was attracted to the great figures of 17th-century Danish history. He experimented with light effects in the manner of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, possibly inspired by Gerrit van Honthorst's.

When Zahrtmann first visited Italy (1875 - 8) he concentrated on genre painting, using ripe and heavy local colour to develop a personal style, which was often criticized for being over gaudy. Although the narratives of his pictures are imaginary, he never painted without a model, which often makes his compositions overcrowded. His portraits are among his best works; the Self-portrait of 1913 (Copenhagen, Charlottenborg) displays his gift for the broad, monumental figure style. As a teacher he influenced a whole generation of Scandinavian painters, most notably the Funen Painters (Fynboerne): Peter Hansen, Johannes Larsen, Fritz Syberg, Karl Oskar Isaksson and Edvard Weie.

From 1884 to 1913 he regularly visited Civita d'Antino near Rome (where he was made an honorary citizen in 1902), often accompanied by students from his School of Painting. His selection of male students was sometimes motivated solely by their beauty and youth. He was unmarried and also he cross-dressed on a number of semi-public occasion. Although he is reputed a homosexual, nothing is actually known about his sexual relationships.


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