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Emil Carlsen

Emil Carlsen was a Danish born Impressionist painter, specializing in landscape and still-lifes. He was born Soren Emil Carlsen in 1848 in Copenhagen, Denmark and had a famous younger brother Carl Carlson, who became a very famous still life painter. He began studying architecture at the Danish Royal Academy of Art in 1866. While in school, he favored painting over architecture and changed his major as such. Upon graduation in 1871, he was of military age and enlisted in the Danish Army, serving his full year of military service. Following his release, Carlsen immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1872, for a position as a draftsman and assistant to Laurits B. Holst (1848-1934), another Danish artist where he started creating marine landscapes. In Chicago, he took a generous offer to become the first teacher of drawing at the Chicago Art Institute, but he didn’t stay long. At the advice of a fellow painter, he returned to Paris in 1875 to continue his studies where he was introduced to the work of Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779). He adapted his focus thereafter, producing still lifes and simple objects such as copper jugs and visions of dead fish.

In 1876, Carlsen returned to the United States and opened a studio in New York City. He began to teach in his studio for a while which gave him the income to paint. In 1881, he exhibited one of his first still-lifes in the Boston Art Club which brought back favorable reviews. He took a commission to move to Paris to paint color still lifes of flowers, which gave him income. In 1891, he returned to New York briefly to work in his studio, but soon moved to San Francisco to accept an offer as the head of the San Francisco Art Association School, now known as San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). Much like his other positions, he grew tired of the position and returned to New York, where he could continue his passion for painting. Throughout his travels, he met and married Luella May Ruby in 1896 and had a son in 1901. During the 1900s, his fame finally came. He won the highest award for an American artist by being elected as an Associate of the National Academy as well as winning many awards and medals for his work. Emil Carlsen continued to paint well into his eighties and was in good health before a heart attack took his life in 1932. Throughout his life, he had been a teacher of art and portrayed a feeling of peace and contentment in his later works.

“…facts are not facts, but all painting is a translation.”