Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Sonne, Jørgen

  • Visual artsDanish
  • Author:
    Grand, Karina Lykke
  • Pupil of:
    Cornelius, Peter vonHess, Peter vonLund, Johan Ludwig Gebhard
  • Trained at:
    Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Danske KunstakademiMunich, Akademie der Bildenden Künste München
  • Title:
    Sonne, Jørgen
  • Text:

    Jørgen Sonne (1801–1890) was educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen between 1814 and 1828 under J.L. Lund. In 1828 he left Denmark for the Munich art academy, and in 1831 travelled to Italy, staying in Rome until 1840 as part of the Scandinavian artists’ colony there. Here he turned from imagined war motifs to rustic genre painting and local colour.

    His experience of nationalism in Germany and Italy sharpened his perspective on internal matters in Denmark. Upon his return to Denmark in 1840, he joined the national-liberal cause of freedom for the people and love of the fatherland. Soon, he became one of the key figures in the inner circles around the politician Orla Lehmann and the art historian N.L. Høyen, together with the much younger artists P.C. Skovgaard and J.Th. Lundbye. When Høyen, in the beginning of the 1840s, encouraged Danish painters to depict the nation’s contemporary folk-traditions, with special regard to the (idealized) peasantry, Sonne was already using these motifs, which by the late 1840s served a national-identitarian purpose with a political undertone. His Rural scene (1848) depicts two Danish female peasants as Roman goddesses, dressed in the national colours red and white, situated in a harmonious summer landscape with a neolithic grave in the background. In the foreground, a young boy is scaring the birds in the shadow further out of the landscape, symbolically suggesting the then-ongoing Schleswig-Holstein war.

    In addition to such scenes of idealized rural life, with nationalist undertones, Sonne returned, in these war years, to the genre of battle painting (now no longer imaginary, as it had been before). He became one of the nation’s official war reporters during the First (1848-51) and Second Schleswig War (1864). While the scenes were based on personal experience, the painting style, sanitized of blood and casualties, was idealized propaganda, depicting the Danish soldiers in heroic and patriotic sceneries.

    During the years 1846-50, Sonne organized and created the exterior decorations of the newly built Thorvaldsen Museum, with a national narrative showing all the prominent members of the Copenhagen bourgeoisie welcoming Thorvaldsen home in 1838. These gigantic wall paintings have become important visual monuments in Danish national art.

    Word Count: 362

    München (DE)

    Copenhagen (DK)

    Thorvaldsen, Bertel

    Lund, Johan Ludwig Gebhard

    Høyen, Niels Laurits

    Lundbye, Johan Thomas

    Skovgaard, Peter Christian

    Lehmann, Orla

    Museums : Denmark

    Antiquarianism, archeology : Danish

    National feeling in Denmark: The political context

    Rural Scene (1848)

    Thorvaldsen greeted by Copenhagen burghers (1848)

  • Article version:
    1.1.1.1/a
  • Damsgaard, Nina, et al. (ed.); 1988. Jørgen Sonne, 1801-1890 (Aarhus: Aarhus Kunstmuseum)

    Grand, Karina Lykke; 2014. “Politisering af det nationale? Billedkunstneriske og politiske agendaer omkring midten af 1800-tallet i Danmark”, Passepartout 19: 65-113 [“Politicisation of the national? Visual art and political agendas around the middle of the 1800s in Denmark”]


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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Grand, Karina Lykke, 2018. "Sonne, Jørgen", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version 1.1.1.1/a, last changed 10-08-2018, consulted 22-08-2019.