(Copenhagen, 1825 – 1910)
View from an open window
Oil on paper glued on canvas
27 x 25,5 cm
Signed, dated, and localized : Exner, Vaernedamsvej, 1845
Born in 1825 in Copenhagen, Julius Exner began his training as an artist in 1839, when he joined the studio of Johan Ludwig Lund, a history painter. He then studied under the direction of Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, considered the initiator of the Golden Age of Danish Painting, in the first half of the 19th century.
It was in the history genre that he began his career, and not without success, since several of his canvases of historical subjects were purchased by the crown. He exhibited at the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition, the Danish equivalent to the Salon in France, from 1844 until his death, presenting folk genre scenes. Made a member of the Royal Academy of Denmark in 1864, he also became a member of the Academy of Stockholm in 1866. The Academy of Copenhagen appointed him professor in 1876 and his work was exhibited in Paris at the Exposition Universelle of 1878, where Scandinavian folklore was very popular.
The subject of the window opened onto the exterior world, modest or marvelous, was incontestably one of the most emblematic in Western art in the years 1810-1850. Bringing together in a single composition his intimate world and the view of a landscape—urban or bucolic—it also allowed the artist to multiply details of evocative and charming interiors and to establish strong, luminous contrasts between the different planes of the painting or watercolor.
A large exhibition on the subject, Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011.
Caspar David Friedrich inaugurated the theme in the years 1805-6 with two sepia drawings representing, from two different angles, the window of his studio opening onto the Elbe.
To the grandiose spectacle of the Bay of Naples—a view praised by tourists from all of Europe—that Catel saw from the window of his hotel, Carus preferred the modesty of his studio, its window blocked by the back of a large canvas and thus revealing only the pure blue of the sky.
Following the lesson of his master, Eckersberg, who treated the theme in a wash drawing of two young girls set at the Château de Charlottenborg, Exner tackled the subject of the open window with a sensitivity that was characteristic of Danish artists of the Golden Age.
The attention given here to the most trifling details—the cracked glass in one of the window panes, a nail in the window frame—aims at giving an objective, modest view of the scene, while the sober, visual poetry of the artist is expressed in the foliage of the tree standing out against the plain background of the sky and a simple yellow wall.
In this work from his youth that of the years spent with Eckersberg the frame of the window substitutes for that of the painting to magnify the banal urban landscape Exner could see from what was perhaps was his studio in Copenhagen. The view is situated by the artist in a street in the center of Copenhagen, formerly given over to food shops, near the Frederiksberg Alle.