Samson, Ode to Carl Heinrich Bloch
Sketch by Greg Chapin Joens
Pencil sketch on bristol paper. 08-APR-16
"Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down
to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding
grain in the prison." — Judges 16:21
Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter.
In a Roman Osteria
He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand
at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi)
there. Bloch's parents wanted their son to enter a respectable
profession - an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl
wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed
by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art,
passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the
work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch
met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31,
1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.
His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to
1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the
development of his historical style.
His first great success was
the exhibition of his "Prometheus Unbound" in Copenhagen in 1865. After
the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial
hall at the University of Copenhagen. The sorrow over losing his wife
weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children
after her death was very difficult for him.
In a New Year's
letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: "What God
has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!" Another letter from
Andersen declared "Through your art you add a new step to your
Jacob-ladder into immortality."
In a final ode, from a famous
author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said "Write on the canvas;
write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on
He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the
Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of
Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals,
painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The
altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in
Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.
Through the assistance of Danish-born artist Soren Edsberg, the
acquisition of Christ healing at the pool of Bethesda, [formerly owned
by Indre Mission, Copenhagen, Denmark], was made possible for The Museum
of Art, Brigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, United States. A
second work by Bloch, an 1880 grisaille version of The Mocking of
Christ, was purchased by BYU in June 2015.
Carl Bloch died of
cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as "an abrupt blow for
Nordic art" according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis
stated that "Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the
greatest among the living." Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch's
funeral that "Bloch stays and lives."
A prominent Danish art
critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the
great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date. Madsen
also said "If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich, warm and noble
artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the noblest of them
all!" (From Carl Bloch Site).