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A Young Artist (Ditlev Blunck) Examining a Sketch in a Mirror

A young artist is taking a break from his work, holding up a study in front of a mirror to see how the composition would look in reverse. The picture gives an impression of how the painters of the time saw themselves: As serious, self-aware artists. The particular painter in this picture is standing in a crowded room surrounded by his tools and paraphernalia: a paintbox, palette, and easel as well as a skull and a sketchbook suggesting that careful studies precede the final painting. A zigzagging motion leads up through the lower half of the picture to the painting held in the artist’s hands. Only the back of the painting is shown directly, with the front seen only in the mirror. This alludes to the era’s view of art as a mirror held up to life. Wilhelm Bendz was keenly interested in the new role emerging for artists in the early 19th century; they were no longer regarded as specialist craftsmen, but as intellectual workers, as artists in the modern sense. In the 1820s, he painted a number of pictures of artists at work. The artist in this picture is Bendz’s fellow student Ditlev Blunck engaged in painting a portrait of Jørgen Sonne, a painter of battle scenes.

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