I discovered Carl Heinrich Bloch (Copenhagen, Denmark, 1834 – 1890) just a few weeks ago, while searching artworks relative to the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, according to the Christian tradition (from the Gospel of Matthew and several New Testament apocrypha). First thing I thought was that he mastered the painting of light and the contrasts of light and shadow as perhaps only Rembrandt van Rijn had done before him. Secondly, I felt admiration for his angels and for the beauty of many men depicted (most especially Jesus himself).
I read that Bloch has been reproached for his repeated use of theatrical effects; like exaggerated facial expressions and gestures, close-ups, bright colours… Of course, he did it to draw viewers into the scenes and involve them as much as possible, which seems to me a fair aspiration; and he undoubtedly attained it, along with a reputation among his contemporaries (Hans Christian Andersen among them) as Denmark’s greatest painter.
Bloch’s principal work is the series of 23 paintings with scenes from the New Testament that the brewer J. C. Jacobsen commissioned as decorations for King Christian IV prayer seat in Frederiksborg Chapel. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace.
Here I just want to make you look at two of these scenes. The first one: “Christ in Gethsemane” dates from 1873 and shows a peculiar, most interesting angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The second painting: “The Shepherds and the Angel” (1879), shows a very similar messenger (probably the same), beautifully glowing in the night when bringing good news to those men near Bethlehem.
I do hope you like them as much as I have done. And since tonight is Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night) here in my land, after chalking my front door and left much water and some good wine and food in my balcony in case I deserved a visit while I’m sleeping (I have not had a single visit since I was a seven year-old kiddo, but I keep my hopes high every year). — Oh, and I also wish to tell what material gift I would like to receive: better eyesight: renewed eyes; since mine are not very able nowadays.
[Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerød, Denmark]