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Hans Fredrik Gude
Hans Fredrik Gude

HANS FREDRIK GUDE (1825 - 1903)

Hans Fredrik Gude was born in Christiania in 1825 the son of Ove Gude, a judge, and Marie Elisabeth Brandt. Gude was a Norwegian romanticist painter and is considered along with Johan Christian Dahl to be one of Norway´s foremost landscape painters.

Gude began his artistic career with private lessons from Johannes Flintoe, and by 1838 he was attending Flintoe´s evening classes at the Royal School of Drawing in Christiania. In the autumn of 1841 Johan Sebastian Welhaven suggested that the young Gude should be sent to Düsseldorf to further his education in the arts.

Gude´s artistic career was not one marked with drastic change and revolution, but was instead a steady progression that slowly reacted to general trends in the artistic world. Gude´s early works are of idyllic, sun-drenched Norwegian landscapes which present a romantic, yet still realistic view of his country. Around 1860 Gude began painting seascapes and other coastal subjects. Gude had difficulty with figure drawing initially and so collaborated with Adolph Tidemand in some of his painting, drawing the landscape himself and allowing Tidemand to paint the figures.

Later Gude would work specifically on his figures while at Karlsruhe, and so began populating his paintings with them. Gude initially painted primarily with oils in a studio, basing his works on studies he´d done earlier in the field. However, as Gude matured as a painter he began to paint en plein air and even espoused the merits of doing so to his students. Gude would go on to work with watercolors later in life as well as gouache in an effort to keep his art constantly fresh and evolving, and although these were never as well received by the public as his oil paintings, his fellow artists greatly admired them.

Gude spent forty-five years as an art professor and so he played an important roll in the development of Norwegian art by acting as a mentor to three generations of Norwegian artists. Young Norwegian artists flocked to wherever Gude was teaching, first at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and later at the School of Art in Karlsruhe. Gude also served as a professor at the Berlin Academy of Art from 1880 to 1901, although he attracted few Norwegians to the Berlin Academy because by this time Berlin had been surpassed in prestige in the eyes of young Norwegian artists by Paris.

Over the course of his lifetime Gude won numerous medals, was inducted as an honorary member in to many art academies, and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav.

In Düsseldorf Gude met Carl Friedrich Lessing who, while initially aloof, became Gude´s friend and colleague. Their relationship was such a close one that Gude´s eldest daughter eventually married one of Lessing´s sons. The two artists differed in style thought, with Lessing painting dramatic, historical works while Gude never once introduced historical events into his own paintings. Gude served as a student teacher at the Academy until 1844, before leaving to live in Christiania. On July 25, 1850, Gude married Betsy Charlotte Juliane Anker (1830-1912), the daughter of General Erik Anker, in Christiania.

In 1854 Gude was appointed the professor of landscape painting at the Academy replacing his former teacher Schirmer. Throughout his tenure, Gude had private pupils in addition to his normal classes. As a professor Gude taught six hours of class, held two hours of office hours, took turns with other professors supervising the nude drawing class and attended staff meetings.

In 1857 Gude handed in his resignation, officially citing family considerations and failing health as his reasons for resigning, although in his memoirs he blamed opposition and backbiting from two of his pupils. The landscape painting professorship was the bottom of the pay scale at the Academy, and Gude was one of the few professors to be refused a raise when others received them in 1855. Others have suggested that Gude wished to leave the Academy for fear for becoming stuck in a rut artistically.

Gude received better treatment from the Academy after he turned in his resignation, and it would take him a full five years to finally leave Düsseldorf. Although professors at the Academy complained that their teaching prevented them from undertaking more lucrative endeavors, Gude was able to sell enough works to afford a modest house in Düsseldorf which stood in what is now Hofgarten park.

In a letter to Jørgen Moe Gude writes that he see possibility for his own development in Düsseldorf, and that even if it would cause him to be known as a German artist instead of a Norwegian, he would not be ashamed of the fact. In defense of Norwegian artists at the Academy, Gude writes that they were not simply imitating German artists. If we learn something from Achenbach and Lessing, it is certainly not to our detriment; noone has ever said about me or Tidemand or, so far as I know, any of us Norwegian Düsseldorfers that we copy and imitate.

Gude was convinced that for Norwegian artists at the Academy it was impossible to escape their heritage and that Norway influenced their art whether they wanted it to or not.
  Gude & Tiedemand

Brudeferden i Hardanger.

Many of Gude´s peers moved on from the Academy in Düsseldorf to other art institutes, but Gude decided to seek more direct contact with nature. Gude had gained a foothold in the British art market in the 1850s after his works were accepted into the galleries of Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere and the Marquess of Lansdowne, and so when an English art dealer and former student of Gude, Mr. Stiff, suggested Gude might find success in England, he was quick to respond. In the autumn of 1862 Gude set off for the Lledr Valley near Conwy. Wales, a place renowned for it´s picturesque scenery, was already home to a colony of British plein-air artists. While small groups of artists living in the countryside in order to inspire each other, be closer to their subject and escape the city were common, Gude was one of the first Norwegian artists to live in such a manner. Gude rented a house overlooking River Lledr where he painted one of the ancient Roman bridges which was popular with artists of the time.

While in Wales, Gude was visited by Adolph Tidemand together with Frederik Collett, and the three traveled to Caernarvon and Holyhead from which Gude observed his first real Atlantic storm.

In December 1863 Gude was offered and accepted a professorship at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe where he would once again succeed Schirmer, and so he left Wales. Gude was hesitant to take the position as he felt that it was working for the enemy but was unable to support himself in Norway due to the lack of an art school.

It is suspected that Gude was offered the professorship due to a recommendation from Lessing. When Gude accepted the position at Karlsruhe the flow of Norwegian painters to the Düsseldorf Academy redirected Karlsruhe, which would produce many of the Norwegian painters of the 1860s and 1870s, among them Frederik Collett, Johan Martin Nielssen, Kitty L. Kielland, Nicolai Ulfsten, Eilif Peterssen, Marcus Grønvold, Otto Sinding, Christian Krohg and Frits Thaulow.

Hans Fredrik Gude

Efotbroen (1863)

In Karlsruhe Gude continued to faithfully reproduce the landscapes he saw, a style that he passed on to his students by taking them to Chiemsee to paint the lake en plein air. While on these trips Gude and his pupils often encountered Eduard Schleich der Ältere with his own students from Munich who were, as Gude described, only out to capture the mood of the scene and were skeptical of the advantages of painting in the sunshine. Gude also took special interest in how light reflected in water while in Karlsruhe, as well as expanding his study of the human figure. Although Gude rarely portrayed humans for their own sake, he began populating his paintings with convincing, if sometimes anatomically incorrect, individuals.

Hans Fredrik Gude

Fra Chiemsee (1868)

Gude´s painted Fra Chiemsee while at Karlsruhe. The painting which was shown in Vienna was so enthusiastically received that it was purchased by the Kunsthistorisches Hofmuseum for display, won Gude a number of medals, and earned him membership in the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

In 1880 Gude had between five and eight students, but this number had shrunk to two or three by 1890. In part this reduction of pupils was due to a lack of interest in the Berlin academy, as explained to Gude by Prince Eugén, Duke of Närke who wrote that he, as well as numerous other young artists, had more of a taste for French art than German. Gude retired from the Berlin Academy in 1901. He died two years later in Berlin in 1903.