Carl Bloch's Life Story
Bloch's Christ Healing at the Pool of Bethesda
Carl Heinrich Bloch was born to Joergen Peter Bloch and Ida Emilie Ulrikke Henriette Weitzmann Bloch on May 23, 1834 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was one of 10 children.
His parents disapproved of his love for drawing and hoped he would become an officer in the Navy, a career they thought more respectable. However, in 1849 his parents gave in and permitted Carl to draw in the evenings at the Royal Danish Academy of Art.
Bloch Begins His Education
He studied under Wilhelm Marstrand at the Academy between 1851 and 1852. In 1852, he won a small silver medal for a drawing which was displayed the following year at the academy. And, in 1853, he won a large silver medal for a drawing which was displayed the subsequent year. Later in 1853 he went on his first study trip to Jyderup, Denmark.
Bloch Continues His Studies and Begins Travelling
In 1855, Bloch joined the Royal Danish Academy of Art. The Academy awarded Bloch a travel grant the following year. Bloch used the money to travel to Holland, France and Italy with his best friend, Anton Dorph, who was also an artist. This trip served to increase Bloch’s admiration for Rembrandt. This admiration was a driving force in Bloch’s career and is particularly visible in his etchings. Bloch found etching especially suitable for depicting the suffering of Jesus Christ. He completed 78 etchings during his career.
Bloch's Journey to Rome
Bloch lived in Rome from 1859-1865, where he was influenced by the Italian masters and his fame increased. Towards the end of Bloch’s stay in Italy, J.C. Jacobsen commissioned Bloch to paint 23 new paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ. They were to hang in the King’s Praying Chamber in the Frederiskborg Castle Chapel, which was being remodeled after a fire in 1859. Bloch worked on these paintings for the next 14 years, until their completion in 1879. In 1865, he left Rome and became a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Bloch's Personal Life and Marriage
Bloch met Alama Trepka in Rome and they were married in May 1868. They were happily married until her death in January 1886. The painter was left to raise their 8 children alone. This was a particularly unhappy and difficult time for Bloch.
Bloch became a professor at the Royal Academy in 1871, a council member in 1873, and the Vice Director in 1888. Also in 1888, he was asked to paint a self-portrait to hang at the Uffizi in Florence, Italy, one of the oldest and most well renowned art museums in all of Europe. He served as Vice Director until his death on February 22, 1890. He died of stomach cancer.
Bloch received many honors before his death including being given the title “Councilor of State” and being decorated with “The Cross of an Order of Chivalry” and “The Medal of the Dannebrogmen.” During his lifetime he painted 8 altar pieces. Although he is most well-known for his religious paintings, Bloch created a number of etchings, engravings, portraits and landscapes as well.
For more on Carl Bloch's modern day impact, click here.