American (1848-1932) 
"Apple Blossom," c. 1920 
oil on canvas, unsigned. 
40 x 48 inches 


Emil Carlsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1853. He took his first art courses in Denmark, from a cousin and later at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. At the Royal Academy, he studied architecture, painting and sculpture. In 1872, Carlsen moved to Chicago first to work as an architectural assistant and then to work with the Danish marine painter Laurentz B. Holst. Holst returned to Denmark and Calsen took over his studio. Once settled in Chicago, he began teaching at the Chicago Academy of Design (now the Art Institute of Chicago).


In 1875, Carlsen returned to Denmark and visited Paris. It was there that he first saw the work of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, an artist who would influence Carlsen’s work. A year later, Carlsen was working in Boston painting still-lifes and working as an assistant in Alexander Pope’s studio. In 1879, he offered many of his paintings up for auction to pay his bills. The auction was largely unsuccessful and he ended up further in debt.


T.J. Blakeslee, a New York dealer, took an interest in Carlsen several years later and sent him to Paris to study for two years. In exchange for financing Carlsen’s trip, Blakeslee received one floral still-life per month. It was likely one of these that was Carlsen’s first painting exhibited at an annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design.


In 1886, Carlsen returned to New York City and rented a studio next to his friend from Chicago, J.F. Murphy. One year later, he took a job as the director of the school of the San Francisco Art Association. This position only lasted two years, although Carlsen stayed in San Francisco an additional two years teaching the San Francisco Art Students League. In 1891, he moved back to New York City and settled in a studio on Fifty-Ninth Street. He remained there for the rest of his life.


In 1902, Carlsen was elected to the Society of American Artists, and around this time he started to gain serious recognition for his work. In 1905, now a successful artist, he built a country house in Falls Village, Connecticut. He was regularly exhibiting his work in the National Academy’s annual exhibitions and in 1907 was awarded the Inness gold Medal. In 1911, William Macbeth, a prominent New York dealer, started representing Carlsen.


He was most successful as an artist later in life. At this stage, he was painting quiet, wispy landscapes, such as the present lot, and selling them through Macbeth Galleries. He was so successful during this period, that in 1935 Macbeth held a retrospective of Carlsen’s work.[1]


His paintings are now in prominent collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the San Diego Museum of Art.



[1] David B. Dearinger, ed., “Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design,” (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2004), p. 87.

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