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The celebrated Danish painter, Carl Heinrich Bloch, was born on May 23, 1834, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was the son of merchant Joergen Peter Bloch and Ida Emilie Ulrikke Henriette Weitzmann Bloch.
Bloch's parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession - an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist.
In 1855, Bloch joined the Royal Danish Academy of Art, where on August 1, 1859 he received a travel grant. Bloch used this grant to go to Holland, France and Italy with his best friend and fellow artist, Anton Dorph.
Here, Bloch's love and admiration for Rembrandt further developed, and the old Master became a major driving force in Bloch's development as an artist.
Today, some have recognized Carl Bloch as perhaps the greatest artist ever to interpret the life and death of Christ. Contemporary artists, working with this difficult subject, pay tribute to the old master.
Carl Bloch met his beloved wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her in May 1868. They had a very happy and prosperous life together until her early death in January 1886.
The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.
In a New Years letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: "What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!" Another letter from Andersen declared "Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality."
In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said "Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth."
Now, more than a hundred years after Carl Bloch's death, young artists from all over the world, attempting to illustrate the life and death of Christ, make pilgrimage to Frederiksborg Castle to study the great Master.
The 23 paintings for the King's Praying Chamber in Frederiksborg Castle Chapel made Carl Bloch the apparent choice for painting alter pieces. He painted 8 altarpieces, and considered these to be among his best.
The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.
Through the assistance of Danish born artist Soren Edsberg, the acquisition of "Christ heeling at the pool of Bethesda," [formerly owned by Indre Mission , Copenhagen, Denmark], was recently made possible for The Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, U.S.A.
Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as "an abrupt blow for Nordic art" according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that "Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living." Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch's funeral that "Bloch stays and lives."
A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date. Madsen also said "If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich, warm and noble artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the noblest of them all!"