Danish-German Painter & Engraver, the Neo-Classical Way – Asmus Jacob Carstens (1754 – 1798)

Born on May 10, 1754, at St. Jurgen in Schleswig, Denmark, Asmus Jacob Carstens or Asmus Carstens was a Danish-German, ‘Neo-Classical’ painter and a draughtsman. At the age of twenty-two, in the year 1776, he started studying at the Copenhagen Academy. Here he made his first painting, “The Death of Aeschylus.” For further studies in Arts, in 1783, he moved to Italy, where the works of Giulio Romano intensely enchanted and influenced him. He wanted to visit Rome too, but short funds curtailed his journey to Mantua only.

Eventually, the artist settled down at Lubeck, Germany, as a portrait painter. Asmus’ celebrated creation, “fall of the Angels,” features over 200 figures. This competent painting earned him the position of a professor at the reputed Berlin Academy, where he joined in 1788. The artist was famous and admired among his students, including Bertel Thorvaldsen and Joseph Anton Koch. His inspirations contributed largely to the ‘German Historical Paintings’ such as “Home Singing.” After his four years teaching stint at the Berlin Academy, Asmus quit, as he got an opportunity to travel to his dream destination, Rome.

After a decade’s savings from his earnings and with some arranged financial help, the artist managed to go to Rome in 1792, where he stayed until his death. Here, he exhibited his work in 1795. His devotion towards his artistry and his ‘Neo-Classicism’ impressed several international artists of repute. To his delight, Carstens spent his last and most productive years of the eighteenth century in Rome. Dynamic brush strokes on well-outlined, classically elegant forms & structures, characterized Carstens’ ‘subject’ & ‘historical’ works. His pictures were usually inspired from Homer, Pindar, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Shakespeare, and Ossian. “Plato’s Symposium” and the “Battle of Rossbach” are his magnum opus. One of his finest pieces, “Megapont,” was measured-up against the creations of legendary artists like Raphael and Michelangelo. In 1795, a large solo exhibition of his works was held in Rome.

Carstens also founded the School of German Historical Paintings. He died at a young age of forty-four on May 25, 1798, in Rome. Karl Ludwig Fernow, who had known Asmus Carstens since his childhood days, became close friends with him during their stay at Rome. Fernow has beautifully captured and documented the artist’s journey of life.

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