Carstens’ Rejection of Academia

In late 18th century Europe, there weren’t many options available for artists looking to exhibit their work. You either painted in the style approved by the Salons and submitted to their juried shows, or you didn’t exhibit.

One artist, Asmus Jakob Carstens, decided that was too limiting, and that the popular artwork of that time had gone down the drain. He was appalled by the lack of reverence to the former masters and the recent shift from focusing on technical skill and draftsmanship to color without solid foundation.

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Asmus Carstens, Birth of Light

Referring to himself as a “draftsman with no interest in color”, he was a defiant, self-assured artist. He thought himself to be taking art in a new direction, and shortly after he mastered watercolor and tempera paints, he left his studio in Italy and rented the studio of the classicist Pompeo Battoni- chosen specifically to showcase the stark difference in the two ideologies.

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Battoni, Allegory of Peace and War

He put together his own show, and slowly started to build a following of sympathetic artists. Many, particularly German artists, admired his fierce independence and rejection of what was commonly accepted in the art world at that time, especially the new focus of the artist’s experience being reflected in the work. Although his work may have been mostly forgotten and his rebellion in no way near as dramatic as the impressionists, he was definitely one of the first to openly defy the Salon’s exhibitions.

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Carstens, Night and her Daughters Sleep and Death