Born: Copenhagen, 1911
Died: Holmstrup, 2003
Knud Erik Edsberg (1911-2003)
Knud Edsberg was born to humble circumstances in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 22, 1911. His mother was a seamstress earning a meager income to support him and his sister. Despite his underprivileged upbringing, Knud found escape and solace in drawing and showed great talent early in his life.
Edsberg continued painting through his adolescence and was introduced to Laurits Tuxen, a very prominent, well-respected artist known especially for his classical training and techniques, and for his royal crown-head portraits around Europe. After having his works reviewed by Tuxen, Edsberg hoped he would be accepted for future study and training with him. Although his paintings were well received, Edsberg was told, as most young artists without financial means were at that time, to go and attain a legitimate education as a painter. This education would teach aspiring artists the vast trades of the commercial painter, enabling them to earn an income to provide for themselves and future family; as living off of paintings alone could rarely support even the artist. After years of hard, arduous work and study he finished his education and returned to Tuxen only to find his health failing and to learn that he was no longer able to take on students. Tuxen could only offer Edsberg words of advice and guidance, and a beautiful bronze sculpture. Edsberg felt that Tuxen’s passing truly ended the era of the Golden Age Danish painters he greatly admired.
Edsberg, strong in his convictions to paint like the masters before him, began his own training by studying the palettes, techniques and styles of his idols: Rembrandt, Titian, Carl Bloch, P. S. Kroyer and Anders Zorn. Although his favored style was that of the old European masters, he had a love for the Early Impressionist’s emphasis on color and light. This is evident in many of his genre paintings executed in "plein air", or in the outside environment as opposed to studio painting after sketches. Edsberg’s thought on his generation compared to that of his idols was: “I was born fifty years too late.” He wished for the chance to be among those he revered, and yearned for the age before landscape-altering industrialization when everyday scenery was picturesque.
The 1950’s and on brought Edsberg commissions for one of the legacies he would leave behind: portraits. In a time when people of significance still wanted to be recognized by portrayal, he was one of the most preferred portraitists. The historic Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark honored employees of all levels with 50 years of service with a portrait hanging in its museum. Edsberg was the most sought-after artist for this commission and painted more than 50 portraits for the museum. He also spent many years in the states with his commissions for portraits of those in public office (such as Senator Orin Hatch) and general authorities in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including the late President Ezra Taft Benson.
As the Arts were always a part of Edsberg’s life, it integrated into his son’s life as well. Knud began teaching his son Soren proficiency in drawing, color and light at a very young age. It was during the 1960’s, however, that father and son were involved in a more structured training. Although his early works were very similar to his father’s, Soren would later make his own, unique mark in the art world.
Another of Edsberg’s legacies includes his beloved genre paintings of old Danish rural scenes and countryside landscapes. His rural scenes portrayed the everyday lives of everyday people. Just as the masters before him modeled after friends and family, he too used his family and friends (especially his two children Soren and Gitte). Edsberg spent many of his summers at a friend’s large farm in Jutland where his time spent painting and sketching ignited a great love for his country. He would employ much of his days out in the fields with his sketch books drawing animals and livestock with great attention to detail - resulting in a proficient understanding of their anatomy, postures and instinctive mannerisms. It was with these paintings that the integration of his technical understanding of, and appreciation for, both the Old Masters and Early Impressionists is evident in his palette, skill and technique. The countryside genres from his later years were mainly painted during the winters in his studio, as opposed to his favored "plein air" painting during his time on the farm.
Finally, Edsberg’s legacy left for all who knew him personally, and through his art, is a legacy of kindness, generosity and a love for all things good and beautiful. He had a great love of the Arts, science, mathematics, physics and history. However, it was his deep faith that led him to choose the path along life which he followed. As his faith stayed with him until his death, so did his love for painting. He died of age-related complications on July 15, 2003 in Holmstrup, Denmark. Edsberg looked forward to meeting his Creator, wife and daughter on the other side.
Today, his paintings hang in private and public collections in Europe and the United States.