The Harbour of Copenhagen the 1st of May 1832

  • Artist: Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg
  • Creation date: 1832
  • Object type: Painting


This maritime painting, depicting a number of ships on the coast outside of Copenhagen, stems from an experience the artist had on 1 May 1832. In his diary entry for that day, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg noted that

“the frigates were supposed to have set sail early in the morning, but bad weather hindered them from leaving the safety of their anchorage, and it was first in the afternoon that the wind subsided enough for them to begin their northward journey”.

The sailing vessels are typical early nineteenth- century battleships, so-called frigates, while the paddle steamer in the foreground represents a new era for Denmark as a seafaring nation. In this highly detailed painting, Eckersberg placed great emphasis on the weather conditions and the correct perspective, with a low horizon and high sky. Drifting clouds and smoke from the boats dominate the composition and add a sense of life and movement. The colouring is subdued, mainly featuring shades of grey, but with the flags and the boats adding elements of red.

Eckersberg was a passenger on the steamer, and he would later use his notes and sketches to make several paintings of this episode. He was Denmark’s leading maritime painter in the 1830s and 1840s, known for his meticulously constructed depictions and portraits of ships, in which he used his profound knowledge of perspective, meteorology, and contemporary ships to create a new form of matterof- fact realism. As a professor and director at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Eckersberg greatly influenced the generation of Danish artists that received their training in the 1820s and 1830s, and he is often referred to as “the Father of Danish Painting”.

Text: Frithjof Bringager

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg


Born 1783 in Blåkrog, Sønderjylland, death 1853 in København, Danmark

Depicted place

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Københavns red 1. mai 1832 (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Width: 125.5 cm
  • Height: 78.6 cm
  • Depth: 2.8 cm
Motif - type:
Motif - location:
Kjøpt 1992
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Larsen, Frode