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Asmus Jakob Carstens


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(b St Jürgen, Schleswig-Holstein [then part of Denmark; now in Germany], 10 May 1754; d Rome, 25 May 1798).

Danish-born German draughtsman and painter who spent the key years of his career in Rome. Apart from some initial training at the Copenhagen Academy he was largely self-taught. In 1783 he set out for Rome, but got only as far as Mantua before lack of funds obliged him to return north. After eking out a living in Germany for several years, in 1788 he became a teacher at the Berlin Academy, and in 1792 he was given a grant by the Prussian government to go to Rome, where he spent the rest of his life. He had a very high-minded concept of art, in tune with his inflated idea of his own genius, and he concentrated on heroic figure compositions (mainly drawings and tempera pictures, for he virtually abandoned oils after settling in Rome). In its austerity and insistence on the primacy of draughtsmanship, his style was essentially Neoclassical, but it is often touched with a strong current of Romanticism (the Romantic strain in his temperament was also expressed in his view of himself as a rebel against authority). His serious outlook was influential on northern artists of the next generation in Rome, notably Thorvaldsen and the Nazarenes.

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