The Cattle Painter: Theodor Philipsen

Andréa Fernandes

89 years ago today, Theodor Philipsen (1840-1920) passed away. The Danish painter is considered one of the only Danish impressionists of his time. While not much information is available about Philipsen, I've gathered up what I could find:

1. Little is known about Theodor Philipsen's family, but it is known that he had a twin brother, Sophus, who became a ship captain. Sophus' wife was the cousin of Mette Gauguin, Paul Gauguin's Danish wife.

2. Perhaps through his familial connection to Gauguin, Philipsen became close friends with the French impressionist during Gauguin's stay in Copenhagen from 1884 to 1885. They bonded not only because of their artistic similarities, but also because Philipsen was one of the few Danish artists who spoke French. In Philipsen, Gauguin found a friend, a conversationalist, and an attentive listener. From Gauguin, Philipsen learned impressionist color theories.

3. Though Philipsen wasn't a ship captain like his brother, he too had been bitten by the travel bug. Like most artists in the late 19th century, Philipsen traveled to Paris. He also traveled to North Africa and Andalusia, both of which, like Paris, influenced and inspired Philipsen's work.

4. Philipsen may have drawn inspiration from distant places, but the focus of his art work was usually his local area, including his hometown of Kastrup and the island of Saltholm. He learned to paint with small, parallel strokes, which helped him better depict light and its atmospheric effects.

5. Philipsen was "known mainly for his many pictures of Danish cattle," including those on Saltholm. He painted animals, especially cattle, for much of his career, stopping only when he became afflicted with an eye disease in 1906. Philipsen also produced "naturalistic ceramic animals," which were relatively small sculptures.

A larger version of Philipsen's "An Avenue in Kastrup" (1892) is available here. Fans should check out this portrait of Philipsen, as well as his paintings "A Late Autumn Day in Dyrehaven, Sunshine" and "The Dutch Well on Saltholm in Late Afternoon Sun". Upcoming Exhibition:Today's Weather: The Art of the Present, feat. Philipsen (Kerteminde, Denmark: May 29, 2009, through September 27, 2009) "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.