Otto Bache possessed an incredible knack for observation and insight when painting animals. In this detailed animal study of a Broholmer dog, everything from the saggy skin around its neck to the powerful musculature in its legs has been depicted with painstaking care. Crawling along the ground is a stag beetle, which the dog examines inquisitively. The background is dominated by dark colours while an intense frontal light illuminates the folds in the dog’s skin and its muscular anatomy. This is a pre-study to the painting After the boar hunt from 1876 (National Gallery of Denmark), in which a number of hunting dogs and a hunter are depicted around a felled boar.
About the artist:
The Danish painter Otto Bache’s early oeuvre is marked by National Romanticist depictions of peasant life, but it is particularly his later mastery of portrait painting, history painting and animal painting that earned him a place in Danish art history.
Bache was admitted to the Danish Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen when he was just 10. He would be connected to the academy his whole life, first as a student and later as a professor and its director. His style was influenced by the academic, detail-packed naturalism introduced by Eckersberg, but his encounter with modernism’s new trends in Paris had a major influence on Bache’s choice of colours, depiction of light and choice of subject. Bache was the first to import this new and French approach to painting to Denmark around 1870, but in contrast to his contemporaries Krøyer and Philipsen, Bache remained more loyal to the traditional school of painting. This made him popular in certain conservative circles such as the Royal Family, to which Bache delivered numerous portraits and historical paintings. However, this also resulted in Bache often being something of an overlooked figure in Danish art history.