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Emil Carlsen was born in Copenhagen in 1853.

In 1868, Carlsen enrolled at the Danish Royal Academy, where he studied architecture. In 1872, he emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Chicago. There he found work as an architect’s assistant and also worked with painter Lauritis Bernhard Holst. In 1874, Holst turned his studio over to Carlsen.

Carlsen traveled back Denmark in 1875, and then Paris. He stayed in Paris for six months, studying the work of 18th century painter Jean Siméon Chardin. Upon returning to the U.S., he set up his own studio in New York.

The artist developed a reputation as a still-life painter. Later in his life, Carlsen became an instructor at the National Academy of Design.

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