Købke studied himself very carefully while painting this self-portrait. He did not intend the painting to be a typical portrait of an artist, and the picture has no traces of his tools, working clothes, or studio. Quite the contrary: he is wearing an overcoat, and the background is entirely neutral so that you have no sense that he is in the middle of a working situation.
The self-portrait is not conducive to the Romantic worship of artists and genius so prevalent at the time. Subdued or dark nuances are used throughout the entire picture, lit up only by Købke’s face. Thus, all attention is focused on him.
The self-portrait of a great Danish artist
During his day, Købke was known as a straightforward, good-natured and simple-minded person who did not strive to attract attention to himself. His self-portrait supports this description. Only the insistent gaze suggests that the picture shows one of the greatest Danish artists of all time.
Sense of observation and colour
Købke’s keen sense of observation and sense of colour had no equal among the other Danish artists of the era. Købke painted his self-portrait around the time where he truly found his own voice as an artist. He never did, however, obtain a prominent position within the Danish art scene during his own lifetime. His art did not win true recognition until 30-40 years after his death.