were detected by an English art critic in 1876 in the carefully observed consistency and mobility of the sea in Vilhelm Melbye’s "water-paintings". This comment represents the high esteem the Danish artist won in the art scene in Victorian England to which the navy had a great appeal. In the shadow of his older brother Anton, Vilhelm Melbye developed his own distinctive artistic style as a painter of seascapes and an own circle of collectors, mainly in England, Denmark and Scandinavia.
Vilhelm Melbye took artistic inspiration not only from the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts and from his older brother, but also from Dutch, French and English maritime painting. Throughout his life, he had the habit of keeping his impressions of his extensive journeys in Europe and his home country, and detailed observations of nature, alive in oil sketches en pleine air and in pencil sketches. They led him to produce atmospheric lively paintings of a great variety of genres set in nature and filled with light for which Melbye used both a delicate, light range of colours as well as strong dark colours.
As a motif, he preferred scenic and spectacular coastlines, ship traffic on the high seas in stormy weather and picturesque, topographical European landscapes. Stand-alone drawings by Vilhelm Melbye are rather rare. In addition to the finely painted works, Melbye started producing paintings in which he detached himself from the academic style of painting and instead captured dynamic impressions of untamed nature with fast and sweeping strokes with broad brushes.
Picture excerpts Life stations
1) Vilhelm Melbye, Selger vor Kullen, 1848 (private collection)
2) Vilhelm Melbye, Der Leuchtturm, 1866 (private collection)
3) Vilhelm Melbye, Einfahrt im Sturm, 1879 (private collection)
Carte de Visite, Fotografie von Vilhelm Melbye, o.Dt. (nach 1863), Fotograf Georg Rosenkilde (Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen)