Fritz Christian Syberg Biography

Fritz Christian Syberg




Painter and illustrator Fritz Christian Syberg was born Christian Friedrich Willhelm Syberg on July 28, 1862, in Fabord, Denmark. Born into a poor family, Syberg found himself at the mercy of parents unable to provide for the household and, as such, he took up work as a swineherd in his teenage years rather than attend school, caring for his younger siblings. He then found work as an apprentice to a house painter, Syrak Hansen, who was father to Peter Hansen, another future artist and Syberg's friend. Syberg soon earned enough income to enroll in the Copenhagen Technical School in 1882. There, he studied drawing under Holger Gronvold. He then attended the Danish Academy for a summer session before enrolling at the Kunstnernes Frie Stuideskoler, studying under painter Kritian Zahrtmann from 1885 - 1891. This would prove to be a pivotal time for Syberg, who was impressed by Kahrtmann's dismissal of the Danish School in favor of Naturalism and Realism.

Together with several other Danish painters including Peter Hansen, Syberg would form the Fynboerne Painters on the island of Funen known for their Realist approach. Images of the lower class dominated his subject matter from the late 1890s through the 1910s, finding inspiration in presenting with dignity the world of which he was intimately familiar. With fellow Fynboerne artists Syberg traveled throughout Europe on sketching trips, including Italy, Germany, and France. In addition to painting, Syberg took commissions for illustrations, and his images for Hans Christian Andersen's The Story of a Mother - which Syberg related to his own childhood - became one of the most celebrated collections of illustrations in Denmark's history.

After a three year painting soujourn to Pisa with his wife, artist Anna Syberg, and their children in 1913, Syberg became interested in what the younger Danish generation was producing. Ever the evolving artist, Syberg was inspired by the rise of Modernism and the possibilities found in Expressionism, especially as after the death of Anna in 1914 and the encroachment of World War I. His late-career style reflected explored this new approach to art, becoming bolder in line and color. 

Syberg continued to work until very near his death on December 20, 1939. His son, Ernst, followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a respected member of the Odsherred Painters.