Oscar Matthiesen

Oscar Matthiesen, “Officers of the Scania County Dragoon Regiment in Ystad Ride into the Sea to Bathe on a Sunday in June”, 1906. Oil on canvas, 500 x 1000 cm. Ystads Militärhistoriska Museum

Oscar Matthiesen was born in 1861 as the son of the Danish House Vogts and Brand Director Johann Peter Matthiessen at Gottorp Castle in Schleswig.

After completing his studies in Copenhagen, Matthiesen took several trips to Paris, Rome, Berlin and Munich.  His work was primarily portraits as well as landscapes and seascapes. He was in great demand as a portrait painter, probably as a result of his Reichstag painting in 1915 “The Constitutional Assembly of the Reich”, a major work composed of 225 single portraits, all executed by live model.

In November 1910, Matthiesen celebrated a solo exhibition at the previously opened Kunsthalle zu Kiel where his monumental painting “Officers of the Scania County Dragoon Regiment…” received many favorable reviews. He was made a member of The Dannebro Order, a Danish knighthood that was instituted by King Christian the Fifth in 1808.

Matthiesen’s painting is related to the contemporary culture of athletics in Denmark where people of the same sex socialized in varying degrees of undress, atypical for society otherwise. As emphasized in the Danish philosophy of Vitalism, sport in itself was to guarantee that such situations were not of a sexual nature, and the contemporary literature on athletics emphasized that physical exercise would make the young man more resistant to carnal desires.

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