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Bennetter Johan Jacob

Oslo, Norway 1822 -1904 

Norwegian Painter

White Cliffs of Dover

Signature: Signed lower right
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Image size 41,50 x 63 cm, frame size 75,50 x 97 cm

Bennetter Johan Jacob, born in Oslo on September 30, 1822, was a distinguished Norwegian marine painter renowned for his evocative depictions of the sea. His journey from a sailor to an accomplished artist spanned continents and brought maritime scenes to life on canvas.

Growing up in the seafaring and craftsman’s neighborhood of Pipervika, Bennetter’s destiny was intertwined with the sea. At the tender age of 11, he embarked on his first voyage with his father, eventually passing his mate’s examination in 1840. Summers were spent aboard his father’s schooner in Bergen, while winters saw him working as a ship’s carpenter. It was during this time that he crossed paths with J. Gørbitz, observing him while painting Count Wedel’s portrait.

Bennetter’s journey into the world of art began when the art enthusiast Colonel Kaltenborn discovered his drawings and facilitated his entry into the Royal Drawing School. There, under the guidance of notable teachers like Arnesen, Flintoe, and Grosch, he honed his skills and crossed paths with J.F. Eckersberg, who encouraged him to venture into oil painting. He spent hours copying works by J.C. Dahl and others in the National Gallery.

In 1848, he embarked on his first study trip, venturing into Nordmarka with Eckersberg, Morten Müller, and Erik Bodom. He also conducted sea studies along the Oslo Fjord and in Vestfold. His artistic aspirations led him to the famous marine painter Louis Meijer in The Hague in 1849, where he received a two-year scholarship.

Subsequently, in 1851, Bennetter embarked on a journey to France, staying in Le Havre before visiting the Universal Exhibition in London and ultimately arriving in Paris in 1852. Under the tutelage of Théodore Gudin for about two years, he gained recognition and received numerous commissions. His stay in Paris continued for several years, punctuated by visits to Norway.

As the Franco-Prussian War loomed in 1870, Bennetter returned to Norway, eventually settling in Stavanger. He made another sojourn to Paris from 1872 to 1880 before returning to Stavanger. It was during his initial stay in Paris that he purchased the Sola church ruin, which he transformed into a home and studio, using the nave as his studio and the sacristy as his dining room.

Bennetter’s larger seascapes bore the dramatic style of his teacher Gudin, portraying thrilling scenes of storms, shipwrecks, naval battles, and more, with meticulous attention to detail. His paintings covered a broad historical and geographical spectrum, from Viking raids to his contemporary era, spanning India to America.

Despite his focus on maritime scenes, Bennetter also held strong religious interests, although they were less evident in his artwork. His smaller nature studies showcased his artistic finesse, characterized by a softer and more expansive painterly style, with a keen sense of light and atmosphere. These included harbor scenes from Brittany, Stavanger, and Bergen.

As he battled illness, Bennetter’s health gradually deteriorated, leaving him nearly blind from 1898. His later years were marked by challenges, as efforts to secure public support were met with limited success.

Johan Jacob Bennetter’s died in Sola on March 29, 1904. Today, his legacy lives on through his masterful maritime paintings, which continue to captivate art enthusiasts and lovers of the sea around the world.

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