Drawing plaster casts of the art of antiquity was part of a typical Beaux-Arts art curriculum in the late 19th century, and many schools maintained collections of such casts for that purpose. According to the dates on these drawings, Svendsen was a young man in his teens or early twenties when he made these academic studies. Based on the inscriptions, he likely executed them in Scandinavia. The two still lifes have the words, “Malerskolers Skygge Klasse” written in the upper right corner, which means “Painting School Shading Class” in Danish. The anthemion study from 1878 has an inscription containing the word “Malerlorling,” which is close to the contemporary Danish and Norweigan words “malerlaerling,” which means “apprentice painter.” All of them are signed and dated by Svendsen and have an additional signature, likely that of the class instructor.
Svend R. Svendsen was a Norweigan-American landscape painter who spent most of his career in Chicago and is best known for his snow scenes in an American Impressionist style. He also painted rural scenes and maritime subjects. Born in Norway, Svendsen emigrated to the U.S. in 1881, though he studied art in Europe with the Norwegian painter Frits Thaulow and at the Académie Delécluse in Paris in 1896 with Edward F. Ertz. He exhibited his oils, watercolors and drawings frequently at the Chicago Art Institute between 1895 and 1920 and had solo shows at the W. Scott Thurber Galleries in Chicago between 1897 and 1903. Svendsen also exhibited his work and won medals at other expositions and galleries around the U.S., notably including a 1902 annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design and several annual exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
“Svend Rasmussen Svendsen.” Luther College Fine Arts Collection. 9 May 2010. http://finearts.luther.edu/artists/svendsen.html (28 March 2011).