Johann Berthelsen (1883-1969)

Johann Berthelsen (1883-1969)

Johann Berthelsen was almost fifty years old before he gave up a successful music career to become a professional artist, and quickly rose to critical acclaim without any formal art training. Originally from Copenhagen, Berthelsen immigrated to New York City with his family at age six. He aspired to be a musician, and earned a four year scholarship to the Chicago Musical College, after which he toured the United States and Canada as lead baritone with the Grand Opera Company. 

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While he was teaching voice lessons, first as a faculty member at his alma mater and later in a private studio, Berthelsen found time to paint for his own pleasure; it wasn’t until after 1932 that he turned full-time to painting. He became best known for his snow-filled landcapes of New York’s Central Park. Critics praised him for the poetic nature of his art, and compared his subtle atmospheric effects to those of Whistler. E.C. Sherborne, of the Christian Science Monitor, wrote about his affinity towards Central Park:

Inexhaustible is the subject for him. To the many seasonal and light variations that are evident in the atmospherics of the park, he adds a continually vivid poetic response, an emotion that sees nature each morning, with a fresh zest and subtlety.

Although based in New York City, Berthelsen painted and exhibited in Chicago and Indianapolis as well. He was a member of the American Watercolor Society, the Allied Artists of America and the Salmagundi Club, and his work is included in the collections of the Terre Haute Museum, Indiana, and Wake Forest College, North Carolina. 

References: Falk, Who Was Who In American Art (1999). Boston PL artist files.

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