A view of Borresö from Himmelbjerget, Denmark signed and dated 'P. Monsted 1912' (lower right); inscribed 'Borreso Himmelbjorgegnen' on the reverse oil on canvas 47 1/2 x 78 1/2in (120.7 x 199.4cm)
Born at the end of the 'golden age' of Danish painting, Peder Mork Mönsted was renowned for the clarity of light common to the painters of that age and his naturalistic plein air views made him the leading Danish landscapist of his time. Mönsted was one of a group of young Scandinavian artists who transfigured the atmospheric techniques and localized motifs of the Barbizon School into a distinctive Danish style of landscape painting a realism that won the artist great acclaim in his lifetime.
Mönsted was born in Balle near Ganaa in eastern Denmark and began his artistic training in Aarhus before moving to Copenhagen. There he enrolled at the Academy and studied there for two years in 1875-6 under Andries Fritz, a landscape and portrait painter and was taught figure painting by Julius Exner. During his studies at the Academy, the young artist would also have been exposed to the work of Christen Købke, the outstanding colorist, and Pieter Christian Skorgaard, a romantic nationalist painter. A keen knowledge and clear understanding of the work of these artists is evident in Mönsted's Danish landscapes and beech forests.
Mönsted traveled extensively throughout his long career, visiting Switzerland, Italy and North Africa. As early as 1884, he visited North Africa returning later in the decade. In the early years of the twentieth century Mönsted returned to Switzerland, the south of France and Italy. The war years curtailed Mönsted's travel to Norway and Sweden, however the 1920s and 1930s saw him return to the Mediterranean.
Throughout his long career, Mönsted continued to paint the Danish landscape and coastline. Like the Barbizon artists, his was a romantic, poetic view of nature; he was an artist who depicted the grandeur and monumental aspects of the landscape with a remarkable eye for detail and color. The entry on Mönsted in the Weilbach Dansk Kunstnerleksikon best characterizes the artist's achievement:
(Mönsted's) great success was largely a consequence of his ability to develop a series of schematic types of landscape, which could each individually represent the quintessence of a Scandinavian, Italian, or most frequently Danish landscape. In motifs, built up around still water, trees and forest, he specialized in portraying the sunlight between tree crowns and the network of trunks and branches of the underwood, the reflections of the water of forest and sky and snow-laden winter landscapes with sensations of spring, often all together in the same picture.
With A view of Borresö from Himmelbjerget, Denmark, Mönsted proves himself an artist at the height of his powers. The painting is a study in light reflected in water with just enough of the landscape depicted in order to anchor the composition which would otherwise simply be light and air. Mönsted's ability to capture the essence of light, air and water in a photorealist manner is almost modern in its execution.
Borresö is a lake in a chain of small lakes in north central Denmark and was a popular subject for the landscape artists of the time, and Mönsted has captured the silvery light, the movement of the clouds and the utter serenity of this unspoiled location as only he could.