As a young boy, he wanted to be a naval officer and enrolled in a preparatory school. "But when he got there, he found his true passion was art," says Dawn Pheysey, curator of religious art at BYU's Museum of Art. "He neglected all his other studies, and failed his final naval exam."
That did not please his mother; who worried about his ability to make a living and figured he would only find a life of poverty and despair, she says.
Nevertheless, at age 15 Bloch entered the Danish Royal Academy of Art, where he did well and was awarded a travel scholarship to Italy, where he stayed for several years to study the Masters.
While there he was commissioned by the king of Greece to do a painting commemorative the recent Greek War of Liberation. His "The Liberation of Prometheus" attracted attention not only in Greece, but also in Denmark, which had recently lost a war and some territory to Prussia. "It gave them a feeling that they would be great again," says Pheysey. Two studies from that painting are part of the "Master's Hand" exhibition.
It was that prominence that led to the commission to paint the images for Frederiksborg Castle, a project that took 14 years. He was also commissioned to paint altarpieces for eight churches.
Bloch married while in Italy; he and his wife, Alma Trepka, had eight children and had a happy and prosperous life, until her death in 1886.
In all Bloch produced more than 250 paintings and 75 etchings during his lifetime in a variety of genres, but he always viewed his religious paintings as his most important. "God helps me," he once said; "that's what I think, and then I'm calm."
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