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Emil Carlsen and Carlsen family photographs, circa 1885- circa 1930

Emil Carlsen and Carlsen family photographs, circa 1885- circa 1930

Carlsen, Emil, 1853-1932

Art teacher, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 1.6 linear feet

Summary: The photographs of Emil Carlsen and the Carlsen family measure 1.6 linear feet and date from circa 1885 to circa 1930, with the bulk from circa 1910 to circa 1920s. Included in this collection are 169 glass plate negatives, black and white copy prints of all glass plate negatives, and four plastic safety negatives. Some descriptive annotations by Emil Carlsen are included.

Also included are approximately 54 original glass plate negative sleeves containing contextual and descriptive information about the images penned by Emil Carlsen, which have been kept with their respective copy prints. Within the collection, 29 black and white copy prints and four plastic safety negatives were produced by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art from nitrate negatives no longer with the collection. Photographs include Emil Carlsen and his family, landscapes and animals, buildings and industrial exteriors, and artwork.

One third of the collection is made up of photographs of the artist and his family. Images of Emil Carlsen show the artist at work in his studio, painting outdoors, and enjoying time with his wife, Luella May Carlsen, and his son, Dines Carlsen. Also included are many photographs of Luella May and Dines over the years, alone and together. Additionally, Windham is listed as the town where several photographs of a very young Dines and Luella May were taken. The location of the rest of the photographs, when provided, is Port Washington.

Over half of the glass plate negatives depict landscapes, mostly of trees and various interiors and exteriors of the woods of Port Washington, New York. Landscape photographs also depict cornfields, a meadow, fences and roads, hills and mountains, boats and a marina, horses, and cattle.

Buildings and industrial exteriors contain multiple views of the exteriors of several houses and barns; cityscapes; a sand pit and quarry containing wooden building structures, equipment, and wagons.

Photographs of artwork include images of Emil Carlsen's painted landscapes, still-lifes, a single self-portrait, and two seascapes.

Biographical/Historical Note

Emil Carlsen and his son Dines (1901-1966) were painters in New York, N.Y.


The Emil Carlsen and Carlsen family photographs were donated to the Archives of American Art on June 28, 1995, by Elizabeth M. Campanile of Campanile Galleries, Inc., which were purchased from the Dines Carlsen Estate.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

A Finding Aid to the Emil Carlsen and Carlsen Family Photographs, circa 1885-circa 1930, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Painter Emil Carlsen (1853-1932) was born Soren Emil Carlsen in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1853. He studied architecture at the Danish Royal Academy for four years, and also painted alongside cousin and painter Viggo Johansen, one of Denmark's most notable painters. In 1872, he immigrated to the United States where he worked as an architectural assistant and as an assistant for Danish marine painter Laurits Bernhard Holst (1848-1934) in Chicago, Illinois. After studying in Paris for several years, he set up a painting studio in New York and then Boston, then spending two years (1887-1889) as the Director of the San Francisco Arts Association School. In 1891, he moved back to New York and taught at the National Academy of Design until 1918. He spent most of his time with his family at their vacation home in Falls Village, Connecticut when he didn't have teaching commitments in New York, where they also kept an apartment. In 1904, after struggling to become known for his work for many years, he was elected as an associate of the New York National Academy; he won the Shaw Prize from the Society of American Artists; and was awarded the Gold Medal at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis for his still-life "Blackfish and Clams". Carlsen is best known for his still-life paintings and has been called "The American Chardin." Before purchasing his own property in Falls Village, Carlsen stayed often with friend and painter J. Alden Weir (1852-1919) at his farm, painting landscapes.
After deciding to make a career in painting rather than architectural design, Carlsen spent many years experimenting and finding his style. His paintings during 1872-1874 reflected his time spent assisting Laurits Bernhard Holst, and were in the style of traditional Danish marine paintings. Struggling financially, Holst arranged for Carlsen to receive his studio when Holst moved back to Denmark in 1874. At the recommendation of Chicago sculptor Leonard Wells Volk, Carlsen became an art instructor at the now Chicago Arts Institute, though he left for an opportunity to study classical painting for 6 months in Paris, where he spent time studying the painting of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin.
After Paris, he moved to a boarding house in New York, and then spent several years in Boston where he had his first exhibit at the Boston Art Club. In 1879 he moved back to New York and set up a studio, supplementing his painting with work as an engraver. During the 1880s Carlsen began becoming known for his still-life paintings, and commission work sent him to Paris again, this time for two years. He was commissioned by T. J. Blakeslee to produce bright flower paintings which were popular at the time, creating about one per month. Other American dealers began wanting his flower paintings as well, but Carlsen soon grew bored and returned to New York, refusing to paint any more flowers for Blakeslee, in 1887. It was during this time that Carlsen developed an interest in still-lifes with Chinese porcelain. His time in Paris also saw a brightening of his landscapes, as was the European style of the time. In the late 1800s he also became interested in painting white objects, such as porcelain, ceramics, garlic cloves, clothing, etc.
He married Luella May Ruby, a young model, in 1896, and his son Dines Carlsen was born in 1901. From 1900-1932, Carlsen favored a subdued color palette in his work. As still-life paintings fell out of vogue, he also painted more landscapes and marines, favoring Falls Village, Connecticut; Windham, Maine; and Port Washington, New York.
He died in New York at the age of 78, in 1932.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 5 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately, but a cross reference number has been provided to match copy prints with their respective glass plate negative original.
Series 1: Photographs of People, circa 1890s-circa 1920s (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 1, 3-4)
Series 2: Photographs of Buildings and Industrial Exteriors, circa 1885-circa 1930 (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 1, 3-4)
Series 3: Photographs of Landscapes and Animals, circa 1885-circa 1930 (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 1-4)
Series 4: Photographs of Artwork, circa 1885-circa 1930 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 2-4)
Series 5: Miscellaneous Notes, circa 1920s (1 folder; Box 2)
The Emil Carlsen and Carlsen family photographs were donated to the Archives of American Art on June 28, 1995, by Elizabeth M. Campanile of Campanile Galleries, Inc., which were purchased from the Dines Carlsen Estate.
Processing Information note
The collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2014 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Emil Carlsen and Carlsen family photographs, circa 1885- circa 1930. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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