As a painter and architect, Nicolai Abildgaard, 1743-1809, was a leading figure in Danish neo-classicism and early Romanticism. He trained in the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts, and during a stay in Rome he made a close study of Classical and Renaissance idiom. Here, he also executed the main work of his youth, Wounded Philoctetes (1774-75, Statens Museum for Kunst).
Abildgaard took the inspiration for his motifs from the world of literature, principally portraying the unbalanced and passionate, and his many extant drawings reflect his vivid imagination.
In his idiom he was closely related to J.H. Füssli, whom he met during his stay in Rome. As a Professor (from 1778) and later Director (1788-91 and from 1801) in the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen Abildgaard exerted a great influence on the young artists of his day.
He created a large number of works for the royal family, including ten large-scale paintings representing the deeds of the Oldenborg monarchs for the Great Hall in Christiansborg Palace.
Seven of them were lost in the fire of 1794, but the sketches are still in existence in Statens Museum for Kunst, which owns the largest collection of Abildgaard's works.
After c. 1800, Abildgaard mainly painted motifs from the Classical world. One of his architectural designs was the Apis Temple in Frederiksberg Have.
Vibeke Skov, Gyldendal Leksikon