Wilhelm Karl Ferdinand Arnesen (1865-1948) was born in Flensburg on the Danish and German border. His father, Captain George Arnesen, was a keen model ship builder and from a young age Arnesen showed an interest in the maritime world and was keen to study and form detailed drawings of ships. By the age of fourteen Arnesen had begun to study art in Copenhagen and was enrolled at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen from 1884 to 1888.
It was during his time at the Academy that he had the fortune to be invited to accompany the Danish Royal family on some of their many travels abroad. In 1895, he was introduced to the young Prince Carl, who was then the naval officer on board the corvette Dagmar. The two became friends and Arnesen was invited to sail with the Royal Danish Navy on several occasions.
Arnesen is often referred to as the last in a line of important maritime painters in Denmark. He was known for his detailed and powerful seascapes of large sailing ships, often portraying famous historical events. In 1905, when Prince Carl accepted the offer to become King of Norway, as Haakon VII, Arnesen depicted the historic event of the 23 November when the Royal Yacht ‘Dannebrog’ departed Copenhagen harbour with the new Royal Family of Norway on board. Arnesen gifted the painting as a token of the people’s gift to the King and Queen of Norway in honour of their coronation in 1906. King Haakon was very fond of the farewell painting, and it hung in the King’s study throughout his reign.
Arnesen travelled and painted his vivid and naturalistic seascapes all around the world, including Europe, North America and Asia. Arnesen was awarded medals at the Academy in Copenhagen in 1891, 1896, 1898 and 1902. As the preeminent maritime painter of his generation in Denmark, his paintings were highly sought after and collected by Europeans and Americans alike. His paintings were exhibited at the world fair in Chicago, at the Museum of Arts in Lübeck in Germany and frequently at the Charlottenborg Palace and can today be found in notable private collections worldwide.