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Johann Berthelsen (American, 1883-1972)


Also known as:  Berthelsen, John


While not as known as his European counterparts, Johann Berthelsen’s contribution to the impressionist movement cannot be denied. Born in Copenhagen, he moved with his mother to Wisconsin at an early age where he quickly gravitated toward the arts -- singing, acting, and painting. He moved to Chicago where he received a full scholarship to attend the Chicago Musical College.

Much of Berthelsen’s early life was spent touring the US as a performer in the opera, and it wouldn’t be until 1910 when he began to seriously pursue painting at the encouragement of fellow Norwegian-American impressionist, Svend Svendsen. Berthelsen moved to New York City in 1920, where he began the work for which he would become best known. His impressionist, soft paintings of the New York City skyline brought to mind the romantic impressionist landscape painters of Paris from the previous century. When the Great Depression took most of Berthelsen’s vocal students away, he was still able to sell many pieces to famed art collectors of this era, including William Randolph Hearst, Frank Sinatra, and Dinah Shore. His work continued to be in-demand for the rest of his life. 

What type of art did Johann Berthelsen make?

Johann Berthelsen was a self-taught American Impressionist painter. Though he was born in Copenhagen and immigrated at a young age to Wisconsin, he is perhaps best known for his snowy paintings of turn-of-the-century New York. While he is best known to current collectors for his paintings, Berthelsen was also known as a famed singer and poet during his lifetime. 

How often do Johann Berthelsen's paintings come up for auction?

Berthelsen’s art has been popular for well over a century, thanks in large part to the fame he enjoyed during his life for various artistic pursuits. Berthelsen’s paintings have an extensive history at auction, but that said, his work is often overlooked by many collectors for more famous European counterparts -- making him a shrewd investment for the savvy collector. 

How much is a Johann Berthelsen painting or sculpture worth?

Berthelsen’s art is extremely affordable for most collectors. While his work exhibits the same technical and aesthetic qualities of many of the Dutch and French masters from this time period, his paintings often sell for tens of thousands of dollars. An average painting from his New York city period can sell from anywhere between $10,000 - and $30,000

Which Johann Berthelsen painting is the most valuable? 

The highest sales price ever paid for a Johann Berthelsen painting is $42,500 for Nocturne (Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Sky Line) (Unknown date). This was triple what the high estimate suggested ($15,000) and represents perhaps a movement toward a Berthelsen resurgence. Upcoming Berthelsen pieces should be worth a long look for collectors of all budgets. 

What are the most famous paintings by Johann Berthelsen?

Berthelsen is best known for his snowy and atmospheric impressionist depictions of the New York skyline and several of his most famous paintings fall comfortably within this genre. Besides the aforementioned Nocturne (Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Sky Line), the paintings Looking Down Fifth Avenue, Queensboro Bridge, and Blustery Day on Fifth Avenue have all experienced widespread recognition as definitive Berthelsen pieces. 

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