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Born in London in 1852, to a Scottish mother and Danish father, a decorative artist, Clausen commenced his training at the National Art School (now the Royal College of Art), South Kensington. He later attended the studio of Edwin Long, and was encouraged by his tutors and peers to persue art as a full-time career.

During the 1870’s Clausen travelled to Belgium where he attended the Antwerp Academy of Art whilst enjoying frequent trips to Holland and northern France soaking up the style of Dutch naturalism.  Back in England, he married Agnes Webster in 1881 and, now preferring the country side to city life, they settled in Childwick Green, Hertfordshire, where the rural scenery and landscape would inspire Clausen’s work.  The following year, encouraged by Henry La Thangue, Clausen and his young wife visited Brittany and here Clausen was introduced to the open-air style of painting adopted by the modern French artists.  During his stay in Quimperlé, Clausen started to paint the local farm workers and their families, clearly influenced by the style of Jean-Françoise Millet and Jules Bastien-Lepage.

After a brief spell at the Académie Julian in Paris Clausen returned to England and, inspired by the French plein-air style of painting and by way of making a statement against the Royal Academy and its entrenched academic style,  formed the New English Art Club (NEAC) in 1886.  It was here that the English artists returning from the Paris studios sought out like minded artists.

By 1889, Clausen was working towards a more personal style of Impressionism, exploring the illuminous and fluid qualities of pastels to enhance the feeling of light and shade to create the appropriate atmosphere.  His subject matter continued to be that of the rural life; the country labourer, his action and the land he worked on.

Despite his stance against the Royal Academy he was appointed an associate member in 1895 and a full member in 1908.  He was a RA Professor of Painting during 1904-13 and regarded as the most popular lecturer since Joshua Reynolds.  Clausen was appointed official war artist during World War I and was knighted in 1927.

Clausen was a quiet and modest man and his lyrical interpretation of the rural life through his own style of rustic naturalism has become a timeless expression of a peasant life.

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