Born: Balslev, 1745
Died: Copenhagen, 1802
Jens Juel (1745 – 1802) was a Danish painter, primarily known for his many portraits, of which the largest collection is on display at Frederiksborg Castle.
He was born in the house of his mother's brother Johan Jørgensen, who was a school teacher in Balslev on the island of Fyn. Jens Juel was the illegitimate son of Vilhelmine Elisabeth Juel (january 1725 - march 1799), who served at Wedellsborg and a fine gentleman, most likely a Wedell or Lord Jens Juel. When Juel was one year old, his mother married Jørgen Jørgensen (1724 - June 4th, 1796), who was a school master in Gamborg, not far from Balslev, and he grew up in Gamborg.
He showed an interest in painting from an early age, and his parents sent him to be an apprentice of painter Gehrmann in Hamburg, where he worked hard for five or six years and improved himself so much that he created for himself a reputation as a painter of portraits, landscapes, etc. Just over twenty years old he came to Copenhagen to attend the Royal Danish Academy of Art. In 1767 he was awarded its small gold medal and in 1771 the large gold medal.
In 1772 he left Copenhagen to be away for eight years. Initially, he went to Rome where he stayed for four years together with other Danish artists, including Abildgaard. From Rome, he moved to Paris, at the time a center of portrait painting. In 1777 he moved on to Geneva, where he stayed for two years at the home of his friend Charles Bonnet in the company of other Danish artists, including etcher Clemens. In Geneva, Juel soon earned himself a reputation as an excellent artist and he painted many portraits. Through Bonnet, who had become a member of honour of the Danish Academy, his reputation reaching Denmark.
After eight years of absence, he returned to Copenhagen in 1780 after a brief stay in Hamburg, where he met Klopstock. It was at his house, that he painted his well-known picture of "Messiadens Digter". Back in Copenhagen, he created a reputation for himself as a painter of portraits for the royal house, nobility and the well-to-do.
April 4th, 1782, he was unanimously elected to be a member of the academy by Mandelberg, Weidenhaupt and Abildgaard. He became the director of the academy in 1795.