Born in Copenhagen into the family of a Woodcarver, the Icelander by birth. For eleven years he studied at the Danish Academy of arts. In 1793, the young sculptor was awarded the Large gold medal, which gave him the right overseas internship. However, financial difficulties forced to postpone departure.
In 1797 Thorvaldsen arrived in Rome. Meeting a young sculptor with the Eternal city was marred by the fact that most famous antiquities from the Roman collection was then taken by the French. However, the Danish master classic samples were able to experience the Majesty of classical sculpture. This assures a statue of Jason with the Golden fleece (1802-1803.).Alien envy, Antonio Canova on seeing this sculpture, called it the beginning of a "new, Grand style."
The first years of XIX century began to Thorvaldsen sometimes creative heyday; he worked in Rome (in 1808 he was accepted to the Academy of Saint Luke) and Naples. In 1811, on the occasion of the arrival of Napoleon he performed for the Quirinal Palace in Rome, the relief of the "Entry of Alexander the great into Babylon". Two multi-figured procession — the Greek army and welcoming its residents — are found in the center of the composition; between them is an allegorical figure of Peace.
Feature images of Thorvaldsen — their self-sufficiency: they seem to live by themselves, without needing the viewer. This is "Venus with Apple" (1813-1816.). Quiet, chaste, in astonishment looking at to get her the fruit, she especially wins when compared to the arrogant and cold Venus Paolini Bogese Canova.
The composition of "Ganymede feeding Zeus eagle" (1817) is executed with consummate finesse and naturalness. The graceful body of the young man and the mighty figure of a bird are combined in a symmetrical, but of the free group.
Thorvaldsen deftly played up the contrasts and always achieved the harmonious integrity of the image. His cutter conveys the fragile state of transition from rest to motion with amazing credibility. This is the figure of the God mercury (1818), who, having lulled the giant Argus, playing the flute, still holding it at the ready, and is going to raise the sword to combat the enemy.
In 1819 Thorvaldsen visited Copenhagen, received the order for the decoration of the Church of our lady (1811 — 1829), was built the neoclassical. The sculptor adorned the pediment of the main entrance of the temple a figure of the preaching of John the Baptist, porch — terrain "Entry into Jerusalem", the interior statues of the apostles, the altar is a colossal figure of Christ and the relief of the "Procession to Calvary".
For the statue of Christ Thorvaldsen completed six preparatory options, trying to find a way of harmoniously connecting the stately heroics of Zeus works by ancient Greek sculptors with a clear and deep spiritual power of the Savior.
Since 20-ies of the XIX century, Thorvaldsen knew already the whole of Europe. He excitedly ordered monuments for various cities. Statue of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus to Krakow in Poland (1822), inventor of printing Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz for Germany (1833), poet George Gordon Byron to Cambridge in England (1831) for its decision and the abundance of the secondary parts is similar to other European monuments of those years. The only exception is the "Wounded lion" (1820-1821.) in Lucerne (Switzerland) — a monument to the Swiss guards of king Louis XVI, who died during the French revolution. This is a wild cave in the rock, separated from the viewer by a small pond; it is the wounded lion. The image of the suffering, weakening, but still sensitive and resistant animal of amazing strength.
In 1838, Thorvaldsen returned to Copenhagen and headed there the Academy of fine arts. The sculptor bequeathed the home most of their heritage, which formed the basis of his memorial Museum.