Eckersberg was born in Blåkrog in the Duchy of Schleswig (now the southern part of Jutland in Denmark), to Henrik Vilhelm Eckersberg, painter and carpenter, and Ingeborg Nielsdatter. After being trained in Copenhagen and studying in Paris (1810-13) under Jacques-Louis David, he continued his studies in Rome (1814), where he executed a masterly portrait of his friend Thorvaldsen (Royal Academy, Copenhagen, 1815). Returning to Copenhagen in 1816, he occupied himself mainly with portraits, minutely rendering the features of his models with a Neoclassic feeling for clarity and purity of line. He also painted many landscapes, however (as he had done in Rome), and as an influential teacher at the Copenhagen Academy (from 1818) he introduced painting from nature into the curriculum. He also executed some religious themes and subjects from Danish history in Christiansborg Palace. His pupils included Johan Christian Dahl and Christen Købke. He has been called 'the father of Danish painting' because of the influence he exerted on Danish painters in the second quarter of the 19th century. With Christen Købke he was the leading painter of the Danish 'Golden Age' (c. 1800-1850). He is referred to as the Father of Danish painting.