Peder Severin Kr°yer was born July 23, 1851 in Stavanger (Norway) to Ellen Cecilie Gjesdal. His having been judged unfit to raise Peder, he was given to be cared for by Gjesdal's sister and the sister's husband. Along with the foster parents, he moved to Copenhagen soon afterwards. He began his art education at nine years of age under private tutelage, and was enrolled in Copenhagen's Technical Institute the following year.
In 1870 at the age of 19 he completed his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi), where he studied with Frederik Vermehren. In 1873 he was awarded the gold medal and a scholarship.
His official debut as a painter was in 1871 at Charlottenborg with a portrait of a friend, painter Frans Schwartz. He exhibited regularly at Charlottenborg throughout his lifetime.
In 1874 Heinrich Hirschsprung bought his first painting from Kr°yer, establishing a long-standing patronage. Hirschsprung's collection of art forms the basis of the Hirschsprung Museum in Copenhagen.
Between 1877-1881, Kr°yer travelled extensively in Europe, meeting artists, studying art, and developing his skills and outlook. He stayed in Paris and studied under LÚon Bonnat, and undoubtedly came under the influence of contemporary impressionists -- Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet.
He continued travelling extensively throughout his life, constantly drawing inspiration from foreign artists and cultures. Hirschsprung provided financial support during the early travels, and Kr°yer continued exhibiting in Denmark throughout this period.
In 1882 returning to Denmark he spent June-October at Skagen, then a remote fishing village at the northern tip of Denmark, painting themes from the local life, as well as depictions of the other artistic and influential people who lived in and visited Skagen during those times. He would continue to be associated with Skagen, and the developing art and literary scene at Skagen over many years. Others who would be associated with the community of artists in Skagen were writers Holger Drachmann, Georg Brandes, and Henrik Pontoppidan, artists Michael Ancher and Anna Ancher.
He divided his time between rented houses in Skagen during the summer, a winter apartment in Copenhagen where he worked on his large commissioned portraits, and travels outside of the country.
On a trip to Paris in 1888 he ran into Marie Martha Mathilde Triepcke, whom he had known in Copenhagen. They fell in love and, after a whirlwind romance, married on July 23, 1889 at her parents' home in Germany. Marie Kr°yer, who was also a painter, became associated with the Skagen community, and was often represented in his paintings after their marriage. They separated in 1905.
His eyesight failed him gradually over the last ten years of his life until he was totally blind. Ever the optimist, he painted almost to the end of his life in spite of all these health obstacles. He painted some of his last masterpieces while half blind. He would joke that the eyesight in the one working eye became better with the loss of the other eye.
Kr°yer died in November 21, 1909 at 58 years of age after several years of declining health from advanced syphilis. He had been in and out of hospitals, having suffered from bouts of mental illness.