Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75)


Hans Christian Andersen – artist, traveller, wit

Andersen was an artist not only in words. As a child he made costumes for puppets. Later in life he created imaginative, colourful collage, together with exquisite papercuts of swans, ballet dancers, court ladies and other, to amuse the children at the Danish manor houses where he was often a guest.

Throughout his youth he sketched vividly with pen and pencil. “You know, I never learned drawing, yet I often feel like putting down on paper what I cannot express in words. Friends have said, I should have been an painter.”

Sketch by Andersen 1833 of a funeral procession of Franciscan monks, seen from his hotel window in Rome.

” But I showed my sculptor friend Jerichau one of my drawings and in order to be praised I added, “You see, I have never learned drawing…” “Yes, I can imagine that” was all he said!”

Andersen was a passionate traveller.

“Life is to fly with railway flight throughout the earth – we’re long enough beneath it!”

He visited mainland Europe 29 times, a record for his day. He went by carriage, stagecoach, horseback, mule, his own two feet and, gratefully, by train.   He was happiest abroad; untiringly observant of detail. “I must see, see and see again. I must pack whole towns, tribes, mountains and seas into my mind…”

 In Italy he devours Rome, he climbs Vesuvius while it is erupting, singing loudly the while. He endures a coach journey with an Englishman who eats twice as much as everyone else and steals Andersen’s pillow.   In a Greece just freed from the Turks he admires newly-built churches, palaces and coffee houses rising in Athens by the hour; he spends his birthday at the Parthenon and meets the new Greek King Otto (of Bavaria) and his Queen “who told me that potatoes had just been introduced into Greece, and so their blossom appeared the rarest and prettiest people had ever seen, and so they brought their new Queen, on her arrival from Northern Germany, a bouquet of potato flowers!”

Andersen is above all a satirist and social observer. “Every character is taken from life; I know and have known them all.”

I offer a study day of 3 lectures:

A QUESTION OF IMAGINATION – largely biographical

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? – origins of some lesser-known Stories

GODFATHER’S PICTURE BOOK -Andersen’s travels and visual arts

 All contain, in varying degrees, Andersen’s exquisite and varied paper cuts, his modernist collages and highly original flower arrangements and  his travel sketches of Italy; together with illustrations of his stories by artists from all over the world, including Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Lars Bo and Kai Nielsen. Also Danish artists of the Golden Age including Christen Kobke and Christian Jensen.

The images accompanying these talks include many by courtesy of the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense.

These 3 talks have been presented at numerous branches of The Arts Society in England and Australia, and at festivals in this country including the Barbican Festival of the North.