About Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen (*1805 in Odense - † 1875 in Copenhagen)
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense on 2 April 1805, the son of journeyman shoemaker Hans Andersen and washerwoman Anne Marie Andersdatter. His favourite pastime as a child was his imaginative life and, strongly influenced by the theatre in Odense, he decided at the age of 14 to seek his fortune in Copenhagen at The Royal Theatre there. For a period of three years, Andersen was attached to The Royal Theatre without any fixed salary until, in 1822, he was given notice.
That same year, Andersen, under a pseudonym, published his first book - Youthful Attempts. He handed in a tragedy from this book to The Royal Theatre. It was turned down, but at the same time the management of the theatre initiated to help the young writer gain an education.
His school years, 1819-22 made him an educated person but also fearful, and it gave him an inferiority complex. After his Examen Artium (1828), Andersen published his first works under his own name and having completed the next stage of his education, Anden Examen (1829), the young graduate decided to become a full-time writer.
The first period of his authorship (1828-35) is characterised by his lively imagination, gaiety and boldness and he tests his powers by writing in many genres. His big breakthrough came in 1835, mainly with the publication of his novel The Improvisatore but also the publication of his first fairytales: Tales Told for Children. That same year, the writer had his international breakthrough, being famous abroad as a novelist.
The climax of Andersen's career came in Germany in 1846 and England in 1847, where praise was lavished on him. Despite his glory abroad, Andersen had angry opponents in Denmark. At The Royal Theatre, the writer experienced his greatest battles and defeats, but once the monopoly of the theatre had been broken, Andersen was able to celebrate his popular breakthrough at the Casino theatre.
Hans Christian Andersen 1846 (Portrait painting by August Grahl), 1860 (Portrait photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl), and 1874 (Portrait photograph by Georg E. Hansen)
Andersen's rising fame was due to a great extent to his fairytales and stories, which during his lifetime were translated into a hitherto unknown number of languages. Andersen performed more than 30 travels abroad, obtained a large circle of acquaintances and friends among the notabilities of Europe within art and science as well as at royal courts. Shortly before his death, he was praised in England as being the greatest living writer. Andersen died on 4 August 1875 and his funeral was an international event.
Andersen's happy career and enormous success as a writer formed a sharp contrast to his personal tragedy: He knew no success in his love life and spent all of his life alone, troubled by worries.
Without a doubt, Hans Christian Andersen is the most interesting personality in Danish cultural history. His fertile imagination and creative urge have not only strongly influenced Danish literary style but also the Danish language. Among his contemporaries, Andersen was radical and modern, and with his thorough knowledge of the European creative scene, he was a breath of fresh air to the domestic scene. His prolific imagination, keen sense of observation, empathy and eagerness to experiment are not only strongly expressed in his literary products and private writings but also in his pictorial art in the form of drawings, papercuts, collages, and picture books ( Astrid Stampe's Picture Book and Charlotte Melchior's Picture Book).