Writing is an act of love – Hans Christian Andersen’s diaries and almanacs

8 June – 28 August 2005

Hans Christian Andersen: Diary page from 1826. Detail.
Hans Christian Andersen: Diary page from 1826. Detail.

Thorvaldsens Museum came close to the heart of Hans Christian Andersen’s oeuvre with an exhibition of Andersen’s diaries and almanacs. Thorvaldsens Museum was the only place in which these diaries and almanacs where exhibited in the tightly packed Hans Christian Andersen year.

The diaries of Hans Christian Andersen

Alongside the fairy tales, stories, plays, poems, travel accounts and autobiographies, Hans Christian Andersen also kept a diary for the period 1825-1875: a record of half a century written down in unassuming school exercise books and in the university’s “Writing and Travelling Calendar”, known as his almanacs – which today are to be found in the Manuscript Department in the Royal Library of Copenhagen. The exhibition showed a man’s daily preoccupation with writing and reading, and it showed that reading and writing is a special way of relating to life – even if you are not perfect at spelling and grammar.

Isabell Allende and Tony Wedgewood read from the diaries

The diaries and the almanacs were exhibited in a fairytale showcase inspired by Andersen’s own paper cuttings. The showcase was surrounded by a series of specially designed chairs. In these chairs, you could listen to readings from the diaries in Danish and English and from a selection of fairy tales in altogether nine different languages. The readers included the authors Isabel Allende and Vincenzo Cerami, the Andersen scholar Marc Auchet, the composer Dan Marmorstein and the actors Maria Stenz, Niels Skousen and Tony Wedgewood.

Thorvaldsen was Hans Christian Andersen’s mentor, friend and reader

It was quite natural for Thorvaldsens Museum to take part in the Andersen celebrations. Bertel Thorvaldsen was of crucial importance to his work as he helped Andersen get through a serious writing crisis in Rome 1833-34. Thorvaldsen understood Andersen in a way that no one else had done, and it was also Thorvaldsen who opened Andersen’s eyes to visual art. Throughout his life, Thorvaldsen remained Andersen’s mentor, friend and reader.

The H.C.Andersen-abc-Foundation - combatting illiteracy

The exhibition also marked the establishment of the H.C.Andersen-abc-Foundation, which in Andersen’s name is aimed at combatting illiteracy. From September 8 to October 21 the exhibition was displayed in Paris, where it was presented in connection with the 33rd UNESCO General Conference. One of the main themes of the conference was Education for All. From December 8 to January 15, 2006 the exhibition was displayed in the new globally sponsored Bibliotheca Alexandrina at Alexandria.

The exhibition was produced for Thorvaldsens Museum by its director, Stig Miss, arranged by Annesofie Becker and designed by the architects Alexander H. Damsbo and Henrik Ingemann. The exhibition has received support from the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation, the Danish Ministry of Education, the Collection Källemo and Vester Kopi A/S.