HCA NEWS HCA exhibition at British Library

The exhibition will bring to life Andersen's work and legacy with material taken from the Library's collections and many important loans from Denmark and beyond.

By on - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 17 February 2005

From May 20th - October 2nd 2005 the British Library is celebrating the bicentenary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth by staging a major new exhibition, Hans Christian Andersen.  

The exhibition celebrates the writer through his stories with their familiar characters such as the Snow Queen and the Little Mermaid, and focuses on the impact of Andersen's work in Britain. It begins with a biographical introduction illustrating the fairy tale transformation of his life from ugly duckling to one of Europe's most famous writers, using original drawings, paintings and manuscripts - many on loan from Denmark for the first time - and including very rare copies of his first fairy stories in Danish.

A special section is devoted to his two visits to Britain in 1847 and 1857, and in particular to his meeting, and ultimately disappointing friendship, with Charles Dickens. Material from the archives of his London publisher, Richard Bentley, and Andersen's first letter to his English translator, Mary Howitt, reveal how they brought his work before the English public.

"The central section of the exhibition uses key stories to examine particular features of Andersen's contribution to English literature. It will also look at some of the darker aspects of Andersen's writing - the destructive power of nature and his obsession with the deceptive imagery of theatre. The Little Mermaid examines his roots in the European Romantic tradition, especially British authors such as Walter Scott (whose work he said was 'in his blood') and the influence of the early nineteeth century interest in the fairy story, and explores Romantic themes as demonstrated in stories such as The Snow Queen. The Little Match Girl examines the Victorian period's idealised view of childhood, and the flowering of children's literature which managed to embrace both fantasy and the harsh reality of many children's lives. The Tin Soldier looks more closely at the animation of toys and everyday objects, Andersen's most obvious contribution to the literature, showing how he - unlike his predecessors - gave genuine life and feelings to his objects. A further area examines the far-reaching, not to say explosive, effect of his deliberately colloquial style, despite the inadequacy and blatant inaccuracy of many early translations. Finally in this section, The Nightingale explores the influence of his work beyond print, in the many theatrical, operatic and film dramatisations of his work."

The exhibition ends by returning to Andersen himself, and to his later, less well-known works written primarily for adults. Among these are stories about contemporary technical advancements, such as the first transatlantic telegraph cable, and sharply critical studies of his own work as an artist, and the very nature of art itself.  His legacy is summed up in the words of many British writers and commentators who have recognised, and sometimes criticised, his unique contribution to English culture.      

The children's theatre company, Theatre Rites, with their associate artist Sophia Clist, has been commissioned to design a magical exhibition for families. Young and old alike can relive the period through over 200 objects, manuscripts and toys, many of which will never have been seen before in this country. There will be costumes on loan from the Royal Opera House archives and performances using puppets and sculptures to reveal the enduring popularity of Hans Christian Andersen.    

The exhibition, sponsored by the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation will be supported by a programme of associated talks, music and events and is part of a global celebration of his bicentenary. 

The exhibition at the British Library is open from 20 May 2005 to 2 October  2005, open every day. Admission is free.  Exhibition hours are: Monday, Wednesday-Friday 09.30-18.00, Tuesday 09.30-20.00, Saturday 09.30-17.00, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 11.00-17.00. All galleries are accessible by wheelchair. Information can be requested from Visitor Services staff on  020 7412 7332.  For further information about the British Library and its exhibitions please see www.bl.uk

Hans Christian Andersen - The Complete Stories To co-incide with the exhibition, The British Library will be publishing a complete collection of Andersen's stories. This magnificent volume of 168 stories  will be almost a thousand pages in length and is based on Jean Hersholt's classic translation. It will include reproductions of original pictures, from classic Victorian and  Edwardian  artists such as Heath Robinson, Arthur Rackham, Mabel Lucie Atwell, Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac to contemporary illustrators. In addition, there will be around twelve newly commissioned illustrations for some of Andersen's less well-known stories.
976 pages, 267 x 194 mm, 60 colour and  20 b/w illustrations, ISBN 0 7123 0682 X
Hardback £30.00  Publication May 2005
Hans Christian Andersen - Exhibition Book written by Andersen's biographer Jackie Wullschlager, which will provide background details to Andersen and his work, additional information on the highlights of the exhibition, as well as exploring the major themes of his work. 48 pages, 257 x 194mm, 90 colour illustrations, ISBN  0 7123 0683 8
Paperback £4.95 Publication May 2005 Available from the British Library  Bookshop and all good bookshops or direct from the British Library online: www.bl.uk.

The British Library is organising a three day conference jointly with the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and the University of Newcastle 8-10 August 2005 for post graduates and researchers on the subject of Andersen

Primary schools and families can book to experience a show by Theatre Rites during July and August. (Dates and details to be released.) Free workshop for secondary school groups will explore how Andersen's ideas can be illustrated and visualised. Special events for teachers and families in the opening fortnight . Free creative reading guide. Learning Programme Details 0207 412 7797

Events programme                     
20 May Event with Michael Morpurgo and friends
23 May Gallery Talk - Alison Bailey Animated Andersen      
15 June Lecture - Kristian Jensen
 20 June Classic Book - Panel Discussion on a selection of HCA tales
27 June Little Match Girl - Musical performance produced by Tim Heath
28 June/4 July Round table discussion led by Penelope Lively on writing for children and adults.
5 July Lecture - Neil Philip
12 July Lecture - Paul Binding
26 July Lecture Jonathan Ree HCA and Kierkegaard
8 - 10 August HCA Conference including a lecture by Marina Warner
14 September Gallery Talk - Elizabeth James HCA and Dickens
21 September Lecture Michael Morpurgo
27 September Lecture - Ian Beck The art of Illustration