Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 203

HEINRICH HANSEN
        ‒           
Hansen first trained as a painter’s assistant in Flensborg in what was then Danish Southern Jutland.
In 1842 he entered the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen as a decorative artist and
during his studies he worked alongside many other young students who were decorating Thorvaldsens
Museum. Here he became good friends with Ferdinand Meldahl (1827-1908), who subsequently qual-
ified as an architect and later became the energetic director of the Academy. Not only did Hansen win
the major silver medal for decorative art, but in 1846, he was also awarded the silver medal in the
Academy’s life class, where he spent his final student years.
Architectural and decorative shapes of the past had been the accepted basis for contemporary dec-
orative art, but more and more in the 1840s, decorative artists drew inspiration not only from classi-
cal antiquity and the Renaissance, but from later epochs. The drawings Hansen brought home from
his first study trip to Germany in 1847 containing examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque
work, were so good that he was appointed to the Academy to teach perspective and ornamentation in
1848. In 1850, he was awarded a bursary by the Academy in recognition of his painting
Frederiks-
borg Castle in the Time of King Frederik III
(i.e. from the period of that king’s reign 1648-1670).
In early May of that year, he and Meldahl left on a major study trip. Between then and 1852 he vis-
ited Spain, France, Scotland, England and the Netherlands, completing such thorough studies of his-
torical monuments that he had material for paintings to last him the rest of his life.
Hansen was the first in Denmark to do what is known as “architectural paintings.” As distinct
from a view or a
vedute
reproducing reality, an architectural painting is typically a reconstruction of
the outside of a building and its surroundings, or an interior. The reproduction is a piece of art and
thus essentially different from the architect’s surveys or perspective reproductions. The architectural
painter brings a vanished age to life, reproducing the chosen motif as though it were reality, often
including figures wearing historical dress. Hansen won great popularity for his technical and per-
spective skills, his sure sense of the special quality of the styles of architecture and of decoration styles
and his ability to reproduce the details in a clear and pleasing form.
In the Denmark of the 1840s, when nationalist sentiments were running high, there was an
intense focus on the Danish cultural heritage. This was true for instance in France, when a start was
made on “restoring” older buildings, which in those days meant they were reconstructed in what was
believed to be their “original form.” This was done with great medieval cathedrals and several build-
ings from the reign of Christian IV, 1588-1648, including Frederiksborg Castle. This popular king was
particularly active in commissioning fine buildings, and people once believed that he was an architect
himself. The style was named after the king, but in fact it is Dutch Renaissance and is the work of
Dutch architects brought in by the king. The “Christian IV style” was Heinrich Hansen’s favorite. His
many detailed drawings of Frederiksborg turned out to be invaluable when the castle was recon-
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