Hans Christian Andersen

Portrait of Hans (7k Jpeg)

Hans Christian Andersen is best known for his work as a writer, but is less well known for the wonderful paper cuttings which he made throughout his life. Although not strictly speaking silhouettes, I wanted to include his work in these pages because of the inspiration he has provided to me as an artist. His portrait on the left is by me, cut from a photo.

Andersen's paper cuttings have a wonderful naivety and simplicity which seem to speak volumes about his character as a man. This is something I aspire to in my own work! Most of his work is cut from white paper and then mounted on black (which I would consider to be working in negative). His peices are all made with scissors alone, and are obviously made with some speed. Some are simple figures cut out in a few seconds, others are more elaborate peices made by folding and cutting, then re-folding and re-cutting, creating ever more complicated symetries. All of his work has an honest, undisguised quality, in which the choppiness of his scissors is ever present.

Pierot (11k Jpeg) Pierot (10k Jpeg)

The Pierot is one of Andersen's favourite subjects. The white figure is his original, the black is my positive version, created to bring him closer to the genre of silhouette!

One of the things which fascinates me about Andersen is his habit of creating paper cuttings in public. This, to my mind, puts him firmly in the realm of the 'artist/entertainer'. Many of his cuttings were intended as gifts in return for hospitality, and would be cut as aprt of an evening's entertainment. Hans Christian Andersen was, by all accounts, gifted at telling stories with the spoken word (quite apart from his gift as a writer), and many of his more complicated cuttings seem to have been made while speaking. The constant folding and cutting necessary to create these peices must have also served to obscure the finished image from his audience until the last possible moment. I imagine (though of course, cannot be sure) that as his story reached it's final moments, so must the cutting, the image to be unfolded and displayed as a kind of epilogue to the tale itself. A kind of extra surprise, an unexpected ending.

Large cutting by Hans Christian Andersen (66k Jpeg)

On the left is a paper cutting 14" x17" currently in The Royal Library, Copenhagen. The poem in the middle is in Danish. Below is another cutting (not sure of the size) which somebody owns.

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Another large cutting, showing a theatre (47k Jpeg)

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©Charles Burns/www.roving-artist.com/The Edo Barn Site/silhouettes@me.com/This page was first created in September 1997 and last updated August 2012