Fairy Tales and Paper Cuttings

I’ve long had a soft spot for Hans Christian Andersen. He was a depressive who lived with very bad teeth at a time when dentistry wasn’t exactly what it is now. He lived in constant pain. He never really fit in wherever he was, and didn’t particularly care much for his home town. This wasn’t someone who wrote cheery stories, by and large. He was also something of a visionary. He once wrote about how he imagined the world in the year 2000, when Americans will fly to Europe in great airships with wings. They will telegraph their hotel reservations ahead, and come with guide books that will tell them what to see. And flying will be such a fast mode of transportation that the airships will be crowded and the people will be able to come see all the sights in a week before flying home again. He wrote this in the mid 19th C.

But in addition to writing, he was an obsessive paper cutter. He also made collages out of scraps, some of which look as modern as a Schwitters. According to the Odense City Museum:
To Hans Christian Andersen paper was not meant to be media for the written word only. Paper—it seems—represented the basis for his imaginative expressing. Throughout his life Hans Christian Andersen was an addict to paper. He wrote on it, he drew on it—and he used it

to cut in. Like the ancient expression that the form and art was hidden in the stone, only to be revealed by the sculptor, the poet used his material—the paper—to engrave, or rather to carve out his ideas with ink. And more radically he used his unexpected monstrous scissors to cut out the most elegant figures. (Odense City Museum)

The museum site has some pictures of his scherrenschnitte-style papercuttings, as well as his famous collage/decoupage screen. I also found this charming little paper rocking chair. Delightful, no?
And just to end on an appropriately surreal note, during my searches I discovered that the Irish Museum of Modern Art once had an exhibit called Cut-outs and Cut-ups: Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs (yes, that William Burroughs).

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.