Design and Handicraft at Charlottenborg in the 1830s

My article seeks to give an overview of the exhibition of Danish design and craftsmanship at Charlottenborg. The original initiative came from two professors at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, G. F. Hetsch and G. F. Ursin, who had close and extensive contacts with artists, industrialists and craftsmen in Denmark during the 1820s and 1830s. These circumstances contain many interesting facets and, among other things, merit a more prominent place as an important aspect of the Danish Golden Age. The Academy came to exert an influence on the training of the new generation in drawing, design and style through the establishment of the Elementary School in 1824 and the Sunday School in 1834. Furthermore, both professors contributed to the development of craftsmanship by proposing that preliminary sketches and drawings for handicraft products should be exhibited at Charlottenborg, a practice that was initiated at the Spring Picture Exhibition in 1824. Hereafter various types of handicraft and design sketches formed part of the exhibitions each year. In 1834, when Hetsch and Ursin were among the proposers of an increase in the number of Industrial Exhibitions (held at Charlottenborg in 1834, 1836, 1840,-and 1844), craftsmanship, industry and design, etc., acquired a central placing that had a great impact not only on sales but also on style and “taste”. Starting in the Academy’s Schools, Hetsch succeeded in maturing a number of important designers who had been trained as craftsmen but were given the opportunity of continuing in the higher classes of the Academy and became teachers there themselves. Among the more important were the architect brothers Theophilus and Christian Hansen, Niels Sigfred and John Henrik Nebelong, the draughtsmen Johan Daniel and Zacharias Petersen, the architects A. C. Olsen, Laurits Albert Winstrup, Christian Zeuthen and H. C. Stilling.

The results of the endeavours to combine various categories of craftsmanship and design can be followed in Danish handicrafts from the 1820s up to the 1850s. The unique material on which my studies are based is housed in museum collections. This material can be related to information in the catalogues for the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibitions of the period: Fortegnelse (List of Contents) and for the Industrial Exhibitions, and, not least, to the reviews of the latter in: Udsigt over Industrieudstillingen (Review of the Industrial Exhibition), which gives a critical analysis of the level of each individual craft, its exhibited works, etc. In addition, my work on an unpublished diary written by the architect Theophilus Hansen in the period 1836-37 (in press) has provided invaluable material for mapping the forms of collaboration that existed at the time, since Hansen himself describes a number of design commissions. The commissions were often arranged through Hetsch, who took many personal initiatives in order to raise the general level of craftsmanship, its form and style. But these endeavours were also very much in evidence throughout the whole country, where from the beginning of the 1830s drawing schools were established in the provincial centres on the model of the Academy’s Elementary School.


Last updated 11.05.2017