Norwegian Art in Rome: Visit Hendrik Christian Andersen’s villa
James Stuart Osbourn
Near to the Tiber at 18 Via Pasquale Stanislao Mancini, Rome stands the elegant home and studio of Hendrik Christian Andersen, now affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art, and presently exhibiting the works of several contemporary artists in the delightful rooms of the house.
On the ground floor are exhibited a vast trove of Andersen’s sculptures in the neoclassical design. The guide to the collection so describes these, “it is hard to imagine a room more crammed full of elegantly shaped buttocks and penises.”
Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen
The collected works (over 200 sculptures in plaster and bronze; over 200 paintings; and over 300 graphic works) are noteworthy for being almost all centered around the utopian idea of a great “World City,” destined to be the international headquarters of a laboratory of ideas in the arts, science, philosophy, religion, and physical culture.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Closed Mondays, Jan. 1, May 1, Dec. 25, and the Tuesday after Easter Monday.
Andersen, a distant relative of the famous Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen, was born in Bergen in 1872. As a youth he emigrated with his family to America. He lived in Newport, R.I., where he was employed in the building and shipping trades.
In 1894 he was able to travel to Paris, where his brother Andreas had a studio together with Howard Cushing, a member of a prominent Boston family. He became a student at the Académie Julian.
The following year he traveled to Venice, Bologna, and Florence to study the Renaissance. Still later he moved to Naples to study Greek and Roman art. Finally he settled in Rome, where marriage to Olivia Cushing allowed him the financial and emotional means to pursue his art.
Andersen lived almost half his life in Rome, producing monumental pieces. In 1912 he drew up a design for a utopian city. This never came to fruition, but he impressed Mussolini. The design for the Espozione Universale Roma (EUR) in 1942 by Marcello Piacentini most likely was influenced by the earlier design of Andersen. It is a concept ideally suited for emphasis on the state as opposed to the individual, a concept embraced by fascism. The designs of Le Corbusier are another example and perhaps one can opine that the city of Brasilia, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, truly represents the utopian city Andersen envisioned.
Hendrik Christian Andersen died in 1940 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. He bequeathed his home, studio, papers, and more than 400 pieces of his work to the Italian Government.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 11, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.