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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Hendrik Christian Andersen (1872–1940)

Norwegian-born sculptor. While Andersen and his two brothers were children, their family emigrated to Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The boys showed precocious artistic ability and had the good fortune to be educated at the expense of local philanthropists. Andersen continued his studies in France and Italy, living, by the late 1890s, in Rome where he was introduced to the writer Henry James. Beguiled by the attractive young sculptor – whom he believed to be a genius – James purchased Andersen’s painted terracotta bust of a boy, Count Alberto Bevilacqua, bringing it back to his home, Lamb House (now NT), in Rye, East Sussex, where it remains. Andersen’s painter brother, Andreas, had married Olivia Cushing, a wealthy heiress with literary pretensions, and on his death in 1902, Andersen and Olivia decided to create a palace of the arts dedicated to Andreas’s memory. It was to be hung with her late husband’s paintings and peopled with Andersen’s statues; here also, Olivia’s plays would be performed with music by Arthur, the second of Hendrik’s brothers. In 1917, Olivia died leaving all her money to Andersen, who initiated the construction of the palace, Villa Helene, in the Via Mancini, Rome, and spent the rest of his life working on a series of over-life-size, technically competent, but wildly kitsch statues for it. Andersen bequeathed the palace and its contents to the Italian government. The Hendrik Christian Andersen Museum, as it became, was finally inaugurated in 1999.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 60–62; R.C. Morris, ‘Henry James and an Eccentric Sculptor’s Fantasies’, New York Times, 3 June 2000; Wikipedia.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022