Hønefossen in Norway, painted by J.C. Dahl in 1826.
The Golden Age dominates a literary period in Danish spiritual and cultural life spanning from 1800 to 1850 during which art and culture blossomed. However, this cultural and artistic blossoming happened on a backdrop of great national loss in the first decades of the 1800s. During the Napoleonic wars Denmark suffered serious defeats at the hands of the English in a battle in 1801, and in the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. In the latter, Denmark lost its fleet. The Danish Government went bankrupt in 1813, and Norway gained independence from Denmark in 1814. Despite these national setbacks, creativity and progress in science, art, culture and philosophy proceeded rapidly, with inspiration from German Romanticism in particular. Copenhagen’s burgeoning bourgeoisie had the financial means to support art and culture, and many artists travelled abroad to Europe in order to find inspiration, and to evolve the Danish arts. Copenhagen founded its first Academy of Fine Arts in 1754, and in the 1820s Danish artists began in earnest to explore new artistic avenues and develop the domestic art scene. Rather than paint for the Royal family and the nobility, artists increasingly began to paint for the upper middle classes.
The artist Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg established a 'Danish School of Art' in the Golden Age, and the artist Johan Thomas Lundbye was instrumental in raising Danish art to an international level. In addition, the internationally famous sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen, created an artistic network around his studio in Rome for most of the Golden Age.
In the world of music, the period produced composers such as J.P.E. Hartmann, Hans Christian Lumbye and Niels W. Gade. The director of Ballet, August Bournonville, was instrumental in developing a Danish Ballet Tradition.
Norwegian waterfall, painted by Jacob Mathias Calmeyer in 1826.
Golden Age literature was greatly influenced by Romanticism. In 1802 the natural philosopher Henrich Steffens introduced German Romanticism to Denmark, though it was the poet Adam Oehlenschläger who applied that Romantic philosophy to his poetry. Oehlenschläger was a great source of inspiration for other Danish authors such as N.F.S. Grundtvig, B.S. Ingemann and Hans Christian Andersen. Science and philosophy prospered with the physicist Hans Christian Ørsted and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Hans Christian Ørsted's name was primarily associated with international science history, since he discovered electromagnetism in 1820.
The Golden Age coincides with a general European-wide rise in nationalism, and this is apparent in art, literature and culture. Art was increasingly employed in the making of a Danish national identity. The use of Danish history, the national landscape, Nordic mythology and folk poetry became important sources of inspiration for Danish Golden Age poets, and in 1819 Adam Oehlenschläger wrote the Danish national anthem “Der er et yndigt land”, which roughly translates to, “I know a lovely land”. The Golden Age is still of great importance today regarding Danish culture and literature. Hans Christian Andersen achieved great fame during his lifetime, and he created the modern fairy-tale tradition with stories that have been translated into 150 languages. Adam Oehlenschläger's poetry in many ways established a literary tradition which greatly outlived him, and today several writers of the Golden Age are included in the Danish literary Canon.
Portrait of Hans Christian Andersen