Exhibition expands on Hansen’s legacy
An exhibition on the work of Theophil Hansen (1831-91) currently on display at the B&M Theocharakis Foundation makes for a twofold reading: On the one hand it serves as a reminder of Victorian universalism (or the globalization of 19th-century style), while on the other highlighting today’s state-of-the-art synergies, given that it brings together three European states – Denmark, Austria and Greece – countries where the architect developed his projects and vision.
Acting as a corridor of ideas and noble classicism, sprinkled with all the shades and forms of 19th-century thought, the exhibition traces Hansen’s life and work from Copenhagen, where he was born, to Vienna and Athens, cities for which he designed landmark buildings.
Titled “Hellenic Renaissance: The Architecture of Theophil Hansen,” the exhibition is taking place in association with the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and the Danish National Art Library and under the auspices of the Austrian and Danish embassies in Athens. The show’s grand donor is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The exhibition’s curators are dedicated to the study of the development of the bourgeoisie in the new Greek state’s capital through the international prism of European dialogue: George A. Panetsos, professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Patra, and art historian and Greek National Gallery curator Marilena Kasimati worked together to produce an exhibition that went beyond what is largely known about Hansen’s oeuvre in Greece. This was carried out through research focusing to a large extent on previously unpublished archival material.
At the Theocharakis Foundation the display showcases over 180 original sketches (including watercolors and crayons), the majority of which are on loan from museums in Austria and Denmark, as well as archival material. Also on display are furniture items, gilt bronze objects as well as original 19th-century photographs.
Hansen left an indelible mark on Athens, not only thanks to his creativity and powerful legacy through the construction of monumental works such as the Academy of Athens, the National Library, Zappeio Hall and the National Observatory, among others, but also his students and the influence of his style on an entire era. Hansen referred to his signature architectural idiom as “Hellenische Renaissance” (Hellenic Renaissance). Essentially this was a branch of European classicism enriched with Renaissance elements. The architect also left his mark on Vienna in the form of buildings which are clearly akin to those in the Greek capital.