Vilhelm Pedersen

Thomas Vilhelm Pedersen was a famous Danish painter and illustrator who is widely known for his drawings of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale scenes and characters. Originally he was an officer in the Royal Danish Navy, but he took four years off to explore the art world and make a career out of it. In 1847 he released 125 drawings within Andersen’s five volume collection and quickly increased in popularity. Although he returned to combat right after publishing his works and died in 1859, the influence he left was extraordinary. Aside from being the first illustrator of Andersen’s works, his illustrations are considered to be “inseparable from the tales” in Denmark today and were later made into woodcuts in Germany.

The two illustrations I chose were Pedersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling”. One thing I found fascinating about his illustrations was that they were often done in black and white (almost like sketch-work) and lacked vivid imagery often associated with fairytales. When thinking of tales like The Little Mermaid or The Ugly Duckling, bright images pop into my head so I don’t necessarily like the lack of it in his work. While his illustrations are beautiful, I feel like they don’t capture the magic found in the stories. Out of the two, I think his second reflects more of the picture people create in their mind when thinking about the Ugly Duckling. It’s interesting to relate Disney to this too because they’ve never made a version of it, so there’s no illustrations that dominate like Ariel would when talking about The Little Mermaid.

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