Polish-German painter Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann (1819–1881) attracted a great deal of attention in Copenhagen when her marriage to sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau brought her from Rome to Denmark in 1848. Struggling to be accepted in the Danish art scene, she soon turned her gaze to London, the metropolis of the international art world. While in London, she wrote numerous letters to her husband back in Denmark, relating her experiences in the capital of Queen Victoria’s Britain and her interaction with a dynamic and commercial art scene. Her letters tell of an artist with drive, initiative and a strategic mindset, who excelled at cultivating networks that would allow her to pursue her interests. They also offer insights into the downsides of having a career outside Denmark; she often spent months away from home and found the extensive travels exhausting.
Her letters, which have never before been transcribed in full, help to paint a nuanced portrait of Jerichau Baumann during her many stays in the British capital in 1858–71. The artist’s own words shed light on a previously unknown aspect of her international career for anyone who wishes to know more about this dynamic female cosmopolitan, who challenged the conventional role of the artist.
Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann was a prolific letter-writer, often writing home every few days when she was away. The letters in this collection date from her time in London in 1858–71. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to locate the letters from 1873, her final stay in the city; this suggests that the letters are either in an unknown location or have been lost.
For natural reasons, some years have few or no letters: in 1863, the artist travelled to London with her husband, sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau. Since he was generally the main recipient of her letters from abroad, her correspondence from that year mainly consists of brief letters to the couple’s children back in Denmark. In 1868, the couple also travelled together, which again leaves a gap in Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann’s travel accounts.
The original letters, none of which have previously been published in full, are kept at the Royal Danish Library. Brief excerpts from these letters have previously been published in Nicolaj Bøgh’s biography Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann: En Karakteristik (Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann: A Characterization) from 1886, which was published after the artist’s death in 1881.