Mathilde (Illa) Christensen

1851 - 1922


Mathilde Christensen was born in Copenhagen into a bourgeois, musical family, in which, as an unmarried woman, she was an indispensable daughter and aunt. She was the niece of the composer Niels W. Gade and as a young student of the music academy from 1869 to 1871 was well-travelled, well-read, and well-liked.

Her debut work was the short story collection Skitser, which vibrates mischievously and musically between depression and distance, published in 1884 under the pseudonym F. C. Van der Burgh. In Skitser. Anden Samling (SS), 1886, and her novels “Dagtyve” – og Arbejdsdage, 1889, and En Søn, 1890, her main motif evolves: the battle of the upstart with the realities and imperfections of everyday.

Typical characters in her works are coquettes and idlers, and her writing is consistently Impressionist and voyeuristic in style. Radical critics noticed her talent, but she wrote increasingly less when her mother became blind.