Ib Geertsen 1919-2009

The story behind

Ib Geertsen was born in 1919 and painted for over 70 years until his death in 2009. In the last four decades of his life his work expanded to include mobile sculptures, screenprints, furniture and public design projects. Throughout his career, Geertsen pursued his very personal vision of ‘Konkrete’ – or geometrical – abstraction with his own distinct exploration of shapes and colour combinations.

Geertsen lived and worked in Copenhagen. He originally trained as a gardener and was self-taught as an artist. Between 1943 and his death he exhibited in every major museum in Denmark and in 2003 he had a retrospective at the Kunsthallen Nicolaj, Copenhagen which led to renewed critical attention. His work can be found in numerous permanent collections including Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; ARoS, Aarhus Kunstmuseum; and Trapholt Museum, Kolding.

Richard Mortensen 1910-1993

The story behind

The artist Richard Mortensen (1910-1993) expressed himself in painting and graphics. In 1933-34, he formed Linien together with Ejler Bille and Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen, who were instrumental in introducing surrealism in Denmark. In 1947 he traveled with the sculptor Robert Jacobsen to Paris, where they, at the Parisian Gallery Denise René, together with a number of other artists, revolved around a constructivist, abstract expression. The later works are i.a. inspired by Zen Buddhism. Mortensen is one of the most important Danish artists of the 20th century and has received several honors.

Asger Jorn 1914-1973

The story behind

Asger Jorn (1914-1973) has over the past 20 years, become an international visual artist known for his paintings, ceramics, sculptures and his writing. In 1936 he travels to Paris and he becomes a student at one of modernism’s major painters, Fernand Léger, and experimenting in the following years with different expressions, materials and joint works in both Paris and Denmark.

Among other things, he assists Léger and the French architect Le Corbusier, at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937. He also attends teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. In the late 1960’s he is found in Albissola in Italy, where he becomes found of working with ceramic and sculptures.

In his years, Jorn worked in many different materials and media: painting, graphics, sculpture, weaving, drawing, collage and ceramics. He also wrote a huge number of articles and theoretical books about everything that interested him and especially art and politics. He had an extensive acquaintance with artists, philosophers, poets, scientists and political freelancers.

In 1948 he was one of the founders of the CoBrA avent-garde movement, which came to life in a café in Paris. He was joined by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dortremont and Joseph Noiret. Later both Pierre Alechinsky and the Danish artist Carl-Henning Pedersen joined the movement. The group existed until 1951 and is still considered as one of the most influential post-war art movements.

Asger Jorn’s works can be found in several important museums in Europe and at the Guggenheim in New York.

Vilhelm Lundstrøm 1893-1950

The story behind

The artist Vilhelm Lundstrøm (1893-1950) was one of the central figures in early Danish modernism. Inspired by French Cubism, he introduced collage in Danish art in 1917. Then he resumed the painting, which during this period was characterized by his so-called curly style, which i.a. seen in the work Lunch in the Green from 1920, where he paraphrases Eduard Manet’s famous work of the same name. Later, he cultivated a simpler, geometric style. Together with Svend Johansen, Axel Salto and Karl Larsen, he formed the artist group De Fire.

Ejler Bille 1910-2004

The story behind

Ejler Bille (2004-2010) was a Danish painter, graphic artist, poet and sculptor.

Ejler Bille attended the Academy of Arts in 1933. In 1931 he debuted at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition. He was inspired by the nature of art and primitive cultures. He was aware of how the rhythm, surfaces, dots, lines, and colors of the abstract proverb played together. The image composition had similarities to music, and often he also gave his works titles like Composition – a word from the world of music.

Ejler Bille knew Asger Jorn since the young years. He also learned from Klee and Kandinsky. Later he became a member of the COBRA movement and Bille developed a proverb where he completely freed himself from the figurative and allowed the color to unfold freely throughout the canvas.

As one of the pioneers in the abstract art of Denmark, Ejler Bille was one of the most important Danish visual artists of the 20th century.

Pierre Alechinsky b.1927

The story behind

Pierre Alechinsky (1927) Belgian artist.

In 1949 Alechinsky joined Christian Dotremont, Karel Appel and Asger Jorn to form the avant-garde movement COBRA. He participated actively at the exhibitions and later went to Paris to study engraving with Stanley William Hayter in 1951.

In 1954 Alechingsky had his first exhibition in Paris and started to become interested in oriental calligraphy. His paintings are related to Tachisme, Abstract expressionism, and Lyrical Abstraction. By 1960 Alechinsky had exhibited in London, Berne and at the Venice Biennial, and then in Pittsburgh, New York, Amsterdam and Denmark as his international reputation grew. He worked with Wallace Ting and continued to be close to Christian Dotremont.

In 1983 he became Professor of painting at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris and in 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Free University of Brussels.

 

Carl-Henning Pedersen 1913-2007

The story behind

Carl-Henning Pedersen (1913-2007), Danish painter. After meeting the painter Else Alfelt (whom he married in 1934-74), Carl-Henning Pedersen decided to cultivate painting rather than music and literature; as an artist he was self-taught. He was early fascinated by Picasso and Paul Klee and was inspired by primitive art, frescoes and children’s drawings.

When he made his breakthrough in 1939 with an imaginative, spontaneous style, color was the main means of expression. Carl-Henning Pedersen was in 1941-44 in the circle around the magazine Helhesten and a member of the Autumn Exhibition 1942-50, just as he with his poetic and imaginative style naturally slipped into the Cobra group 1948-51.

During the war years, Carl-Henning Pedersen’s paintings were characterized by a dark-minded attitude to color and an oppressive, anxious content. But after 1945, a change is seen towards a brighter, colorful world populated by fabulous animals, birds and horses, which together with suns, stars, ships and castles float weightlessly around in a fantastic, cosmic space.

His world of motifs springs from fables, fairy tales and myths, and a series of large canvases from the 1950s with the common name Legends are characteristic of his unique universe, where the basic conditions of life are themed.

Carl-Henning Pedersen has also made a number of large decorations, including the mosaic Cosmic Sea to H.C. Ørsted Institute in Copenhagen (1960-65), the painted stoneware wall The fantasy of the wheel of life in Herning Art Museum’s inner round courtyard (1966-68) and the stained glass window The Light of Freedom for the Freedom Museum (1982-83); the controversial decoration of Ribe Cathedral consists of both frescoes, mosaics and stained glass windows (1983-88). A significant part of Carl-Henning Pedersen’s work consists of a large number of watercolors, drawings and graphic works, and he published several illustrated collections of poems.

In 1976, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Else Alfelt’s Museum in Herning were inaugurated; it was built by C.F. Mills to accommodate works by the two artists and decorated by Carl-Henning Pedersen with ceramic tiles on the outside, mosaics on the inside. He received a number of awards: the Eckersberg Medal in 1963, the Thorvaldsen Medal in 1963 and among the foreign Guggenheim Prize in 1958 and the Prince Eugene Medal in 1980.

Karel Appel 1921-2006

The story behind

Karel Appel (1921-2006) was a Dutch painter, sculptor and ceramist.

Appel studied at the state academy in Amsterdam from 1940-1943. After World War II he worked with drawings made by children and he had his first exhibition in Groningen in 1946.

He moved to Paris in 1950, where he shared an apartment with Corneille and Constant and he later became a symbol of the artist group COBRA. In his emotional paintings, you find dynamic shapes and strong colors.

Appel has among other things made murals at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (City Museum of Modern Art) and illustrated poetry collections. He received UNESCO’s award in 1954 at the Venice Biennale and Guggenheim’s international award in 1960. Appel began painting reliefs in 1968, followed by large sculptures made of wood, polyester and later in aluminum.

Corneille 1922-2010

The story behind

Corneille (Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo 1922-2010)

The Belgian artist Corneille studied art at the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts. He was one of the founders of the COBRA movement in 1948. He was very active in the COBRA group from the beginning, not just painting, but also publishing poetry in the COBRA magazine. The poetic Corneille was heavily influenced by Joan Miró and Paul Klee, as Asger Jorn.

After the COBRA group’s dissolution in 1951, Corneille moved to Paris and began collecting African art. These primitive artifacts became evident in his own works, which took a more imaginative twist, such as landscapes from bird’s eye view, exotic birds and stylized shapes.

Tal R b.1967

The story behind

The Danish-Israeli artist Tal Rosenzweig, better known as Tal R, (1967-) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. He has exhibited at museums and galleries in Denmark and abroad and is one of the Danish contemporary artists who for has made a name for himself outside Denmark’s borders. Tal R is best known for his paintings, but also creates installations. In the paintings he incorporates various elements from texts, drawings and textiles. The images appear fragmentary, and seem to be somewhere between childhood memories, imagination, everyday life and art history. The references to childhood can be seen i.a. in the choice of many and strong colors, the painting technique and the figurative elements. His colors and figures have parallels to CoBrA, while the inclusion of different materials and text has similarities with, for example, Fluxus. The strong and violent colors and motifs have parallels to The Young Wild Ones. The titles of his works often contain a pun, a reference to something, or a statement.

Michael Kvium b. 1955

The story behind

Michael Kvium (born 1955) is a Danish visual artist.

Kvium grew up in a Catholic home and is out of a family of eight children. He went on the Catholic Sct. Ibs School, and the whole family went together to the Latin Mass every Sunday.

In 1973 he got a job as a magazine illustrator at Horsens Folkeblad. Here he worked for six years as a cartoonist. Here he was i.a. helped create the satire magazine Muleposen, where local news and topics were presented with a satirical angle.

Kvium was educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1979-85. After commuting between Horsens and Copenhagen, he moved to Copenhagen.

Horsens Art Museum has followed Michael Kvium since he was very young and today owns the largest collection of Kvium’s works.

Together with Christian Lemmerz, Sonny Tronborg and Ingunn Jørstad, he formed the performance group WORST in 1985. Here they made i.a. the short film Porridge. He worked on setting up the group’s performances, and some of the themes from these were later further developed in his paintings.

The themes that Kvium addresses in his art are often universal subjects of conflict such as transience, the body, the nooks and crannies of the psyche. He confronts being human for better or worse. The figures are often androgynous and with similarities to the artist’s own facial features. Over the years, he has built his own symbol universe. Many of the works include lemons, eyes, blind spots, brain mass and red sausages, just as he often deals with topics such as body deformity, blindness, stupidity and similar topics.

Robert Jacobsen 1912-1993

The story behind

Robert Jacobsen (1912-1993), Danish sculptor. Robert Jacobsen was self-taught and started making sculptures in wood approx. 1930. Later followed imaginative fabled animals, carved in stone, and in 1942 he made his debut at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition. He exhibited with the association Høstudstilling 1945-46 and also participated in several experimental films, including Jørgen Roos’ Flugten (1942).

Together with the painter Richard Mortensen, Jacobsen traveled to Paris in 1947 and settled in Suresnes. Both artists were associated with the newly opened Galerie Denise René and the group of artists who exhibited here, and Jacobsen was nicknamed le grande Robert. After taking full advantage of the stone’s possibilities, he now began to work constructively with welded iron elements, where he became interested in the relationship between form and space, the positive and the negative, the passive and the active.

During a period of 1949-50, he painted the iron matte black, so that it lost its texture and gained an anonymous character. However, a sculpture like The Borders of the Air (1949) was painted red and blue by the French artist Jean Dewasne, an example of the collective works that several of the constructive / concrete artists performed at this time. Robert Jacobsen participated i.a. in the association Linien II’s exhibitions 1947-48 and in 1951 was one of the initiators of the exhibition Klar Form.

After this period’s rigorous sculptures, he let his imagination run free in the so-called dolls, small human-like figures of scrap and discarded metal elements, inspired by i.a. African art, of which he was a passionate collector. But Jacobsen quickly returned to the constructive idiom. The sculptures from the 1950s are characterized by a raw, irregular surface, where he has not tried to hide the iron, but lets the different shades of rust emerge.

In the 1960s, a new series of characters appeared, which he called Characters, and which, contrary to the puppets’ humor, shows more serious and also aggressive features. Throughout his life, however, he moved between the two opposite poles, the strictly constructive and the organic, between pure forms and imaginative figures. Thus he made a series of gilded scrap reliefs for the exhibition “Robert and Rosenborg” at Rosenborg Castle in 1987.

Robert Jacobsen lived in France until 1969, but also exhibited in Denmark, i.a. with Den Frie Udstilling 1960-68, later with Grønningen (1977-84). In recent years he often worked with sculptures on a very large scale, several of which have been used as monumental decorations. Already in 1962 he made the large sculpture in front of Esbjerg Art Pavilion, later followed i.a. fountain sculptures for Gladsaxe Town Hall (1979), The Mighty Friendship (1986, Tianjin, China, later resold to Sammlung Würth, Künzelsau in Germany, which owns a large collection of Robert Jacobsen’s sculptures) and The Seven Axes to Axeltorv in Copenhagen (1987).

Among his last tasks was a decoration of the choir wall in Hjerting Church north of Esbjerg with 17 gilded metal figures (1992).

In Denmark, Jacobsen settled in Tågelund near Egtved. Together with the French artist Jean Clareboudt (1944-97), he made a series of monumental sculptures in various materials in Tørskind Gravel Grave near Egtved, which are part of a dialogue with the landscape; the sculpture park was inaugurated in 1991.

Alongside the sculptures, Robert Jacobsen has done many graphic works, in recent years also painted glass. He received several awards, including the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1966, the Thorvaldsen Medal in 1967, the Prince Eugene Medal in 1974 and the Ordre des arts et des lettres in 1987.

Robert Jacobsen was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich 1962-82 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen 1976-83 and also became an honorary professor at the academies in Munich and Florence.

Albert Mertz 1920-1990

The story behind

Already as a 14-year-old Albert Mertz (1920-1990) exhibited for the first time, and as a 16-year-old he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. The same year he made his debut at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition. His first paintings were line-ups and portraits, but soon he began to experiment with the expression and content of the image.

The encounter with Dadaism and its ironic and anarchist views on art and the art institution became crucial to Albert Mertz. During World War II, Albert Mertz and Jørgen Roos made a number of films. The film work inspired him to experiment with collage, photograms, photomontage, sound, movement and writing.

After World War II, Albert Mertz became one of the leading members of the Artists’ Association Linien 2. He worked with simplified motifs, where the image’s form and composition are central – either as almost abstract representations of objects and situations from everyday life or later as expressive landscape images. For a short time he was associated with the March Exhibition.

Albert Mertz saw early on how painting gained competition from other media and visual forms of expression. Therefore, the image should be as simple as possible. The motif should appear as a sign so that it could almost function as a signal. In the 1960s he came into contact with the Fluxus movement, and in the period 1962-76 he lived in France and made valuable contacts in the international art world.

From 1969 he began work on the characteristic red-blue images. For Albert Mertz, the image represents nothing but himself. Meaning is not something the image has – it is something we as viewers attach to the image. Same with the color. Color is color – it does not represent anything and has no symbolic value. The image could just as well be yellow, green or orange.

In this way, the image becomes an object in line with the things we otherwise surround ourselves with. It has itself and nothing outside itself – a landscape or an idea – as its purpose. It becomes functional because, by containing visually irritating and habit-disturbing elements, it breaks with what we normally understand by art. Thus, the image makes us see without having an expectation in advance of what we are going to see. The image becomes the tool of sight – we see using the image.

Albert Mertz was an experimental artist, and throughout his work there is a total lack of respect for the traditional ways of expression of the individual media. But that is precisely why he could add something new to them.

Gunnar Aagaard Andersen 1919-1982

The story behind


Aagaard Andersen was born in Ordrup north of Copenhagen and attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen from 1936 to 1939. Between 1940 and 1946 he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts under Aksel Jørgensen and Gunnar Biilmann Petersen.  He also studied etching at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts for a short period. From 1946 to 1950 he studied in Paris under the sculptor Ossip Zadkine, after which he traveled to Italy (1951) and England (1952–53).

Aagaard Andersen first exhibited at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling in 1937. Originally he primarily made drawings and sketches, but also painted. In the 1940s, he illustrated a number of books in a realistic style, but while in Paris, he was inspired to paint within the concrete art style. He was one of the founders of the artists’ association Linien II (1948-52), which ensured a working relationship between new trends in French art and development in Denmark. In France, he joined the newly formed association for concrete art Groupe Espace, which brought together architects, sculptors, engineers and painters who collaborated to create works in the open air. Aagaard Andersen was one of the 45 participants in the large outdoor exhibition, which they presented in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes in 1954.

In the 1950s, he created architectural designs incorporated with decorative features for the textile company Mads Eg Damgaard in Herning, which gave him an opportunity to demonstrate his understanding of integrated art. During the same period, he produced rugs and textiles in collaboration with Unika Vaev.  He was also active as a designer and produced a polyester chair in 1964, which is now on display in the New York Museum of Modern Art. His most comprehensive achievement in decoration was Odense Concert Hall in 1983.

From 1972 to 1982, Aagaard Andersen was a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

He died in Munkerup on June 29, 1982.

There have been several exhibitions of Aagaard Andersen’s works both in Denmark and abroad. Among them is the Free Exhibition in Copenhagen in 2013.

In 1977 Aagaard Andersen was awarded the Eckersberg Medal and in 1980 he was awarded the Thorvaldsen Medal.

Per Kirkeby 1938-2018

The story behind


Per Kirkeby (1938-2018) was a Danish painter, poet, filmmaker, graphic artist, sculptor and geologist.

In 1957, Per Kirkeby began studying geology at the University of Copenhagen. In 1964 he became a graduate specializing in Arctic Quaternary geology.

From 1962 to 1965 he visited the Ex-school in Copenhagen. Here he dealt with many forms of expression – especially the etching. Internationally, Kirkeby is best known for large-scale abstract paintings and backdrop-like brick sculptures, which are found in many Danish and German cities. He was represented several times at the Venice Biennale and at the Documenta exhibitions in Kassel.

He decorated the ceiling in The Black Diamond, one rotunda at the Geological Museum, made bronze sculptures for the Opera in Copenhagen and the Federal Council building in Berlin.

In addition, he published films, poems and novels.

Per Kirkeby was a member of the Danish Academy from 1982. In 1997 he became a Knight of Dannebrog and in 2001 received Ingenio et arti.

In 2018, Kirkeby donated an extensive archive to Museum Jorn in Silkeborg, after part of the archive had been at ARoS in Aarhus. Kirkeby always looked up to Asger Jorn, and it was natural for him to collect his archive at the museum for Jorn.

Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen 1909-1957

The story behind


Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen (1909-1957) was a Danish painter, son of Carl V. Petersen (art historian, art critic and director of the Hirsprung Collection from 1923) and Anna Bjerke. Married to the artist Elsa Thoresen from 1935 to 1953, with whom he also worked, and then for the rest of his life with the Swedish actress Eva-Lisa Lennartsson.

Stylistically, Bjerke Petersen represents both abstract and figurative surrealism. His definition of surrealism developed and changed markedly, slightly delayed but in line with the controversies experienced by the international surrealist movement. This development led to a violent break with the artists Ejler Bille and Richard Mortensen. In addition to his works, he has published books and articles on abstract and surrealist art. From 1933-1934 he was part of the artist group Linien, which also spoke Henry Heerup and Gustaf Munch-Petersen. As a communist, he had to flee to Sweden in 1944, not least due to the collage ‘The Drivers and the Ideal’ from 1935. The collage depicts Adolf Hitler and his officers as war victims with amputated limbs.

According to Bjerke Petersen, he knows early on that he wants to be an artist, and the family supports this. He receives drawing lessons from the artist P. Rostrup Bøyesen (1882-1952) – a friend of the family. He then attended Harald Giersing’s painting school (1926-27). But since Bjerke Petersen and his father are very critical of the Royal The Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ outdated teaching, Bjerke Petersen applies to the Statens Kunstakademi in Oslo (1927 – 1929) under Professor Axel Revold (1887-1962). He then became the only Danish student at the Bauhaus school in Dessau (1930-31), where he received instruction from Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.

Preben Hornung 1919-1989

The story behind


Preben Hornung (1919-1989) was a Danish painter.

He is the son of the landscape painter Carlo Hornung-Jensen (1882-1960). Preben Hornung was married to Jytte Thime (1915-1977) and together they have a son, the art critic Peter Michael Hornung, who in 1986 published a monograph on his father. In 1971, Preben Hornung married Ena Madsen (1934-1993). Preben Hornung and Ena Madsen had a son Hans Christian Hornung in 1966

Preben Hornung received his education at the School of Arts and Crafts 1936–38, the Academy of Fine Arts’ painting school 1941 – 46, the graphic school 1949 and at the fresco school in 1950.

His earliest paintings from the 1930s are characterized by abstract colorism and during his career he played a central role in the development of abstract art.

From 1949-51, Hornung exhibited together with the artists’ association Linien II, which was a group inspired by the abstract, constructivist art with geometric shapes and dynamics as the focal point. Among other things, Hornung painted a number of factory paintings during that period, which were black-and-white abstractions of industry and mass production. In his last years of life, he also painted meditative images, often using a fine-grained scale. He also returned to the classic portrait genre and made, among other things, three portraits of Queen Margrethe 2. He also made major decorating assignments for, among others, De Danske Sukkerfabrikker, Aarhus University and Danmarks Nationalbank. In addition to his career as a visual artist, he worked as a set designer at the Royal Theater, the Norwegian Opera and Aarhus Theater.

Preben Hornung exhibited as a member of Den Frie Udstilling 1957-74, and Decembristerne from 1977.

Hans Voigt Steffensen b. 1941

The story behind


The painter Hans Voigt Steffensen is both an expressionist and a fauvist when he paints ballet, tango and flamenco. He paints dance images that are sensual and very moving when they capture the viewer with their strong expression. Since 1976, he has sat in the front row at the Royal Theater and drawing from both theater, opera and acting, and thereby he has trained the eye in capturing the movement with a few brushstrokes.

In addition, he paints landscape paintings from Denmark as well as from Venice, Sicily, France and other countries where he finds inspiration. Many of the travel photos are first painted on site either as a single drawing or with gouache colors, which he always carries with him.
Back at the studio in Copenhagen, the experience becomes inspiration for new oil paintings, which can be seen on the website.

Hans Voigt Steffensen’s paintings are oil on canvas.

Leif Sylvester b. 1940

The story behind


Leif Sylvester Petersen (born 1940) is a Danish painter, graphic artist, musician and actor. He was originally trained as a carpenter, but has also worked as a performing musician and artist.

His debut came in the late 1960s, when at the artists’ autumn exhibition he was deeply disappointed with the launch of the established art. The same was Erik Clausen and together they began to exhibit on the streets and eventually also perform with socially satirical fun. Sylvester continued to make visual art, but at the same time he became more involved in theater and music. Clausen & Petersen made a number of records and Sylvester formed the band Sylvester og Svalerne, which also released several records. Today, he makes a living from his art, but occasionally appears in films.  Among his decorations in the public space is the bronze sculpture “Det var det” (2002) at Sylvester-Petersen’s family cemetery at Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen.

Egill Jacobsen 1910-1998

The story behind

Egill Jacobsen (1910 – 1998) was a Danish painter and an arts professor.

Jacobsen is known as a mask painter. Inspiration for the mask painting came from a trip to Paris in the 1930’s, where he met Picasso. The meeting with Picasso and his works made such an impression that it changed Jacobsen’s way of painting. Jacobsen began to create his first abstract images with beak-shaped masks in powerful colors. In the years up to 1940 a series of almost motivated images followed, in which only the color was borne by the artistic expression. The brushstroke was moved, the pictures seemed to become without prior drawing, like direct improvisations. With the use of the mask motif, Jacobsen came to be a groundbreaking figure in the new Danish art.

In 1937 he exhibited with Linien at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition, and at the outburst of the war, Jacobsen joined the circle of artists who, with Asger Jorn as the driving force, created the journal Helhesten. 1948 he participated in the formation of the avant-garde movement COBRA. He contributed to the movement’s journal and participated in several Cobra exhibitions in the period from 1948-1951. In 1959 Egill Jacobsen became Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts – as the first abstract artist in Denmark.

Henry Heerup 1907-1993

The story behind


Henry Heerup (1907 – 1993) Danish artist

Heerup was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1927, 20 years old. He later participated actively in the internationally renowned avant-garde movement COBRA. His works of art include paintings, lithographs, stone sculptures, linoleum sections, drawings and so-called “garbage models” which he composed of old scrap and rattle. In addition, he also created gable paintings, ordering art, books, illustrations for books, logos, posters and drawings.

Heerup has participated in separate and group exhibitions at home and abroad many times, including the Venice Biennale (1936, 1962 and 1972), at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1949), at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Liège (1951) on Palazzo Grassi in Venice (1960), at the Museum of 20th Jahrhunderts in Vienna (1963), at the Danish Abstract Art in the United States (1964-65) and at the Biennale in São Paulo (1965). He has received more medals and accolades, including Eckersberg Medal in 1958, Thorvaldsen Medal in 1967, and in 1969 he became Knight by Dannebrog.

His art gave him not only recognition among artisans, but also a great popular popularity and fame.

Else Alfelt 1910-1974

else alfelt

The story behind

Else Alfelt (1910-1974), Danish painter married to COBRA artist Carl-Henning Pedersen, a marriage that became artistically significant.

Else Alfelt started painting as quite young, but never received an art education. Her painting style evolved towards the abstract. In 1936 Alfelt gained some contact with a group of Danish artists who worked with abstract art: Ejler Bille, Henry Heerup, Egill Jacobsen, Asger Jorn and Richard Mortensen. She was a member of the Autumn exhibitions of 1942 and later joined the avant-garde movement COBRA in 1948.

Alfelt has a very long exhibition list, from which mention is made of the Student Association and the “Scandinavians” in 1939, the tent exhibition, Bellevue 1941, the autumn exhibition 1942-46, the Cobra exhibition, Amsterdam 1949, the Salon des Surinépendants, Paris 1950, the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh 1952-55- 58-61-64, Danish Abstract Art, Travel Exhibition in the USA in 1964 and Cobra Exhibitions in Rotterdam and Louisiana, 1966. Retrospective Exhibitions in the Kunstforeningen, Kbh. 1968 and Den Frie, Kbh. 1970 and several separate exhibitions and participation in joint exhibitions at home and abroad.

There is a lot of dreamy, crisp lyrical and eternal work that is varied, nuanced and deepened, but never really changes. The cosmic is maintained as a theme. The prominent features of her expression form are the use of a certain cubic schematic, the suns and moon’s spikes, the mountain-minds sharp triangles and a continuous use of very dominant head colors, mostly cool blue, green, yellow, which shines richly. Another distinctive feature of her paintings and watercolors is that she often leaves a small space between the filled color areas so that the bright background of the images appears like a spider of living and dazzling lines.

Reinhoud 1928-2007

Reinhoud

The story behind

Reinhoud (Reinhoud D’Haese 1928-2007) was a Belgian sculptor, painter and graphic designer.

From 1946 to 1950 Reinhoud took his artistic education in metal sculpture at the École nationale supérieure des Arts visuels (ENSAV), former École National Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAAD – La Cambre) in the former Abbey La Cambre south of Brussels, where he was educated between 1946 and 1947 by Oscar Jespers.

In 1950, he learned to know COBRA artist Pierre Alechinsky and was introduced to the other COBRA members. He participated with them in various exhibitions such as the “Second International Exhibition of Art Expirimentele COBRA, at the Palais de Beaux-Arts in Liège in 1951. Later in 1956 Reinhoud broke through as an artist with a solo exhibition in the Gallery Tattoo in Brussels, where he was awarded the Prix de la Critique award and in 1958 he found his own artistic direction.

Reinhoud worked with Pierre Alechinsky in the period 1958-1959 and participated with him in various exhibitions. In 1959 he received a scholarship from the Belgian state. Encouraged by Alechinsky, Reinhoud also began drawing in 1962 and already in the same year he had a solo show at the Lefebre Gallery in New York.

Reinhoud preferably used copper, lead, and copper + tin, which was most suitable for creating his imaginative sculptures which were a great success for Reinhoud and became an important part of his artistic production.

Reinhoud continued experimenting with its style with metal objects made with curly metal plates. In 1963 he produced his first works in nickel silver. In the following years he was affiliated with “Instituto Torcuato di Tella” Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Mogens Balle 1921-1988

mogens balle

The story behind

Mogens Balle (1921 – 1988) was an autodidact Danish painter.

Mogens Balle began painting in the mid-1940s, influenced by impressions from residence in France and by Danish spontaneous abstract art. His early images were characterized by abstract, colouristic tendencies, paired with figurative associations.

His connection with the Spiralen group and the acquaintance with Asger Jorn had a decisive influence on his development. On Asger Jorn’s initiative, Balle was invited to attend an exhibition of five artists from COBRA avant-garde movement in Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1951. In 1950-51, Balle performed a large, improvised decoration in a later printed book printing. Here he worked over printing machines, around windows, doors and fittings with motifs interlaced in simple line drawings: sun, both, a woman with baby carriage and abstract-rhythmic figures as in his painting from the same time. In the mid-1950s, Balle was able to track impulses from Egill Jacobsen, while his woodcuts and lithographs are related to works by Jorn and others of the COBRA group, including Corneille.

Close collaboration with COBRA’s literary main character, Christian Dotremont, also brought new impetus into Balles art in the 1960s. They performed joint drawings, images and so-called drawing words, where Dotremont was for short punctuation or metaphors, accompanied by painting or drawing, improvised around the writing.

In his last year, Balle painted some of his most intense and concentrated images.

Christian Dotremont 1922-1979

christian dotremont

The story behind

Christian Dotremont (1922-1979) was a Belgian painter, writer and poet.

As a young artist, Dotremont was closely associated with Surrealism. Along with Noël Arnaud and Edouard Jaguer he founded the artists’ movement Le Surréalisme Révolutionnaire.  Later the CoBrA movement in Belgium would emerge from this initiative. Dotremont got an important role in the establishment of CoBrA. He wrote the pamphlet by which the movement was founded. Only a few months later, Pierre Alechinsky became a member. Dotremont and Alechinsky were the driving forces behind the CoBrA movement in Belgium.

He often worked together with painters, making works that combined texts, painting and fabric, called Peinture-mots.  Typical of his work is the use of his own handwriting, in order to create made-up characters in black ink, called logograms. This was a form of visual poetry.

Knud Hvidberg 1927-1986

Knud Hvidberg

The story behind

Knud Wedel Hvidberg was a Danish painter and sculptor

Born in Holstebro in central Jutland, Hvidberg was a self-taught artist. In the early 1960s, he first painted in a Constructivist style inspired by Gunnar Aagaard Andersen and other members of the Linien II artists association. His sculptural creations were mobiles made of roof gutters, plexiglass and iron driven by electric motors with shining lights. One, developed together with William Soya, also had a sound and light component, predating later installations. His 1965 POEX exhibition combined avant-garde developments in art, poetry and drama. Hvidberg sought to give his mobiles associations with the cosmos and with ancient civilisations. While in Rome in the early 1979s, he again became interested in Symbolism which had characterized his early works with crosses and swastikas.

In the 1980s, Hvidberg decorated a number of buildings including the Vordingborg Educational Centre (Vordingborg Uddannelsescenter) in 1985
In 1972, Hvidberg was awarded the Eckersberg Medal.

Ole Schwalbe 1929-1990

Ole Schwalbe

The story behind

Ole Schwalbe was a Danish painter. He was one of the painters in the Linien artists association who in 1956 initiated the second generation of Danish Constructivism which they called concrete realism.

Born in the Brønshøj district of Copenhagen, Schwalbe was self-taught as a painter but was trained as a printmaker from 1945 to 1950. He first exhibited at the Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (Artists Autumn Exhibition) in 1945 when he was only 16. Schwalbe was one of the Linien painters who in 1956 initiated the second generation of Danish Constructivism which they called concrete realism. After experimenting with colour, in 1953 he decided to limit himself to black and white, forming positive and negative segments of circles like the marks made by a paperclip. In the late 1950s, he added red to the black and white in order to represent the three most important aspects of existence: life and death, body, and soul. Around 1960, his black and white developed into shades of grey as in Signet 1 (1960) but then he began to reintroduce colour with a deep blue in Entre chien et loup (1965).

He believed in total interaction between art and architecture, as in his decoration of Brandbjerg School (1970) when he introduced artistic features which were integrated during the building’s construction. Other building decorations included Sukkertoppen Forsamlinghus (1972), the Danish Embassy in London (1977) and Holstebro’s library (1981) and town hall (1986). One of his few sculptures is Kuglen in the entrance hall of Holsterbro Town Hall.

In 1966, Schwalbe received the Academy’s gold medal and, in 1978, the Thorvaldsen Medal

Emil Wind b. 1913

The story behind

Emil Wind shapes his motifs in clearly separated, geometric color surfaces in a concrete painting style. On closer inspection, the abstract form may turn out to be a landscape, portrait or a representation of a figure, but may also be intended solely as a pure surface and form. With predilection, Wind has processed impressions of works by artists such as Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso and Mondrian and reproduced his impressions in paper collage. In addition to painting, Wind works with photo collage, i.a. with motifs from Greenland and with sculpture, mosaic and stained glass. He has experimented with relief models of aquariums or theater scenes, and it is characteristic of him that he relates ironically to his object.

Ole Folmer Hansen b. 1937

Ole folmer hansen

The story behind

Ole Folmer Hansen (b. 1937) has since he was quite young worked with concrete / abstract art – in paintings, sculptures, graphics and decorations. Since 1964, he has exhibited at home and abroad, separately and in group exhibitions as well as at biennials and triennials. His works are represented in museums and institutions both in Denmark and abroad. In his compositions, Ole Folmer Hansen works to create a balanced and dynamic interplay between shapes and colors. The surfaces are uniform and saturated – both in painting and in serigraphy, which is his favorite graphic medium. Over the years, Ole Folmer Hansen has simplified his design language, and at the same time the colors have become increasingly cleaner and clearer. The image surface without traces of the brush, the sharp lines, the precise boundaries between adjacent color surfaces – there is a wealth of color tones, dynamics and refined balance

Mogens Lohmann 1918-1985

The story behind

Mogens Lohmann first worked naturalistically, but in the late 1940s the images became more simplified. After a rather short cubist transitional phase with figure pictures and animal sculptures, he tightened up the form further, and from the mid-1950s, the concrete, constructive painting became the form of expression with which he chose to continue working. His interest in mathematics and geometry contributed to this simplification. He used neither template nor tape to clarify the delimitation of the color surfaces, and the direction of the brushstrokes is crucial for the effect of the color in the individual image field. The basic composition of the pictures is built according to the golden section and planned in a very small sketch, which is transferred to the canvas by a squaring system. He gradually developed a series of fixed pixels, the circle, often only in the form of a piece of a circle, the triangle, the square, often as a frame on oblique, vertical or horizontal stripes, or as surfaces that break and form folds in space, and the rod , sometimes broken into zigzag shaped pieces. These form elements float in mutual balance, but during the work the colors influence the relationship between figure and ground, so that in some places the background becomes an active, participatory form. L.s coloring is mainly based on the 3 main colors, red, yellow and blue, as well as green. He deliberately plays on optical phenomena in his color combinations, where the clash of contrasting colors often makes it flicker before his eyes. He did not perceive himself as a theorist, but his paintings seem very conscious due to the careful painting process, with fits and ruler, brushes and scratch feathers. For L., it was first and foremost about precision, good workmanship. He thereby constructed his own universe, where the surface of the image is laid out according to geometric systems and sensation. Most of L.’s pictorial titles are compositions with pure numbering, and he perceived form and color as a counterpart to the music, which he thus allowed to be expressed in his works, simply created with the elements of geometry.

Erling Jørgensen 1905-1977

The story behind

Erling Jørgensen, 1905-1977, Danish painter and graphic artist. Jørgensen was self-taught and first painted in a naturalistic style, but inspired by the Cobra painters, i.a. Svavar Guðnason, he gradually developed a fabled abstract form of expression. This can be seen, for example, in his contribution to the decoration of Bregnerødhytten (1949, now Sophienholm) and Maleri (1966, North Jutland Art Museum). Jørgensen was a co-founder and member of Spiralen from 1947, of PRO 1964-66 and of Koloristerne from 1967. He received the Eckersberg Medal in 1970.

Takis 1925-2019

The story behind

Panayiotis Vassilakis, also known as Takis was a self-taught Greek artist known for his kinetic sculptures. He exhibited his artworks in Europe and the United States. Popular in France, his works can be found in public locations in and around Paris, as well as at the Athens-based Takis Foundation Research Center for the Arts and Sciences

Takis was born in 1925 in Athens. Because of the previous Greco-Turkish War, his family struggled financially. His childhood and teen years were also shadowed by war. World War II brought along the Axis Occupation of Greece which was in effect from 1941 until October 1944, and this was then followed by the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949. During these, Takis kept his focus on his artwork, although his family did not approve.

Takis’ artistic career started when he was around 20 years old in a basement workshop. This is where he first became aware of the works of Picasso and Giacometti. He was intrigued by the long, exaggerated features thatGiacometti would use in his sculptures. He created his first atelier with his childhood friends, and fellow artists, Minos Argyrakis and Raimondos, in Anakassa, Athens. His first sculptures were influenced by both Giacometti´s elongated sculptures and the Greek sculptures that he grew up around. The first sculptures that he created were plaster busts and combinations of plaster and wrought iron. In 1952 he sculpted Quatre Soldats (The Four Soldiers). In 1954, Takis moved to Paris where he learned to forge, weld, and cast metal. While there, he created small sculptures inspired by early Greek Cycladic and Egyptian art. In Paris he also met artists like Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely who were experimenting with kinetic sculptures, which began to shift his interest from the static to the kinetic.

Those two artists weren’t the only influences on Takis’ work in kinetics. Because of his nearly constant travel via train station, as well as his interest in the recently invented radar, Takis became fascinated with energies and things that cannot be seen, but are integral parts of our lives. In 1957, Takis was waiting at a train station and noticed how the lights and energies of the station melded together. This influenced the creation of a series of sculptures, Signaux (Signals). Signals are sculptures that are made of long thin metal rods that vibrate and bend as wind passes through them, similar to energy caught by radar transmitters. Takis saw these Signals as capturing the energies of the wind and sky.

His first Signals were much more rigid than later creations in the same series. To show the distribution of energy, as well as provide a street show, Takis would put fireworks on the top of these sculptures. Later on, as the sculptures in the series gained more flexibility, the rods would bend and vibrate, and at times collide with each other, creating sounds that give the sense of chords and the melody of a harp. In the 21st century, the sculptures have sold for around €100,000.

In 1958, Takis started to experiment with other energies not visible to the naked eye, particularly magnets. He explored the magnetic forces and energy of the magnetic fields, which became a foundation of his future works. He also had a child with English artist Sheila Fell in 1958. A year later, he created a piece that depicts a nail tied to a nylon string which is suspended in mid-air by the attraction of a magnet. This piece is the first of his télémagnétiques sculptures. It came to be known as Télésculpture. Takis also began a relationship with American artist Liliane Lijn this year.

In 1960, Takis moved on from floating nails to a floating man. At the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris, Takis set up a series of magnets, and outfitted the South African poet, Sinclair Beiles, with a line of magnets on his belt. In the performance, Beiles read from his magnetic manifest: “ I am a sculpture… There are more sculptures like me. The main difference is that they cannot talk… I would like to see all nuclear bombs on Earth turned into sculptures…” and he then “threw” himself into the air, and was briefly suspended by the magnetic field interacting between the different magnet sets.

Takis continued to do experimental work with different energies in the world. Along with his work in magnetics, he also experimented with electricity, sound and light. With these new influences, he created Telepeintures (Telepaintings), Telelumieres (Telelights), Cadrans, and Musicals. While learning about these different energies and experimenting with them, he traveled often to the major artistic and metropolitan centers of the world. One such trip was in 1961, where he traveled to America and met his future friend, Marcel Duchamp.

In 1966, Takis began to use his magnets to create art with sounds, as well as visuals. His installation Electro-Magnetic Musical is a series of white panels with guitar strings stretched across their width, and a long needle suspended in front of the strings. Each string is attached to an amplifier and an electro magnet is concealed behind each panel. The magnets cause the metal needles to sway back and forth, and at times hit a string which creates vibrations that are amplified and played through various speakers. These vibrations release sound waves that form mysterious and serene humming music. Takis likened the music to the sound of the natural forces of the cosmos.

In January 1969 during the exhibition The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, at MOMA in New York City, Takis stormed into the museum and removed one of his Télésculptures which he claimed was being exhibited without his permission. The artist considered this action as a symbolic one, which would begin a better dialogue between museum directors, artists, and the public. Takis, along with other artists as well as art critics like Nicolas Calas, established the Art Workers Coalition group to defend the rights of artists. He inspired a group of people to start a chip company of the same name.

In 1974, Takis returned to Paris and started creating his Erotic sculptures.

He returned to Greece in 1986 where he established the Research Center for Art and the Sciences in Gerovouno, Attica, although its official inauguration wasn’t until 1993.

Even though he was known for his musical sculptures, they are not the only musical pieces made by Takis. Takis also provided musical curation for plays and performances, including when he collaborated with Costa Gavras for the film Section Spéciale (Special Court) in 1975, with Michael Kakogiani for the play Electra of Sophocles in 1983, with Nam June Paik in 1979, with Joelle Léandre, with a dancer, Martha Zioga, for the performance titled “Ligne Paralléle Erotique” in 1986, and with Barbara Mayrothalassiti for “Isis Awakening” in 1990. He created scenery for these performances as well.

In an interview published in the Tate catalogue, issued for the major retrospective held in Tate Modern in 2019, just one month before his death, Takis explains his role as one of demystification. “It’s only about revealing, in one way or another, the sensory vibrations or the interlacing potentials for energy that exist in the universe,” he explains. “I think that’s the role of an artist, whether painter, sculptor or musician. … I don’t think this energy should be considered as something abstract

John Bauer b. 1971

The story behind

John Bauer (born 1971) is an American painter and artist based in San Diego. He received his BA in Studio Art in 1993 from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Bauer uses screen printing, spray paint and stencils to create abstract paintings. His palette is almost exclusively blacks, silvers and greys. The work deals with the nature of fabricating and translating images. There is a tension between brushwork and more hands-off techniques in the paintings. The images in his compositions both dissolve and materialize simultaneously. Untitled (#1409), in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, is an example of the artist’s “black paintings”, which have been described as “containing hints of abstract expressionism”.

Solo shows include 2008 Maruani & Noirhomme gallery, Belgium; Patricia Low Contemporary, Gstaad, Switzerland; 2007 and 2003 at Bellwether Gallery in New York and 1998 at Clementine Gallery in New York. He has shown work in group exhibitions including “The Triumph of Painting” at the Saatchi Gallery, New York’s Finest at Canada Gallery in New York, and various group shows at the Bellwether Gallery. He is represented by Patricia Low Contemporary in Switzerland and Alain Noirhomme in Belgium.

Michael Goldberg 1924-2007

The story behind

Michael Goldberg began exhibiting his action paintings in important group shows of galleries in New York City in the early 1950s. He took classes at the Art Students League of New York when he was 14, and in the 1950s he studied painting at Hans Hofmann’s School of Fine Art. Heavily involved in the New York avant-garde scene, Goldberg took part in the “Ninth Street Show” in 1951 which is considered to be the first comprehensive Abstract Expressionism exhibition.

Known for his gestural action paintings and involvement with the New York School with Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock among others, he produced abstract, monochromatic and minimalist canvases. He also experimented with collage and mixed-media works.

Beginning in 1980, accompanied by his wife, the artist Lynn Umlauf, he spent long summers in Italy. Many of his later pictures were inspired by Italy’s celebrated artistic heritage.
He taught many years at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Mogens Andersen 1916-2003

The story behind

Mogens Andersen, 1916-2003, Danish painter. As a student at P. Rostrup Bøyesen’s painting school 1933-39, Mogens Andersen made his debut in 1935 at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling. In this early phase, he painted pastose figure pictures in the earth color scale, inspired by “dark painters” such as Svend Guttorm and Niels Lergaard. But at the same time he began to take an interest in the early French modernism that had occupied him throughout his life. Since settling in Paris in 1945 (where he lived for periods until 1965), French lyrical-abstract art has been crucial to his form of expression. Inspired by i.a. Pierre Soulages and Jean Bazaine, he developed his characteristic dark, dynamic arabesques on light bottoms.

Mogens Andersen’s first major decoration of Copenhagen’s Main Library on Kultorvet (1957-59) caused a fierce debate about abstract art. Since then, he won wide acclaim and performed a wide range of decorative tasks, including a large ceramic decoration for the art museum in Bochum in Germany (1981) and the decoration of Sejs-Svejbæk Church near Silkeborg (1990). Mogens Andersen also expressed himself in color graphics, in tapestries, woven by Lise Warburg, and in ceramic works for Den Kgl. Porcelain factory.

Mogens Andersen was also a diligent writer, and his personal development and relationship to art can be traced in the books Modern French Painting (1948), Around the Sources (1967) and Necessary, but Still Like (1976), which were followed by several memoirs. He developed a pedagogical work, among other things. at the continuation of Rostrup Bøyesen’s painting school 1952-59, and his many positions of trust include the chairmanship of the Statens Kunstfond 1977-80. Mogens Andersen was a member of several French and Danish artists’ associations, including Bølleblomsten 1942-50 and Grønningen 1953-65 and from 1984. He received 1949 Eckersberg Medal and 1984 Thorvaldsen Medal.

Kain Tapper 1930-2004

The story behind

Kain Tapper (1930–2004) was a Finnish sculptor. He created works that are “remote”, evoking things contemplated from a distance. Even when small, his pieces loom like menhirs, their massiveness imposing an inhuman scale. He combined nature and natural phenomena, old folklore and modernism. He epitomised the Informalist style in Finnish sculpture. Tapper created a sculpture of Finnish poet Ilmari Kianto situated near Turja´s Castle in Suomussalmi.

Erik Thommesen 1916-2008

The story behind

Erik Thommesen (1916-2008) was a Danish wood sculptor who was a member of the European COBRA art association for several years.

Thommesen studied zoology, but as an artist he was self-taught. He made his debut in 1940 at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition and together with Ejler Bille helped to create the March Exhibition, which existed 1951-1982.

Both Thommesen and his wife Anna Thommesen received some of Denmark’s most prestigious art awards, but they have both failed to pick up more of them as part of a lifelong showdown with the Danish art establishment. Thommesen also often distinguished himself as a debater, especially in the field of cultural policy.