Occupation: Painter, Sculptor, Ceramic artist
Movement: COBRA, Situationism
Asger Jorn's Famous Artworks
“Le Soldat et son Passé,” 1957
‘L’Infinie Suffisance,” 1965
“Sérénité Aubaine,” 1970
Asger Jorn was a Danish artist, known for helping establish the avant-garde art movement COBRA. Jorn painted, sculpted, created art out of ceramics and also wrote.
Asger Jorn's Family Background
Born into a large family in West Jutland in the spring of 1914, Asger Oluf Jorgensen was the son of Lars Peter, a fervent Christian, and his wife Maren Nielsen, both of whom were teachers. After his father’s sudden death in a car accident in 1926, the household was dependant on a modest widow’s pension for daily expenses. After three years of frugal living and struggling with financial instability, the family moved to Silkeborg — where Maren had attended university — so that her six children could benefit from the city’s better educational opportunities.
During his student years at the Vintners Seminarium between 1929 and 1936, Jorn was, for the first time, exposed to ideas, opinions and cultural movements that his small town background had not afforded. He was especially drawn to 19th-century Scandinavian philosophy and became close friends with the communist thinker Christian Christensen. Although his affiliation with the Communist Party would be intermittent throughout his life, Jorn was devoted to bolstering the political position of the radical Left and began experimenting with art as a vehicle for broadcasting his opinions. Around this time, he was approached by painter Martin Kaalund-Jorgensen to be the subject of a series of oil portraits, and this experience compounded his interest in becoming an artist himself.
Asger Jorn's Early Career
Upon graduating from the seminary in 1936, Jorn left for Paris
to study under legendary painter Fernand Leger, who taught him to draw accurately and plan his compositions before execution. With the creative impulses his mentor provided along with the artistic pulse of the French capital, his tenure there significantly influenced his development and subsequent style. Although he returned to Paris often over the next years, he spent winters at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.
During his initial training period, Jorn was often torn between Leger’s strictly defined studies of nature and a more Surrealist direction, more in tune with the representations of Max Ernst, Jean Arp and Joan Miro. The sudden boom of primitive art in Europe’s museums and galleries was also a source of inspiration, as was the literature of Franz Kafka — of whom he did a number of translations. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Jorn traveled frequently between France and Denmark, organizing exhibitions and painting. In 1939, he married his college classmate Kirsten Heather Borg and moved to Vanlose.
Asger Jorn's Middle-Life
In 1940, Asger Jorn founded a contemporary art and music magazine called Helhesten — named after the mythical creature that heralds death — along with Ejler Bille, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Egill Jacobsen and P.V. Glob, an archaeologist at the National Museum. His work
from this period ranges from simple shapes to vivid landscapes populated by animal-like figures, reminiscent of early Danish expressionism. He was especially determined to marry the avant-garde movements of modern art with national traditions and practices, convinced that the development of art in Denmark was noteworthy despite the German occupation and the subsequent isolation from the rest of the continent.
Once the war ended, Jorn resumed his travels, taking his family to the struggling economy of Tunisia, where hunger and poverty were rife. His experience there became the substance of many future projects. On returning to Denmark, he co-founded the COBRA movement, a collaborative effort between artists in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam (hence, Co-Br-A).
In 1949, Jorn ended his decade-long marriage to pursue a relationship with Matie, the wife of his colleague Constant. The couple moved into an apartment at the Danish Art House at the edge of Paris, where they lived with her two daughters and their newborn child in poverty for several months. The strain of his personal life and the continual activity of his work eventually took a toll on his body and in 1951 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis for the second time. With financial assistance from friends, he entered a sanatorium in Silkeborg to recuperate for almost a year and a half.
Asger Jorn's Later Years
Jorn enjoyed a great deal of success towards the latter half of his career, traveling from Switzerland to Genoa and then Paris again over the years. He received the Guggenheim Award in 1963, cementing his position in the international art market and permanently stabilizing his financial situation. He separated from Matie in 1970 and moved in with Nanna Enzensberger. He died on May Day three years later, leaving behind a vast collection of ceramics, paintings and writing. You can buy Asger Jorn's artworks online
Asger Jorn's Exhibitions
1938 - Dam & Fonns, Copenhagen
1948 - Galerie Breteau, Paris
1958 - World Exhibition, Brussels
1964 - Retrospective at the Kunsthalle Basel
1973 - Retrospective at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover
1987 - Retrospective at the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nimes
1994 - Retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
2001 - Retrospective at Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg
2009 - Retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
2014 - States Museum of Kunst, Copenhagen
Asger Jorn's Museums/Collections
Museum Jorn, Silkeborg
Arken Museum of Modern Art
Funen Kunstmuseum, Odense
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek
Stedelijk Museum vor Actuele Kunst, Ghent
Rijksmusem Twenthe, Enschede
Musées Royaux de Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
Galeria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Tate Gallery, London
Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogota
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery, Washington D.C.
“The Art and Politics of Asger Jorn: The Avant-Garde Won’t Give Up,” by Karen Kurczynski
“Asger Jorn: Louisiana Library,” by Paul Erik Tøjner and Jacob Wamberg
“Situationism: A Compendium,” by Guy Debord and Ivan Chtcheglov
“Asger Jorn in Images, Words and Forms,” by Ruth Baumeister
“Asger Jorn,” by Françoise Monnin