asger jorn

Asger Jorn biography (1914 - 1973)

Jorn working in his house in Albissola, 1961.

By Troels Andersen

Born March 3 in Vejrum, Jutland, Denmark, the son of Lars Peter Jørgensen and his wife Maren, both schoolteachers.

On death of his father, Jorn’s family moved to Silkeborg.

Enrolled at a teachers’ training college, where he studied for five years. Painted his first pictures. Made contact with painter Kaalund-Jørgensen, and with syndicalist leader Christian Christensen.

Made debut with two pictures at an exhibition entitled “Free Jutlandish Painters” in Silkeborg.

Went to Paris, studied under Fernand Léger. In 1937 made an enlargement of a child’s drawing for Le Corbusier in the “Pavillon des temps nouveaux” at the World Exhibition in Paris. Worked in the Spanish Embassy for the republican Spanish government.

Held private exhibition in Copenhagen together with Pierre Wemaëre, whom he had met through Léger.

Married Kirsten Lyngborg.

Participated in publication of “Helhesten”, a magazine to which he contributed articles and litographs. Other contributors included Ejler Bille, Henry Heerup, Egill Jacobsen, Carl-Henning Pedersen and archaeologist P. V. Glob.

Changed name from Jørgensen to Jorn.

Spent summer in Lapland, Sweden (Saxnäs), thereafter in Paris and Holland. Met Constant, inspired the Dutch experimental group to publish “Reflex”.

Spent about 6 months on Tunesian island of Djerba. Held first one-man show in Paris. Took part in work of “Surréalisme-révolutionaire” group in Paris and Brussels. Through this made contact with Belgian author Christian Dotremont. Broke away from this group and together with Appel, Constant, Corneille and Joseph Noiret, formed COBRA.

One of the leading figures in COBRA. Contributed to the group’s magazine and published “The Cobra Library” (in 15 booklets).

Meeting in Bregnerød, Denmark, attended by Dotremont, Constant and others. During this, the walls and ceiling in “The Architect’s Hut”, where the meeting was held, were covered with large decorations. Jorn also painted a number of small pictures.

“Høst” Exhibition dissolved. Danish group of spontaneous abstract artists finally disbanded. Jorn spent about 6 months with Robert Jacobsen in Suresnes.

Married Matie van Domselaer.

Sent home from Suresnes and removed to Silkeborg Sanatorium with a severe attack of tuberculosis. Completed two manuscripts while in the sanatorium, one of them being “Held og Hasard” (Luck and Chance), based on a long treatise dating from 1946-48 “Blade af kunstens bog” (Pages from the Book of Art). Painted several pictures and worked on two large series of pictures, “Årstiderne” (The Seasons) and “Af den stumme myte” (From The Silent Myth).

Intensive work on ceramics in Silkeborg and Sorring, an old pottery centre. Left Denmark in October to settle first in Switzerland and the following year in Albisola, Italy.

Continiued ceramic work in Albisola with Appel, Baj, Corneille, Fontana and others. Worked theoretically on forming a continuation of COBRA under the name “Movement pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste”. Controversy with Max Bill, articles in Italian journals.

Settled in Paris.

Abandoned “Bauhaus Imaginiste” and published a series of articles written in the 1950s under title “Pour la forme”. Joined new group that included French author and filmmaker Guy Debord, The group called itself “L’internationale situationniste”. Achieved international breakthrough as a painter. One-man shows in several European cities.

Worked on large ceramic relief for State Grammar School in Aarhus. The relief was completed in four months in Albisola and installed in the autumn. Jorn donated a number of works by other artists to the museum in Silkeborg, which opened an exhibition entitled “Ny international kunst” (New International Art).

Finished (for the first time) the work on his largest oil painting, “Stalingrad”.
In cooperation with Pierre Wemaëre, a large tapestry, “Le long voyage” is completed and exhibited in Paris.

Worked on a group of pictures entitled “Luxury Paintings”. Drew up a plan for a series of lavishly illustrated books that was to illuminate the history of Scandinavian folk art over 10,000 years. Resigned in April from “L’internationale situationniste”. The English university lecturer and art collector Guy Atkins whom Jorn met in 1956, started collecting material for a complete record of Jorn's paintings.

Travelled widely, often with photographer Gérard Franceschi. Founded “Scandinavian Institute for Comparative Vandalism”, a one-man institution in which his historical interests were concentrated. Between 1962 and 1964 the institute published four pocket books by Jorn (On the Natural Order of Things, Value and Economy, Luck and Chance, Ting and Polis) in which he presented topical commentary interwoven with aesthetics and cultural philosophy. Made a number of gramophone records with Jean Dubuffet and himself performing bruitistic music.

Refuse to accept Guggenheim Prize. Participated in a number of international exhibitions. Retrospective exhibition in Kunsthalle Basel, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Louisiana, Denmark. Worked on collages.

Abandoned plans for big publication project on Scandinavian folk art and closed the institute to the public “temporarily”. In 1965 published a sample volume on Scanian stone sculpture, “Skånes stenskulpturer”, of which 120 copies were printed privately.

Executed a number of large litographs in Switzerland.

Went to Havana, Cuba, and here, while taking part in a cultural congress, painted entire interior of a nationalized bank.

Executed ceramic relief for The Culture House in Randers, Denmark, The relief was made in Albisola and set up under Jorns supervision in the autumn. Started work on book about Theoderik, king of the Goth’s, and legendary figure named Didrek. Travelled round the world.

Executed a number of colour-etchings, colour-woodcuts, and sculptures in bronze and marble.
Finished the oil painting "Stalingrad".

Large international retrospective exhibition opened in Hannover. Thereafter shown in Berlin, Brussels, Aalborg, Denmark, and at Louisiana, Denmark. Hospitalized in Aarhus, Denmark. Married Nanna Enzensberger. Short trip to Albisola. Died in the evening of May 1, in Aarhus. Buried at Grötlngbo on the Swedish island of Gotland. Among his papers he left the completed manuscripts of his book on Theoderik/Didrek (published 1978)

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