Heerup's Homage to Life

Henry Heerup can be described as the great humanist in Danish art, and he deals with some of the great existential questions in his popular works. His free and symbol-saturated imagery unfolds in the life-affirming work "Koncerten” (The Concert) from 1953, where we see the artist at his finest.

The Music, the Woman and the Elf

With his usual playfulness and whimsical eye for details, Henry Heerup highlights the musical motifs in combination with the lush mother figure in the festive work "The Concert", which we can present at this year's final Live Auction on 7 December at 4 pm in Bredgade 33, Copenhagen. The work is a picturesque ode to fertility and life with all that it contains of joy and sorrow – and in true "Heerupian" fashion, a Christmas elf with a red hat occupies the centre, while instruments and musicians leave the viewer with associations to phalluses and fetus-like forms. The scene is tied together by the wheel of life, which is seen as a halo of rosy-cheeked babies around the nude woman and represents a symbol of the universal wholeness of life and the continual progression of time and existence. The wheel of life is a known motif that goes all the way back to the paintings of medieval times, and it is a recurring theme in Heerup's art.

“(…) It amuses me to hear about the reactions they evoke in the people who see them. I hope that there will be more and more people who do not see anything naughty in nudity”.

Henry Heerup in a letter to the painting's owner in New Jersey, Grete Lamb

The Master of Symbolism and Vitality  

In a Danish context, Heerup is also considered the master of symbols. He is loved for his portrayal of the great themes and dramas of human existence – presented in a direct visual style, where emotions, different life stages and the passage of time are communicated through broadly understood symbols. On the auction market, it is now a rare occasion to see the early symbolic works by Heerup, and therefore it is a special pleasure to be able to present "Koncerten" (The concert), which shows the artist from his best and most historically significant side. At the same time, it is a kind of rediscovery since the painting has not been in Denmark since 1962, when its Danish owner brought it with her to the United States in connection with her marriage to an American, whom she settled down with in New Jersey. A negative result of Heerup's great popularity and public appeal has probably been a somewhat one-sided perception of his art as representing an uncontroversial, pleasantly controlled world of motifs, which has overshadowed the more life-affirming and purely vitalist aspects that are also at work in his art.

Henry Heerup: “Koncerten” (The Concert), 1953. Signed. Oil on canvas. 140 cm x 200 cm. Estimate: DKK 200,000-300,000.

Let's Dwell a Little on CoBrA

Although Heerup was his own master, he was also associated with the CoBrA movement and is a clear example of the movement's thoughts on free, playful art and the artist's spontaneous expression. At the auction, we can as usual present works by most of the representatives of the European and progressive art group. The auction also includes works by the female members of the gorup who have often been overshadowed by their male colleagues.

One of them is Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, who in recent years has achieved a well-deserved place in art history as one of the central names of Danish modernism. With her sculptures, she created the oddest creatures and distanced herself from what she saw as the materialism and selfishness in the surrounding society. She fought for communality instead, because as she so beautifully put it: “Only by virtue of each other can we live and breathe”. Her plaster sculpture at the auction has been owned by Troels Andersen, the former director of Museum Jorn in Silkeborg. At this museum, you can right now view the exhibition “COBRA – The Women Artists” where another strong representative of the art group, Else Alfelt, is also part of our auction. With her art she wanted to contribute to the healing of mankind after the world wars. She has made two sensuous encounters with nature in the form of mountain and rock landscapes from the 1940s with characteristically jagged and undulating shapes. However, the male CoBrA painters are not holding back at this auction either – led by works from the husbands of the two women mentioned above, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Ernest Mancoba, and not least the group’s provocative frontman Asger Jorn with the work “Forskellige grunde” (On Different Grounds) from 1971, which also comes from Troels Andersen’s collection. 

Asger Jorn: “Forskellige grunde” (On Different Grounds), 1971. Signed. Oil on canvas. 46 cm x 38 cm. Estimate: DKK 300,000-400,000.
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba: Sculpture (Untitled), 1951. Plaster. H. 27 cm. Estimate: DKK 50,000-60,000.
Else Alfelt: “Månebelyst klippelandskab” (Moonlit rock landscape), 1947. Signed. Oil on plywood. 106 cm x 126 cm. Estimate: DKK 125,000-150,000.
Live Auction

Modern Art

7-8 December at 4 pm

For further information, please contact:

Niels  Raben Portrait

Niels Raben

Niels Raben

Head of department / Havnen
Niels  Boe-Hauggaard Portrait

Niels Boe-Hauggaard

Niels Boe-Hauggaard

Specialist / Havnen
Kathrine  Eriksen Portrait

Kathrine Eriksen

Kathrine Eriksen

Specialist / Havnen