Karen Westphal Eriksen

Picasso in Denmark: between art history and political activism

Friday April 28 – Session 06 @ COAC

In this paper I look at Picasso’s identity seen by Danish eyes and minds and in relation to local cultural debates on modernism and humanism on the Danish art scene.

After the Second World War Picasso was renowned as a great master artist throughout Europe. His status was due to his artistic impact as well as his personal resistance to the German occupation in France. Both of these aspects had an impact on his reception in Denmark, where the painting of Guernica (1937) was widely reproduced and discussed. As was his artistic contribution to the early peace movements and their Danish branches.

In this paper I will discuss the role Picasso played for Danish artists and peace activists. I will look at the interwar painting Guernica and the post WWII Peace Dove-series, and discuss how artistic canonicity and aesthetics was appropriated in artworks for example experimental film Guernica, 1950, by artist Helge Ernst versus how it featured in debates on the cold war and informed visual culture at politician Mogens Fog’s peace rallies. An aesthetic retour à l’ordre seem to have taken place not in art, but in visual culture, similar in aesthetics to the one in France but in Denmark as radically political.

Following this I will point to the benefits and consequences of an increased focus on artistic as well as cultural reception of international master artists. This is in order to understand not just Picassos identity “an Sich”, but to chart the different facets of Picasso, which appears in the eyes of contemporary artists and art critics and interacts with local aesthetics and ideologies in a complex formation of situated identity.

Karen Westphal Eriksen

Postdoctorate, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

Karen Westphal Eriksen has a PhD in Art History from University of Copenhagen where she is currently employed as a postdoc researcher with a project centered on Danish reception of international art after The Second World War. The project is an investigation of different aspects of reception such as art critical discourse, artistic appropriation, political imagery and cultural debate. Case artists are Picasso, Moore and Pollock. The project is an elaboration of her PhD project concerned with debates and artistic negotiations of abstraction and figuration in Danish art after The Second World War.

Recent publications include PhD dissertation “Against the Grain – Abstraction and Figuration in Danish Art after The Second World War” (University of Copenhagen 2015), ”Heerup and the Pastoral Tradition” ( Helle Brøns (red.), Heerup and the Avant-Garde. Sorø Kunstmuseum,

Heerup Museet, Carl-Henning Pedersen og Else Alfelts Museum 2015) as well as forthcoming articles ”Dark Heerup: Reconsidering a Danish sculptor” (Benedikt Hjartarson, Andrea Kollnitz, Per Stounbjerg, Marianne Ølholm & Tania Ørum, (eds.) The Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1925-1950. Vol 2., Amsterdam/NY: Rodopi, 2017) and ”Picasso in Denmark: Between art history and political activism.” (Shifting Approaches: Art and Visual Culture in Scandinavia, 1750 to the Present, edited by Thor Mednick, Karen Westphal Eriksen et. al., Manchester University Press 2017.)

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Museu Picasso Barcelona
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