Painter Asger Jorn (Danish, 1914–1973) first became well known as a co-founder of the artists’ group CoBrA in 1948, which questioned the dominance of French Surrealist artists and fostered an expressive and spontaneous formal style. Jorn originally studied to be a teacher, before taking up painting in 1930. His first works included landscapes and portraits, influenced by 1930s Danish art. In the mid-1930s he experimented with abstracted forms, and went to Paris to work on an exhibition pavilion designed by famous architect Le Corbusier for the upcoming Paris World Exhibition. During World War II, he returned to Denmark fleeing German occupation, and after the war co-founded CoBrA, an acronym taken from the founding artists’ home cities of Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam; the group had their first large-scale exhibition in 1949. In 1957, Jorn helped combine CoBrA and other progressive groups to form the Situationist International group, which rejected the lifestyle foisted on society by capitalism. Jorn participated in documenta II in 1959 in Kassel, receiving widespread international attention for his work, and later became notorious for rejecting a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964. He is known for his paintings, lithographs, and etchings, and experimented with spontaneous line and semi-figurative representation, two fundamental aspects of the CoBrA visual language. He is further recognized for his overpainting of inexpensive 19th century works that he collected at the flea markets, in series he called Modifications or Défigurations, and has also received acclaim for his work with ceramics, collage, and sculpture. After a period in which he focused on Danish contemporary photography, he resumed painting and produced a significant number of works between 1970 and 1972. Jorn died in 1973, and a retrospective of his work opened the same year at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover; recent retrospectives of his work have been held at the Kunsthalle Kiel in Germany, and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Jorn was not only a prolific artist in diverse mediums, but was also an accomplished writer and theorist, and published several written works on philosophy, economics, archaeology, and aesthetics.

Timeline

1914
Born in Vejrum, Denmark as Asger Oluf Jørgensen
1930–1935
Started painting (landscapes, portraits, still lifes)
1936–1937
First trips to Paris, met Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier and Matta
1941
Cofounder of magazine Helhesten
1942
Member of Danish artist group Høst
1948
Foundation of group CoBrA (withKarel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, and Joseph Noiret)
1957–1961
Member of Situationistischen Internationale
1973
Dies in Aarhus, Denmark

Exhibitions

2012
Asger Jorn. un artiste libre, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne, Switzerland
2012
Jorn < Ensor, Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark
2011
Jorn International, Aarhus Kunstmuseum ARoS, Denmark
2011
Jorn's Modifications & Kirkeby's Overpaintings, Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark
2011
Jorn’s Modifications & Kirkeby’s Overpaintings, Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark
2010
Städtische Galerie, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany
2009
Silkeborg Kunstmuseum, Silkeborg, Denmark
2009
Galerie Marie-José van de Loo, Munich, Germany
2009
Retrospektive, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
2007
Asger Jorn in Italien, Kunsthalle in Emden / Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany
2006
Asger Jorn. Central Figure, BAWAG Foundation, Vienna, Austria
2002
Retrospektive, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain
2001
La Planète Jorn, Retrospektive, Musée d`Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France
1996
Retrospektive, Casa Rusca, Pinoteca Communale, Locarno, Switzerland
1995
Bielefelder Kunstverein, Germany
1994
Asger Jorn, 1914-1973. Das graphische Werk, Kupferstichkabinett Dresden, Germany
1994
Retrospektive, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
1994
Retrospektive, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1958–1994
Galerie van de Loo, Munich, Germany
1991
Silkeborg Kunstmuseum und Badisches Landesmuseum, Baden Baden, Germany
1988–1989
Galerie van de Loo, Munich, Germany
1987
Retrospective, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany
1987
Retrospective, Musée d`Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France
1973
Retrospective, Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, Germany
1967–1968
Galerie van de Loo, Munich, Germany
1966
Kunsthalle, Göteborg, Sweden
1965
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1965
Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark
1964
Retrospective, Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
1962
Lefebre Gallery, New York
1961
Universität, Aarhus, Denmark
1961
CoBrA, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam / Parais des Beaux-Arts, Lüttich, Netherlands
1959
CoBrA, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam / Parais des Beaux-Arts, Lüttich, Netherlands
1958
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK
1958
50 ans d'art moderne, World Exhibition, Brussels, Belgium
1949
CoBrA, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1948
Galerie Breteau, Paris, France
1938
Dam & Fonns, Kopenhagen, Denmark