Asger Jorn - Dichter & Denker - image-1
Asger Jorn - Dichter & Denker - image-2
Asger Jorn - Dichter & Denker - image-1Asger Jorn - Dichter & Denker - image-2

Lot 67 D

Asger Jorn - Dichter & Denker

Auction 1177 - overview Cologne
17.06.2021, 18:00 - Modern/Contemporary Art - Evening Sale
Estimate: 100.000 € - 150.000 €
Result: 125.000 € (incl. premium)

Asger Jorn

Dichter & Denker

Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. Framed. Signed 'Jorn'. Signed, dated and titled 'Dichter & Denker 1962 Jorn' on canvas verso, and with dedication.

"Beware of Asger Jorn when you don't like contradictions. His drunkest, most gleeful colours - glowing greens, yellows, reds and blues - shadow sadness. […] If something seems laboriously wrought or gives the impression that you have seen it somewhere before, or if it looks like you do not know it - then it is not Jorn. If one is not sure whether he is actually on the most personal and intimate terms with every one of his trolls, monsters and satyrs - then it is not Jorn. Do not expect Jorn's creatures to necessarily come from the old Nordic forests where they once dwelled. Jorn also draws them from the big cities, from the southernmost South […]." (John Lefebre, in: Asger Jorn, Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover 1973, p. 7). In this "Warnung vor Asger Jorn", John Lefebre aptly locates the artist in the tension field between the mystical legend of his Scandinavian homeland, which forms the inspiring basis of his artistic work with its archaic power, and his European cosmopolitanism. Extensively educated and interested, multilingual, with the best contacts in the European art centres and constantly travelling, he creates a phenomenal oeuvre with a light hand and tireless creative energy, which also includes sculptures, ceramics and tapestries. The pictorial work is complemented by his literary works in which he explores the natural sciences or politics as soundly as aesthetics and the world of symbols of folk art.
As a counterpoint to his intellectual disputes, fantastic myths consistently resonate in Jorn's world of thought: He discovers hidden phenomena everywhere in everyday existence and charges the things surrounding him with magical meaning. In his pictorial works, these deep-seated metaphysical perceptions break through in an automatic painting process.
Four pictures by Asger Jorn are offered in this auction which trace the development of his painting over two decades. In its clear colouring and freed colour areas, the early, untitled painting from 1942 (lot 65) is still influenced by the École de Paris, which Jorn became intensively acquainted with during his time in the French capital in 1936/37 as a student of Fernand Léger and a collaborator of Le Corbusier. The shadowed areas pushing into the picture surface from the left already announce the mysterious themes of the world of dreams and legends that gradually penetrate his work.
The two works from the 1950s are entirely prescribed to these dramatic myths and thus are in line with the principles of the COBRA movement which Jorn co-founded in 1948. "Untitled" from 1953 (lot 66) draws the viewer into the midst of an unknown, mysterious adventure with its strong movement: a ship in a storm, a torn landscape, the jaws of a monster armed with teeth, can all be deduced. The depiction as well as the signature seem to be thrown on to the painting ground with a feverish, primal force.
Two black, demonic figures make their way through a bright landscape in "On suit son chemin" from 1956 (lot 68). The ghosts, monsters, masks and chimeras that are present in Jorn's pictures originate from folk art and the ancient legends that he and his COBRA companions understand as a fundamental component of the everyday world. "One can only reach truth by using one's imagination for the most implausible images like those of Bosch and Brueghel, but then in a pictorial language such as that of the ancient Indians, Vikings, primitives, and not in a surrealistic-naturalistic language. We should not give descriptions of man as an animal. But we should describe ourselves as animals. That is our way," wrote Jorn to Constant in 1950 (quoted after: Asger Jorn 1914-1973. Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Gouachen, Skulpturen, Lenbachhaus Munich 1987, p. 34f.).
"Dichter & Denker" from 1962 (lot 67) is a portrait dedicated to the art historian Werner Haftman, and probably depicting him. Painted in long, smooth brushstrokes on an almost monochrome background, it is clearly quieter than the earlier works and coincides with a creative period in which the artist was often engaged with portraits. Widely read and a writer himself, Jorn spent his life studying the writings of natural scientists and humanists, philosophers and poets, while at the same time valuing the free, as it were archaic imagination. "Imagination alone can make thinking something alive. […] Intelligence and creative thinking ignite when they encounter the unknown, the unexpected, the random, the disordered, the absurd and the impossible", he wrote in 1958 in his essay "Pour la forme" (quoted after: Jorn, Lenbachhaus Munich, Munich 1987, p. 87).

Catalogue Raisonné

Guy Atkins, Asger Jorn, The crucial years 1954 – 1964, London 1977, cat.rais. no. 1414


Directly from the artist; Collection Werner Haftmann, Berlin; private collection, South Germany


Humlebaek 1965 (Louisiana Foundation), Asger Jorn, no. 112
(adhesive label verso)
Amsterdam 1964/1965 (Stedelijk Museum), Asger Jorn, no. 109

Basel 1964 (Kunsthalle), Asger Jorn, Eugène Dodeigne, no. 92 (adhesive label verso)