Museumsvej 2A
DK-7500 Holstebro
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Lobi: Figur; Erik Thommesen: Kvinde. 1958-59; Ejler Bille: Figurkomposition. 1944-45; Sonja Ferlov Mancoba: Maskeskulptur. 1939 Lobi: Figur; Erik Thommesen: Kvinde. 1958-59; Ejler Bille: Figurkomposition. 1944-45; Sonja Ferlov Mancoba: Maskeskulptur. 1939

January 1, 2015 - May 16, 2016 Traversing Western and Non-Western Art

The collection at Holstebro Kunstmuseum includes works which, in a concentrated form, display the history of world art – from ancient Egypt and Greece until today – spanning Asia through Africa to Europe and Denmark. ‘Traversing Western and Non-Western Art’ points out similarities and differences between art from different times and places. It also shows how some 20th century Danish artists were influenced by the art of non-Western cultures.
Throughout history and in all cultures, the human face has been a central motif in art. Either in the form of stylised representations of rulers or gods as in early Egyptian art; mystical portrayals of special qualities embedded in spirits or ancestors as in traditional African art; by using the exterior form as an attempt at portraying the inner workings of the soul as evident in Lauritz Hartz (1903-1987), or more specifically as form in the case of Erik Thommesen (1916-2008).
The human body, too, has been a recurrent motif in art from all cultures throughout history. The portrayal of the body in standing position dates back to archaic Egyptian art and the more animated portrayal of the human body seen in Greek art. Inspired by archaic sculpture, the figures of Astrid Noack (1888-1954) lack distinguishing features and assume simple positions thereby appearing timeless. A common element in the sculptures spanning time and culture is the portrayal of an erect and, therefore, living human being.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Western artists became interested in traditional art from non-Western cultures. Along with other modernists, Picasso (1881-1973) was inspired by traditional African art when creating new modes of expression and breaking away from the established ones. Non-Western art was also of crucial importance to the Danish artists whose breakthrough came with the surrealism of the 1930s.
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba (1911-1984) became acquainted with traditional African art when she, as a child, together with her parents, visited the collector Carl Kjersmeier whose collection of African masks and figures comprises the bulk of the African art collection at the National Museum of Denmark. In 1934, she introduced her colleagues to traditional African art through an article in the journal of the artists’ association ‘Linien’, using Kjersmeier's collection. This also influenced her own art to a great extent.
Erik Thommesen, on the other hand, was generally more influenced by the primitivism of the time as well as the new ways to interpret form and space that he had seen in the works of Picasso, for example.
Ejler Bille (1910-2004), too, was inspired by African masks during the 1940s, although his focus shifted to traditional Balinese art later. In some of his paintings, the desire to transfer his own visual impressions from Bali is apparent in his use of ornaments and warm colours.
Henry Heerup (1907-1993) participated along with Ejler Bille, Erik Thommesen, and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba in the artistic circles of the 1930s and 1940s. Although not directly inspired by non-Western art, the vitalism, always a crucial element in his art revealing itself in the importance of nudity and eroticism in his paintings, was a product of the impact of non-Western art at the time.