Carl-Henning Pedersen (1913-2007), People and Animals in a Landscape, c. 1942
World War II and a personal artistic crisis changed Carl-Henning Pedersen’s imagery, giving rise to darker pictures in the 1940s.
The motif of the painting
People and Animals in a Landscape shows two infantile human figures with giant heads, large staring eyes, and tiny helpless bodies that almost float in the foreground. A woman (red) and a man (yellow/blue) might be portraits of the artist’s wife, Else Alfelt, and the artist himself. Their arms are lifted, as if they were about to take flight, achieving the same freedom as the birds around them.
A spontaneous method of working
Pedersen’s method of working can be characterised as spontaneous. Children’s drawings and primitive art are major sources of inspiration. A characteristic feature of his imagery is the constant repetition of a few, highly symbolic motifs. The sun symbolises life and all things life-giving, the bird symbolises freedom and drive, and man is a figure that links heaven and earth. Even so, colour remains the most important element – it is the medium through which the artist strives to describe life.
The creation of the artist's imagery
Pedersen’s interest in primitive Oceanian art was first inspired by Egill Jacobsen (1910-1998). This interest also manifested itself in the journal Helhesten, which had a crucial impact on the artists that were later known as the Cobra artists. Pedersen truly came into his own during the German occupation of Denmark, forming the imagery that would remain with him ever since.