Jens Søndergaard (1895-1957), Stormy Sea, 1954
The region of Thy and the North Sea are synonymous with Jens Søndergaard’s art. In Stormy Sea from 1954, the ocean attacks the horizon, and the storm whips the water into foamy peaks. Four men, their backs turned to us, stand on a cliff and look out across the stormy sea. Their foothold is precarious. The figures are – literally and figuratively – on the brink of a precipice, on the verge of disaster. Something fascinating and menacing is happening. The painting is an example of Søndergaard’s ability to show how man is fascinated by – and subordinate to – the strong forces of nature.
New aesthetic norms
Søndergaard helped introduce new aesthetic norms within Danish art with his free, un-academic style and colour schemes. The motif had to be experienced firsthand. Intensity and strength was achieved through direct sensory perception in nature. This affinity with his motifs led the art historian Leo Swane to proclaim that Søndergaard was to Danish landscape painting what Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was to the Norwegian ditto.
The dark painters
Søndergaard belongs to the group of artists who, from the 1920s onwards,were described as the “dark” painters – expressionist painters whose colours were muted and at times dark compared to those of the Fauvists. Like Erik Hoppe (1897-1968) and Niels Lergaard (1893-1982), Jens Søndergaard painted realistic sceneries out of a desire to merge matter and expressivity, colour and emotion.