The German occupation of Denmark (1940-45) and the cultural isolation caused by the war had, quite paradoxically, a positive impact on the experimental art scene.
In turn, the end of occupation and its attendant opportunities for once again travelling in Europe became crucial for the further development of – or emancipation from – the experiments conducted on the domestic art scene. The post-war years were characterised by a widespread sense for the necessity of reconstruction. Art was regarded as a means that could pave the way for the new, Utopian communities of the future.
Two main trends dominated Danish art during and after World War II. One is the spontaneous abstract painting that arose around 1940 by expanding Surrealist methods to encompass a free, spontaneous manner of painting. In their search for inspiration artists turned, among other things, towards legends and imagery from Denmark’s norse heritage. Asger Jorn was a key representative of the “Spontaneous-Abstract” artists, which also numbered figures such as Egill Jacobsen, Ejler Bille, and Else Alfelt. After the end of Denmark’s occupation Jorn returned to Paris, where he took part in the formation of groupings such as CoBrA and the international Situationist movement.
The second main trend is the geometric abstraction that emerged just after the war. Richard Mortensen and Robert Jacobsen were leading figures in the circle that formed the group LINIEN II in 1947. Their dream was to develop a pure, objective visual language that everyone could understand. They spoke of “Concretion” as a designation for a vein of art that was solely about itself and its own rules.
Several media, such as film and sound, became the object of their explorative experiments. Shortly after the war Mortensen and Jacobsen came into contact with Galerie Denise René in Paris, and the gallery’s French and Danish artists became closely associated.