By the 1950s, Heerup had fully developed his expression and his career was up and running. This decade was characterised by high levels of creativity and productivity. He embarked with great joy on several large-scale embellishment commissions at schools, theatres, and gable ends like the acclaimed ‘milk gable end’ in Sølvgade, Copenhagen, in 1953.

Heerup developed the small format in posters, logos, catalogue covers, and even stamps. Even children’s books and songbooks. Skralde og Kladde from 1952 was written for and about his children Ole and Nanna and children’s universe provided a wonderful playground for Heerup, who later created the book Nis og Nutte and a burlesque children’s book about Mozart, published posthumously. Also, the songbook Fløjte Huggas Billedbog from 1953, with a number of Heerup’s many musical compositions closely linked to text and pictures testify to a quirky preoccupation with the universe of children.

At the same time, Heerup was busily engaged in printmaking. Notably a series of black-and-white lithos stands out. In the manner of a true finder of things, Heerup appropriated the old lithography printing stones from the lithographer Christian Sørensen. He brought them back to his garden where he developed the many motifs with a keen sense of the irregularities of the stones.

Furthermore, Heerup created a series of ’fantasies’ in large-scale linocuts – all based on his role models Hans Christian Andersen, Mozart, and especially Rembrandt. ‘True love never dies,’[1] Heerup said about his lifelong admiration for the Dutch painter whose fateful life he addressed repeatedly. Heerup described his lino work as ‘an indoor pursuit for long dark winter evenings.’[2]

His linocuts were usually black-and-white. A deliberate choice symbolising the dramatic seasonal changes between light and darkness. ’The black-and-white vision’ as he called it[3] was a stringent and contrasting expression reserved for this particular material which, contrary to e.g. the lithograph, could be worked up at home in his small flat. Hence, many of the popular black-and-white motifs were initially published in very small editions during the 1950s and only later reissued in large editions.

In the linocut På livsvejen (Travelling the Road of Life), we see Heerup on his bike, now moving along a road of life in the shape of a tube of red paint. Behind him, there is a female figure: Heerup had fallen in love again after the divorce from Mille. The woman with the long black hair is Marion Carla Edith Hansen, née Brock (1911–99). She, too, was interested in art. She was a conservator and in her work to restore e.g. frescos, she discovered great similarities with Heerup’s work with symbols, planes, and contours. She became his secretary and preferred female model and, in 1958, his wife.

Another development in Heerup’s life was the great number of travels abroad during the 1950s. Only now did he start travelling after the border closures resulting from World War II. His travels took him to e.g. the major exhibition at MoMA in 1950, the CoBrA exhibition in Belgium in 1951, and to Holland in 1957, or he was invited to join study trips arranged by the Academy. The destinations were Italy (1950, 1954), Spain (1952), Turkey (1954), Greece (1954), Poland (1955), Norway (1955), Sweden (1955), Germany (1958), and the Netherlands (1960).

Heerup worked the many impressions of foreign cultures and traditions into his works where everything from Spanish dockers and matadors, Greek temples and mill stones to beggars and nuns found their way into Heerup’s otherwise typically Danish universe of elves or ‘Madam Blue’ kitchenware. As a whole, Heerup’s travelogues recall a continuous social-realist interest in people’s everyday lives and chores across national borders.

[1] Virtus Schade: Heerup, p. 40

[2] Henry Heerup: Min Arbejdsbog, p. 13

[3] Henry Heerup: Min Arbejdsbog, p. 13

[4] Allan Daugaard Hansen: Heerup, p. 234

[5] Virtus Schade: Heerup, p. 28