In 1972, Heerup was finally recognised as a ’complete’ artist. Not just a sculptor, nor exclusively a painter. For the second time, he was selected to represent Denmark at the Venice Biennale – this time with paintings, sculptures, and prints. It saddened Heerup, at times, to be known or selected for only one aspect of his total oeuvre, but it is obvious today that his artistic work is characterised by major cohesion despite his choice of material or method.

In 1970, he executed five large-scale oil paintings for the Kampsax Kollegiet (student lodgings) in Lyngby which, in terms of motif, embrace both new and old. Literary and mythological references appear alongside Heerup’s familiar symbols. The contour lines light up the individual works and the colour scheme is typical of Heerup with a traditional use of complementary colours, but also with a touch of the almost fluorescent. Heerup’s painting was still characterised by the same courage and curiosity he had been exploring since his youth.

“In the same way that I mix colours on the palette, I mix motifs on the canvas or the Masonite panel. In spite of working from a sketch, changes may occur in the final stages of the work. I’m on a journey of discovery. Everything can inspire me: stirrings within me and without.” [1]

Heerup also tried his hand at completely new forms of expression when he, in the 1970s, entered into a number of unforgettable collaborations with e.g. the department store Irma and the Royal Copenhagen porcelain factory. An unrivalled production of e.g. posters, tins, brooches, and plates attest to the fact that Heerup was very much in demand, well, practically a brand in himself besides being able to meet the many different requests put to him. Also, they serve to tell the story of his insatiable joy of work and creativity. ‘The joy of work never lets you down,’ Heerup said. ’I think it’s a question of an eternal drive to work. It has a kind of staying power, which places it opposite other emotions.’[2]

In this way, the 1970s were characterised by countless exhibitions as in 1977 when Heerup’s seventieth birthday was celebrated with exhibitions in Nikolaj Church, at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum (now Kunsten Museum of Modern Art), Galerie Gammel Strand, and Holstebro Kunstmuseum. The population at large were interested in paying tribute to Heerup, but Heerup was also deeply concerned for them. He worked hard to make sure that art reached as many people as possible, especially via embellishment commissions in the public space or large editions of prints, e.g. in collaboration with art associations.

Most of all, he wanted to share the joy of being human with the viewer. His social instinct was deep-rooted and he emphasised humanistic values such as security, good health, work, and, of course, the family. Values linked to everyday life, contributing to cement his status of national heritage. ’I don’t want to sound conceited,’ Heerup said to the writer Virtus Schade, ’but I think it’s quite true that I have popular appeal. Meaning that people can understand me. People love it when they can lean on something.’[3]

[1] Henry Heerup: Min Arbejdsbog, p. 11

[2] Hvedekorn, no. 3, 1959

[3] Virtus Schade: Heerup, p. 143