Heerup & Mathiesen


At the peak of his artistic career, the Danish artist Henry Heerup (1907-93) was highly visible not only in Denmark, but also in a number of important exhibitions at MOMA, the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian in the United States. In the 1960s and 1970s, the development of spontaneous abstract painting in Europe, which had culminated in the formation of the CoBrA group of artists, also struck a responsive chord abroad, seriously launching Heerup’s career on the international art scene.

In autumn 2019, the Heerup Museum will be presenting a colourful ‘dialogue’ exhibition, featuring works by the Danish-American potter and painter, Gert Mathiesen (1951-2013). Heerup and Mathiesen were two popular, colourful artists, each in his own way rooted in Old Norse imagery, creating painting with simple, powerful symbolism.

Gert Mathiesen grew up in Denmark, but received his artistic education in a Europe where optimism and the development of free, spontaneous imagery were the order of the day. After emigrating to the United States in 1986, he left behind clay and turned to brush and canvas, revelling in the Nordic, popular pictorial tradition, which Heerup and his generation had initiated some decades earlier. From his base in New York, Mathiesen developed his own artistic expression, fusing his Danish roots with impressions from the frenzied everyday life of the Big Apple. This exhibition will feature a fascinating dialogue between works by two artists who, despite being separated in terms of life trajectory and time, had a similar interest in life’s big questions as they crop up in simple day-to-day existence.

That is why it will be such a great pleasure to introduce Gert Mathiesen’s powerful paintings and graphic works to a Danish audience. Despite a long career in ceramics and visual art in both Denmark and the United States, this will be the very first presentation of Mathiesen’s works in a Danish art museum. The exhibition with Heerup and Mathiesen will forge fresh links between Denmark and the United States and kindle discussion about the international strength of Heerup’s distinctive imagery.