Heerup & Mathiesen


At the peak of his artistic career, the Danish artist Henry Heerup (1907–93) was well-represented not only in Denmark, but also at a number of major exhibitions at e.g. MoMA, Guggenheim, and the Smithsonian, USA. The emergence of spontaneous abstract painting in Europe, culminating with the artists’ association CoBrA, also sent reverberations abroad during the 1960s–70s, in earnest elevating Heerup from the national to the international art scene.

In the autumn of 2019, the Heerup Museum shows a colourful dialogue exhibition featuring the Danish-American ceramicist and visual artist Gert Mathiesen (1951–2013). Heerup and Mathiesen are both colourful artists with popular appeal who, in different ways, looked to an ancient Nordic figurative language and evolved a painting style characterised by simple colourful symbolism.

Gert Mathiesen grew up in Denmark and was formed artistically by a Europe marked by optimism and the development of a free and spontaneous figurative language. After having emigrated to the USA in 1986, he abandoned the clay for the brush and canvas, benefitting fully from the Nordic and popular pictorial tradition which Heerup and his generation had carved out decades earlier.

From his base in New York, Mathiesen evolved his own artistic expression by merging his Danish roots with impressions from hectic everyday life in New York City. With the exhibition DK – US HEERUP & MATHIESEN, an interesting dialogue unfolds between the works of two artists who, in spite of being separated by their path in life and times, had a common interest in life’s big questions embedded in the banalities of everyday life.

It gives us great pleasure, therefore, to introduce Gert Mathiesen’s powerful paintings and graphical works to a Danish audience. In spite of an extensive professional life with ceramics and visual art in both Denmark and the USA, this is the first time Mathiesen’s works are shown in a Danish art museum. The exhibition draws fresh parallels between Denmark and the USA, and the international magnitude of Heerup’s characteristic pictorial language becomes the subject of debate.

The exhibition is generously supported by Augustinus Fonden.