THE HARDBOILED EGGS OF NATURE
STONE ART BY HENRY HEERUP
In Henry Heerup’s garden at Kamstrupvej 96, Rødovre, several hundred stone sculptures emerged from the soil like living creatures rather than invaluable works of art. They were created under the open sky when Heerup carved his way through the cold and darkness of winter and testify to his deep love for rock as material. ‘Nature’s hard-boiled eggs’ as he used to call the hard granite which wind and weather had shaped from a liquid to a solid state in the course of millennia.
UNIQUE STONE WORKS FROM FIVE DECADES
With the exhibition THE HARDBOILED EGGS OF NATURE – STONE ART BY HENRY HEERUP, the Heerup Museum dedicates, for the first time, a whole exhibition to Heerup’s diverse stone art, inviting visitors to delve into big and small sculptures produced through various techniques and rock types as well as floor-to-ceiling photostats of rare pictures from Heerup’s garden and carving spots.
Stones had been Heerup’s loyal companion for five decades and they continued to develop in his industrious and strong hands. From the 1930s to the 1970s when his popularity peaked, he carved tonnes of soulful stone sculptures which, in time, left his garden to find homes in private collections, international CoBrA exhibitions, large Danish museums and in the public space.
FROM BOOK TO EXHIBITION
This exhibition is created as an extension of the book THE HARDBOILED EGGS OF NATURE – HEERUP’S STONE SCULPTURES published in 2018. Anni Lave Nielsen, museum director at the Heerup Museum, perused sketchbooks, newspaper articles, exhibition catalogues, and photographic material in order to get a thorough overview of Heerup’s collected stone production and to gain insight into his relationship with stone as material.
This extensive research now forms the background for a fresh staging of more than eighty popular stone sculptures including major works such as Mozart, Leda og svanen (Leda and the Swan), and Nanna i stol (Nanna in Her Chair) and with a special focus on Heerup’s stone art in the public space. Quite uniquely, the Heerup Museum got permission from the youth centre Vesterbro Ungdomsgård to loan their beautiful sculpture group from 1963 for the exhibition. It enhances the narrative of Heerup as an artist with a broad popular appeal whose works were loved by ordinary people and became a central part of Danish art history.
YOU’VE GOT TO LOVE GRANITE
‘I don’t work like classical sculptors’, Heerup was at pains to emphasise and it was precisely the non-academic approach to sculpture that proved decisive to his artistic breakthrough. As part of a new onrushing avant-garde in the 1930s, abandoning traditional sculptural techniques in favour of freer and more spontaneous expressions, Heerup won acclaim for his spontaneous and imaginative narratives in stone. He became known as Hugga and hammer and chisel work remained central to his artistic universe.
The defining contour line from his paintings and prints was given new life in the surface of stones in the form of well-known symbols like the heart, the cross, and the horn of plenty as well as abstract shapes and imaginative self-images like the elf. Nonetheless, the specific character of the stone – its inherent shapes, structures, and colours – remained the inspirational source.
‘One feels tiny compared to such a lump of nature,’ said Heerup. His relationship with stones was based on respect and admiration, since he sensed it as a link between the never-ending cyclical process of nature and the artist’s sensitivity. He understood the possibilities and limitations of the material and, in the carving process, he was fascinated by the natural resistance he encountered in this powerful material. According to Heerup, this could only be surmounted through love. He carved into these massive stones a link between past stone art and present-day modern human life full of narrative power.
In his garden the many stones peered at you with lively expectant eyes behind sheds, furniture, trees, and artworks, ready to activate the imagination and senses of visitors. Many of these are now reunited at the Heerup Museum!