Now that Jorn’s work can be seen in perspective and viewed as a whole, he stands beside Edvard Munch as a major figure in Northern European painting. He was thirty in 1944 when Munch died, and their contributions are, of course, very different. Munch painted picture after picture of the lonely individual searching for companionship with his fellow men and with nature. For Munch these were the important human considerations. Whereas Jorn, always surrounded by others, examined his situation critically and with scepticism, irony and humor. At the same time he sought to develop his Nordic vision within a long historical perspective.
Not many of the articles written on Jorn during his lifetime capture more than a fraction of his mental processes or modes of expression. But one of the statements which struck home came from Werner Haftmann, who spoke about him as a »night person«. Jorn pondered this phrase, which, he said, »Shocked me enormously because my most conscious need is my longing for light«.
Museum Jorn’s history and collections are characterised by the longstanding commitment of local art enthusiasts and artists, particularly Asger Jorn. Museum Jorn’s history goes back to 1940, when the museum association of Silkeborg and Environs purchased its first works of art. Among these initial purchases were the works of the exhibition association of ‘Frie Jyske Malere’ (‘Free Painters of Jutland’). Eleven years later, in 1951, a space dedicated to modern art was furnished by the local historical museum in Silkeborg Hovedgård (Silkeborg Manor). This little museum exhibited antiquities, object relating to local history, furnishings from the paper manufacturer, Drewsens villa, and paintings from the museum’s art collections. In 1953, the museum association paid Jorn to work exclusively in ceramics at a pottery in Sorring, north of Silkeborg, for some weeks. In exchange, the museum selected several of Jorn’s ceramic works. In the following year, a designated Asger Jorn room was established in the newly restored premises at Silkeborg Hovedgård. During 1954–61, Asger Jorn presented a substantial collection of modern art to the Silkeborg Museum, both his own and that of other artists. Jorn’s idea was that the Silkeborg Museum would be a centre for modern, international art – a collection people would seek out – and in 1959 he organised the New international artexhibition, which presented a picture of current trends in art, as Jorn experienced them.
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