Reconsidering Figurative, Graphic Art of the 1950s Danish Art Scene: The “Man” Exhibitions (1956-1959)

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The article contributes to a revision of today’s understanding of the 1950s Danish art scene. By presenting three exhibitions and analysing the reception of them, I point out that figurative art enjoyed a much more central role than later accounts have recognised. All three exhibitions were entitled Mennesket (Man), and featured figurative, graphic art, concerned with depictions of the human figure and with the post-war psychological condition of the individual human being. Among the artists were Palle Nielsen, Svend Wiig Hansen, Dan Sterup-Hansen and Henry Heerup. The exhibitions took place in the Copenhagen gallery Clausens Kunsthandel during the years 1956-59 and attracted much attention and critical acclaim. In short, the artists’ intentions were to portray the human condition in a time which they considered unhappy, and their depictions of “the strange, seeking and divided […] creature we call man” made many critics praise the artists for the relevance of their portrayals of the human situation.
Original languageEnglish
Volume 20
Issue number 4
Pages (from-to)324-341
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Danish art
  • Cold war
  • 1950-1959
  • Fine Arts
  • Performing Arts
  • Visual Arts

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