The outbreak of the Second World War Denmark severed all connections with other countries. With a group of contemporaries, including the painters Egill Jacobsen, Ejler Bille, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Jorn made plans for a journal as a forum for artistic ideas. It was named Hellhesten (Horse of Hell), an animal spelling death, a title preferred to more belligerent or neutral names. In 1941 he published the article Banalities in Hellhesten, which could be regarded as his first art-theoretical manifesto. The years of occupation were extremely fertile for Danish contemporary music, poetry and art, and in Hellhesten reflections of these fields could be found.
Whilst taking Rimbaud and Baudelaire as his point of departure, Jorn formulated a program for his subsequent artistic activities: "The artist's interest cannot be restricted to a single field; he must seek the highest perception of everything, of the whole and its details. Nothing can be sacred to him, because everything has become important to him" (Banalities, pp. 76-77). Rimbaud wrote: "I loved the idiotic images, fanlights, stage scenery, booth curtains, signs, cheap broadsheets, old-fashioned literature, medieval Latin, the erotic books filled with spelling mistakes, the novels of our forefathers, fairytales, children's books, old operas, empty refrains, simple rhytm" (Arthur Rimbaud, A season in Hell, quoted in Troels Andersen: Asger Jorn. En biografi. Arene 1914-53 (Borgen, 1994, p. 87). And Jorn concludes: "There can be no question of selecting in any direction, but of a penetrating the whole cosmic law of rhythms, forces and material that are the real world, from the ugliest to the most beautiful; everything that has a character and expression, from the crudest and most brutal to the gentlest and most delicate; everything that speaks to us in its capacity of life "(Banalities, p. 77).
At an early stage Asger Jorn recognised a self-contained language and means of perception. He saw Jung's archetypes manifest themselves as images, as did the Surrealists. Jorn's work ranged from single figures to multi-faceted landscapes with animalistic shapes and a colour scheme indebted to early Danish expressionism.
He deliberately tried to unite the inspiration from modern art in Europe with the Danish tradition, underlining that there was not one, but several intersecting lines in recent Danish art. This also to some extent could be said about Hommage à Baudelaire and other works from this period. The imagery of surrealist painting (i.e. the birds of Max Ernst, the mask paintings by Egill Jacobsen in the mid 1930s, Carl-Henning Pedersen's cosmic imagery and Ejler Bille's meticulous work with its multitude of independent forms) merged in Jorn's work at its best in poetic-erotic language.
In Hommage à Baudelaire the solemn and poetic associations originate from their natural Danish setting. Jorn acknowledged being indebted to literature. He had an urgent need of the mythical, so typical of the Scandinavian culture. This work shows spontaneity and expressive power, characteristic for an important period in the development of Jorn's artistic career.
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