© Per Kirkeby Estate

Nature Morte I, 1987

Per Kirkeby (1938–2018, DNK)

Medium: Oil on linen
Dimensions: 200 x 110 cm

about the work

A great interest in nature and its permutations engaged the Dane Per Kirkeby as he studied geology at the University of Copenhagen, in which he graduated with a PhD, and then rediscovered in his career as an artist. In 1962 he joined the avant-garde artist group Den Eksperimenterende Kunstskole in Copenhagen. Kirkeby was not only involved in painting here but also sculpture, installation, performance, film and graphic arts and even architecture. In 1978 he moved his home and workplace from Denmark to Germany. His many years as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe and the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main made him a permanent fixture in the German art scene. Per Kirkeby’s work is distinguished by its interplay with art history. His œuvre can be divided into four groups of works: still life, landscapes, animal paintings and religious subjects. He therefore always cites recurring genres in the history of art, but assimilates them in his abstract imagery. The brandishing brushstroke and several superimposed layers of paint are characteristic of Kirkeby’s work. He thus produces a transparent, almost romantically suggestive but abstract image of nature at the same time.

Kirkeby created several series of paintings in the 1980s. Using methods of repetition, variation and transformation the artist was able to transfer his source of inspiration, nature, into his distinctive abstract imagery. His five-part series Nature Morte from 1987, which also includes the work in the Reinhard Ernst Collection, shows the culmination of how Kirkeby’s still life paintings developed. While distinct contour lines still make subjects identifiable in his earlier still life paintings, the individual painted areas represent the subject here. The contour lines are alienated to become ornamental sequences of images.

Kirkeby took part in numerous international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, the documenta in Kassel, but also the Biennale in São Paolo. In 2008, the Danish Louisiana Museum of Modern Art dedicated a large-scale retrospective to the artist. Per Kirkeby died in Copenhagen on 9 May 2018.

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