The Danish Avant-Garde and World War II : The Helhesten Collective book cover
1st Edition

The Danish Avant-Garde and World War II
The Helhesten Collective

ISBN 9781138605893
Published March 20, 2019 by Routledge
238 Pages 8 Color & 26 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This is the first book to focus on Helhesten (The Hell-Horse), an avant-garde artists’ collective active during the Nazi occupation of Denmark and one of the few tangible connections between radical European art groups from the 1920s to the 1960s. The Danes’ deliberately unskilled painterly abstraction, embrace of the tradition of dansk folkelighed (the popular) and its iterations of egalitarianism and consensus reform, called for the political relevance of art and interrogated the ideologies underlying culture itself. The group’s cultural activism presents an alternative trajectory of continuity, which challenges the customary view of World War II as a moment of artistic rupture.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1 Dansk Modernisme Reconsidered; 2 "What about Culture?" Interwar Politics, Art Criticism, and Experimental Art; 3 Helhesten and the War; 4 The New Realism; 5 Spring Is Here: 13 Artists in a Tent; Conclusion: Thank You for Being with Us

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Kerry Greaves is Mads Øvlisen Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Art History in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


"This work complicates histories of resistance activity under National Socialist occupation both in Denmark and in general through its nuanced reading of the ideology, publishing activities, and exhibition practices of the artists’ collective Helhesten. Dr. Greaves illuminates the group’s brilliant and strategic uses of Danish history, symbolism, and values, as well as the cultural aesthetics of the Nazi occupiers, in their cultural work between 1941 and 1945."

--Patricia G. Berman, Wellesley College