Robert Jacobsen 1912-1993
Robert Jacobsen (1912-1993) is undeniably the sculptor in Denmark in the 20th century whose expression stands out the most. As a young man he became part of an art scene that centred on the art dealers Henning Larsens Kunsthandel in Vognmagergade in Copenhagen. Here he met e.g. the Danish artists Søren Hjorth Nielsen and Wilhelm Freddie. He was also greatly influenced by an exhibition in 1932 held at Den Frie in Copenhagen, where Jacobsen saw works by e.g. Paul Klee and W. Kandinsky.
As a sculptor, from c. 1930 he worked first with aerated concrete blocks before moving on especially to wood. From 1932 he moved further and further away from the naturalistic expression. From the mid-1940s he worked in granite and marble, with fabulous creatures as motifs to begin with. Later the block was hollowed out more and more so the material looked as if it framed the space. From the end of the 1940s working with black-painted, welded iron became of crucial significance for Jacobsen’s ability to create his elegant and powerful free-standing sculptures known as 'rum-skulpturer'. Several of the sculptures contain a mobile element.
Robert Jacobsen exhibited at the Danish Artists’ Autumn Exhibition 1942-45, together with the friends who later on became part of COBRA: Asger Jorn, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Egill Jacobsen. But especially the friendship and collaboration with Richard Mortensen and the time they spent together in France was of vital significance. After Mortensen’s and Jacobsen’s exhibition in Copenhagen at Galleri Tokanten in 1946 they went together to the house for Danish artists in Suresnes, near Paris. The two artists soon came in contact with Galerie Denise René in Paris and the circle of artists the same age as them associated with the gallery: Poliakoff, Deyrolle, Dewasne and Vasarely – but also the slightly older painters, Herbin and Magnelli. The stringent abstract design language was championed in this group. In the years to follow Robert Jacobsen exhibited a series of free-standing iron sculptures but also iron reliefs termed 'drawings in iron'. At the same time Jacobsen also produced a range of works in ink and paper, where arches and a few concise graphic characters underline the desire to achieve simplicity also in two-dimensional works.
Already in 1935 Jacobsen had begun to produce his first 'dolls' out of various discarded items. But also later on in Suresnes and the surrounding area he found scrap materials on the roads and at rubbish tips, which he welded together in a fanciful and whimsical way. The 200 or so 'dolls' radiate poetry, warmth, audacity and humour and also have an element of playfulness. A little later on Jacobsen invented a range of figurative reliefs that he called 'personnages' or 'rencontres' (meetings). These can be grotesque or gruesome in their expression. While the 'dolls' were composed of worn-out bicycle chains, screws, etc, the 'personages' were made of rough iron pieces and steel wire. In the 1960s Jacobsen produced a range of powerful wood reliefs and reliefs made of wood and iron combined. In 1966 he was awarded (together with the Frenchman Etienne Martin) first prize in the large sculpture category at the Venice Biennale.
Robert Jacobsen was professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich 1962-82 and professor of Walls and Space at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art’s School of Sculpture 1976-83. Han has been awarded a series of distinguished prizes, e.g. the Thorvaldsens Medal (1967), Prince Eugen Medal (1974) and Ordres des Arts et des Lettres (1987). Jacobsen, who lived in France until he moved back to Denmark in 1969, has exhibited in solo and joint exhibitions in Denmark and internationally. He has expressed himself in ink on paper, oil on wooden panel, painted aerated concrete block, hand-coloured etching, oil on rice paper, serigraph, glass and wall reliefs, and sculptures in iron, wood, marble and limestone.
Additionally Jacobsen has produced a large number of monumental sculptures in his native Denmark –
in the cities of Esbjerg, Odense, Lindø, Billund, Copenhagen and Aalborg – and abroad – e.g. Meymac near Abbeaye Saint-André, Centre d’Art Contemporain in France (1991), a group of sculptures at the company Würth Künzelsau in Germany (1992) and finally a sculpture for UNESCO’s headquarters opposite the Eiffel Tower in Paris (1993).
Robert Jacobsen created this last-mentioned 6-metre high sculpture in the summer of 1992 at the request of UNESCO. The request was made after the inauguration ceremony for a sculpture in Meymac, at which the French Minister of Culture Lang’s permanent secretary Francois Barre said: 'The two greatest sculptors of this century are Giacometti and Robert Jacobsen'.