Asger Jorn

Il Delinquente (The Delinquent)

Jorn Il Deliquente Galerie Van Der Loo 1500 - © Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
  • Asger Jorn
  • Il Delinquente (The Delinquent)
  • 1956
  • Oil on canvas
  • 114 cm x 146 cm
  • Galerie van de Loo - © Donation Jorn, Silkeborg/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

Asger Jorn, along with Guy Debord (1931–1994) and Michèle Bernstein (b. 1932), was a co-founder of the revolutionary avant-garde Situationist International movement. Jorn painted Il Delinquente (1956) while he was experimenting with surface textures in an attempt to both destabilize the purity of painting and corrupt the transcendent gesture of much postwar abstraction. Working with various ceramic glazes and a technique of smudging and scratching the painted surfaces, he emphasized the grotesque and the uncertain over the more calligraphic and expressive tendencies of his peers. The figure in Il Delinquente – emerging from (or existing within) a field of smudged colors that recall blood, mud, or excrement – evoke wretchedness and atrophy in its treatment and title. The figure was created with a dripping and scratching technique that suggests the work of Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) or Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985), but without the graphic rhythm of the former or the defined shapes of the latter. Jorn’s tongue-in-cheek nature reveals itself in the wryly humorous title of his work, which confronts the pretentious, hyperbolic rhetoric surrounding abstract expressionism and art informel.

Damian Lentini

Biography of Asger Jorn

  • Born 1914 in Vejrum, Jutland, Denmark
  • Died 1973 in Århus, Denmark
Asger Jorn, along with Guy Debord (1931–1994) and Michèle Bernstein (b. 1932), was a co-founder of the revolutionary avant-garde Situationist International movement. Jorn first studied teaching at the Vinthers Seminarium, Silkeborg, before moving to Paris in 1936 to study painting; first with Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), and later Fernand Léger (1881–1955) at the Académie Contemporaine (Contemporary Art Academy). Jorn returned to Denmark in 1937, studying at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi (Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), Copenhagen, before the German occupation of Denmark in 1942, after which he joined the city’s communist resistance. The postwar period was Jorn’s most productive. He was a co-founder of the avant-garde CoBrA group in Paris in 1948 and was a key figure in the “International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus,” a CoBrA offshoot. With the French lettrist Guy Debord, he helped form the Situationist International in 1957. Jorn’s work was exhibited widely in the 1950s and ’60s, including major exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Louisiana Museum, Denmark. Most famously, he refused the 1964 Guggenheim Prize, responding to the announcement with a scathing telegram that accused the museum of trying to promote itself by including an artist “against his will.”