The exhibition Women of Surrealism. Franciska Clausen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Elsa Thoresen makes Danish art history by showing the three female artists side by side for the first time ever in an extensive presentation of their Surrealist works from the successful years in the 1920s-1940s. The works consist of more than 100 paintings and paper works and show an abundance of surreal landscapes, complex figure compositions and poetic worlds.

Franciska Clausen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Elsa Thoresen all fell into oblivion after their heyday. However, the work of both Clausen and Kernn-Larsen has been shown in retrospective solo exhibitions in modern times, while this is the first time the less well-known work of Elsa Thoresen is shown.

Learning from the Best The exhibition’s presentation, communication and choice of works unite the three women artistically, while at the same time exploring their individual approaches to the ideas of Surrealism. By combining these three artists the exhibition also has an eye for the life stories of the three remarkable painters, whose paths crossed time and again in a time of artistic upheaval. As young students of art they were all absorbed in the innovations of the avant-garde within contemporary 1920s art. To learn from the best, they turned to the leading exponents for the new schools of art, which among other things brought them to Paris and Brussels. In Paris the Surrealist movement and its front figure, the poet André Breton, and his 1924 manifest had created a new path for art expressing a break with the prevailing set of values. The Surrealists wanted to break with the common sense-reasoning society and instead make dreams, the imagination and the unconscious their source of inspiration and guideline. Among other things, this led to new methods and motives in art.

The affiliations of Franciska Clausen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Elsa Thoresen, respectively, to Surrealism differed. They all interpreted its methods and ideas in figurative as well as abstract scenes. The three artists thus took Surrealism as their starting point for exploring inner landscapes, the psyche and various expressions in their art. They met in the 1930s around the Danish group of Surrealists in which Rita KernnLarsen and Elsa Thoresen were main actors.

The exhibition Women of Surrealism. Franciska Clausen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Elsa Thoresen breaks with the fact that while many are familiar with the male Danish exponents for Surrealism – Vilhelm Freddie, Richard Mortensen and Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen, among others – today few are familiar with the work and impact of Franciska Clausen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Elsa Thoresen within Danish Surrealist art. ‘The exhibition is in line with Kunstforeningen GL STRAND’s returning interest in female artists. Each in their own way the three artists are remarkable painters and women. They defy conventional contemporary views of women and thus risk their own social status – to go exploring and to allow themselves to be inspired by the great artists of the time. Today their work, inspired by the principles of Surrealism, holds a unique strength, poeticism and sense of wonder. We look forward to giving the general public a chance to experience them’, says Helle Behrndt, Director of Kunstforeningen GL STRAND. The exhibition is organised by MSJ – the Art Museum in Tønder, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND and Art Historian, MA Johan Zimsen Kristiansen in cooperation. The latter is the curator of the present presentation of Elsa Thoresen.