Join us for a journey through barricades, barren landscapes and celestial bodies as ARKEN presents Else Alfelt’s poetic world

19 March to 18 September 2022


Else Alfelt, Full Moon, 1956. Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum

Luminous mountains and lonely moons enter ARKEN in the summer of 2022 as we present a major exhibition of Else Alfelt’s work, focusing on her ability to evoke a sense of intimacy, presence and healing. The exhibition showcases a fascinating life’s work full of inner and outer landscapes that capture, with rare sensitivity, the human quest for immersion and harmony in an often chaotic world. Created in close collaboration with the Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum, the show is the artist’s first retrospective for the last 20 years.

Else Alfelt, Stromboli, 1958. Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum

Art in times of change

Else Alfelt was active during times of great upheaval. She was a child during the First World War and made a name for herself as an artist in the 1930s and 40s, achieving her international breakthrough at a point in time where many pressing existential questions for humanity were on the agenda. The world wars prompted keen self-scrutiny and a need for reconstruction, and art had to be operative for the individual human being. In response, Alfelt created a light-filled and colourful world that invites us into nature’s undulating and jagged forms and out into the cosmos. Among her luminous works we can find calm, depth and dynamism, and today we could certainly use some of the healing radiating from her works.

Between heaven and earth

Right from the outset of her career, Else Alfelt’s imagery is full of recurring figures such as sharp points, spirals and circles that direct one’s thoughts towards mountains, crystals and cosmic celestial bodies – not least the moon. These elements reflect her own sensuous encounters with nature, imbued with a strong sense of immediacy and presence. With her works, she conveys an experience of presence and dissolved time, which she herself articulates in this description of her experience of the mountains:


‘I think mountains are a boundary between the real and the unreal, they are the place where heaven and earth meet […] When I walk in the mountains, I feel this fantastic sense of connection with all times. Nothing here is linked to a specific time, I believe that this is how the world was at the very beginning, and this is how it will be at the end. It is a place of enduring certainty in a world that is constantly changing.’

– Else Alfelt

A groundbreaking woman artist

Else Kirsten Tove Alfelt (1910–74) was a central and pioneering figure at the time when Danish art had to redefine itself around the Second World War. Though self-taught, she was everywhere on the artistic avant-garde scene. She achieved an international breakthrough, exhibiting her work in the United States and France. Together with Carl-Henning Pedersen, with whom she formed a couple from 1933, she was part of the circle around the journal Helhesten (1941–44) and of the international Cobra movement (1948–51). She was one of the many women artists of the time who played a crucial role but were later written out of art history. With her original and consistent style, she is an important artist in a Danish and international context who, with her focus on immediacy, presence and healing, has something very special to offer us today.


Else Alfelt at Den Frie 1960. Photo: Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum