Jens Jensen


Jens Jensen


Unrealized Pottery Design III

Ink on Paper
6 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches

Signed Lower Right

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The Paintings Jens Jacob Herring Krug Jensen (1898 -1978) was first known for his ceramic decoration at Cincinnati’s celebrated Rookwood Pottery from 1928 -1948.  His “modern” representation of plants, animals, and nudes diverged from the more conservative Rookwood norm, thus he stands out among his peers at the Pottery.  Although art collectors and scholars are often most familiar with this aspect of the artist’s production, it is instead his two-dimensional work that provides a more candid revelation about the images and themes he revered, and which provides an understanding of his oeuvre.

Jensen left his hometown of Assens, Denmark to move to New York in 1927.  An artist with multiple interests and talents, Jensen brought with him knowledge of the international art world.  Formal analysis of Jensen’s paintings reveals that he was quite aware of international art movements and their significant contributors.  Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), and George Rousult (1871-1958) are but a few of the European artists Jensen viewed with obvious respect.  It should be noted, however, that while Jensen absorbed traits from various artists, the resulting work is decidedly his own amalgamation of Scandinavian, central and southern European, and American artistic treatment.

For Jensen, art and life were inextricably woven together and the manner in which he painted his striking oils on paper is a product of his own personal momentum.  Those who knew him attest to his unfailing energy.  Hovering over a tall stack of paper, Jensen would soak a rag in turpentine and oil paint.  Suddenly, the artist blocked in large sections of color.  After drenching the paper with color, he would gaze at the spectrum created, often only then determining the image it beckoned.  To create the composition, be it a portrait, an abstraction, or a still life, Jensen used heavy black lines overlayed on the color.  On other occassions, the black outline came first, providing form to a face, nude, stylized animal or abstract design.

At first glance, viewers tend to compare Jensen with Picasso, and clearly, a number of formal and stylistic techniques can be correlated between the two artists.  Upon further scrutiny, however, it becomes quite clear that not only were the aims of both artists different, but the works themselves are quite distinguishable.  It would be more accurate to say that Jensen utilized Picasso’s formal techniques merely as a stepping stone to his own individual style.  

Compulsively creative both in intellectual forays as well as in artistic endeavors, Jensen was a multi-faceted artist whose achievements extend beyond the label of Rookwood decorator.  He successfully transferred this intensity to his painted works which are now appropriately interpreted as his true passion and artistic conviction.  

Jensen’s significant exhibition history began in 1939 at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.  In addition, his works have been shown at The Riverside Museum in New York (1941); the Cincinnati Modern Art Society (now the Contemporary Arts Center) in 1942, the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, New York (now the Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse) in 1946; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1946); the Cincinnati Art Museum (1933 and 1992); and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Orlando (1995).  His works, both painting and ceramic, are in numerous permanent collections including the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Museum of Ceramics, Faenza, Italy, and private collections nationwide.

 - Lisa Wienczkowski Eldred