Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, untitled , circa 1935-36. Pastel on paper, 32,5 x 28,5 cm Collection N. Stockmarr. Centre Pompidou

The faithful of the House of Denmark are already familiar with it, since this high-place of the Danish culture was exposed to the 142, avenue des Champs-Elysées in 2012. This is the first full retrospective in France devoted to the Danish artist Sonja Ferlov Mancoba (1911-1984), performed with the national Gallery of Copenhagen, in this French institution that is the Centre Pompidou (120 works on display, 60 drawings + 60 sculptures).

to be fair, it is his fellow countryman Jonas Storsve, curator of the Cabinet of graphic art and the curator of the magnificent retrospective Cy Twombly at the centre Pompidou in 2017, who is the commissioner.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, The fighter , 1961. Plaster, private collection © Anders Sune Berg © Adagp, Paris, 2019 Centre Pompidou

“His sculptures and drawings borrowed from the arts, african and pre-columbian up to the surrealism. Anthropomorphic, his works reveal a way of thinking about the individual as a being in perpetual becoming, to redraw the borders of the body, both formal and spiritual,” he says.

Close to the Cobra group, this sculptor, modernist queen of the archipelago but unknown in France, is the result of the bourgeoisie of Copenhagen, where she attends first classical training. It finds its inspiration in surrealism and primitive art.

“Sonja Ferlov Mancoba began studying painting in 1931, and binds with the new generation of Danish artists (Richard Mortensen, Ejler Bille, Hans Øllgaard and Vilhem Bjerke-Petersen). The founders of the group Linien in 1934 and the magazine of the same name, they defend the sides of Sonja Ferlov an art emancipated and committed, binding, abstraction and surrealism, and pose, the outlines of the design, spontaneous abstract, destined to play a major role in the artistic life of the scandinavian during and after the war. After his first paintings, Sonja Ferlov turns to sculpture, experimenting with the clay or using objects found in nature,” explains the connoisseur of modern art and the history of the stage Danish.

With Giacometti and Max Ernst, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Sculpture , 1940-46, Bronze © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Audrey Laurans/ Dist. RMN-GP © Adagp, Paris, 2019 Audrey LAURANS Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Mask , the outbreak of war, 1939. PlâtreSilkeborg, Museum Jorn, © Anders Sune Berg © Adagp, Paris, 2019 Centre Pompidou

In 1936, she moved as a young artist in Paris. Listed in the Fine Arts, she rented a studio near that of Alberto Giacometti, with whom it binds friendship. It can also be found in Max Ernst.

“The visit of Sonja Ferlov to Giacometti in 1937, deserves to be further examined. Giacometti’s going to be a very important character for Ferlov: it will become for her a friend, a model and one of the artists who influence him very concrete examples of its practice. He is the one who has suggested how to combine the organic and the inorganic in its sculptures”, analyse Dorthe Aagesen and Mikkel Bogh of Statens Musem for Kunst, Copenhagen.

She met in 1939, the south african artist Ernest Mancoba, the wife in 1942. At the beginning of the war, she moved to Denmark for a few months, before returning to Paris to join Ernest Mancoba, soon to be interned in the camp of prisoners of war in German la Grande Caserne in Saint-Denis.

During the war, it creates Sculpture (1940-1946), seminal work in his career which marks his method of work to be both spontaneous and rooted in a process of continuous metamorphosis. Moulded in plaster in 1946, Sculpture will be the subject of a limited number of prints in bronze, a copy of which has been acquired by the national Museum of modern art (Mnam) in 2018.

Fates calm

After a test rough in Denmark, it was in France that she will anchor. Having suffered racial intolerance in Denmark, the family moved to the autumn of 1952 in the village Oigny-en-Valois, around 80km north-east of Paris. “The years of Oigny have brought me great riches that I have kept all my life, and that are part of the foundations on which rests all my subsequent expression. The wilderness of the surrounding forests, as well as the relationship with the community tiny and closed in the village, many remarkable people whom I have followed so closely the fates calm and without glow during these years, I have generously passed on their wisdom and their poetry”, said Sonja Ferlov Mancoba in a letter to T. Andersen in 1979.

The family moved permanently to Paris in 1961. The artist began a series of sculptures of larger format. His works are available then in ‘figures referring to some of the sacred, the shape is thoroughly with the idea of being plural and composite, in a dynamic of movement and motion”. During the last decades of his life, Sonja Ferlov Mancoba is regularly exhibited in its country of origin and occasionally in France.

It enjoys high recognition in Denmark and received in 1971 the medal Thorvaldsen, one of the highest honors in denmark for visual arts. His work is present in museums Danish: Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Holstebro Kunstmuseum, Den Kongelige kobberstiksamling, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Brandts Museum of Photographic Art, Moderna Museet, Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Statens Museum for Kunst, Kunsten – Museum of modern Art Aalborg.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba , until the 23rd of sept, Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou (IVe), which is a sequel to the one proposed in winter 2018-2019 by the National Gallery of Copenhagen. Access: metro Hotel de Ville and Rambuteau, RER Châtelet-Les-Halles. Tel.: 01 44 78 12 33. Opening hours: every days, except Tuesday, from 11 h to 21 h. Price: 14 €, reduced 11 €, free for children under 18 years of age. Catalogue under the direction of Jonas Storsve, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 160 pages, 32€ (30,40 price clearer).

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Skeleton of the spirit , 1984. Bronze © SMK Photo/Jakob Skou-Hansen © The estate of Ferlov Mancoba © Adagp, Paris, 2019 Centre Pompidou