The Sculptor Gottfred Eickhoff

From February 12 to June 5, 2016

Gottfred Eickhoff: Sun Girls, 1972. Frederiksberg Kommune.
Gottfred Eickhoff: Sun Girls, 1972. Frederiksberg Kommune.

A new exhibition at Thorvaldsens Museum takes a close look at the sculptor Gottfred Eickhoff, who was an important Danish sculptor in the twentieth century.

Artist with an international outlook

At a time when art often became abstract, Gottfred Eickhoff (1902-1982) insisted on the rendering of the figurative. Contrary to the tendency of his time he placed the emphasis on the natural, ‘grounded’ human being.

The sculpture Women working in the beet fields is an example of Eickhoff’s ability to depict the straightforward – and yet archetypal. The inspiration came from the women Eickhoff saw working in the sugar beet fields on the island of Lolland in the 1930s. As homage to the women a sculpture of them was erected on the square in the town of Sakskøbing. Later, Women working in the beet fields has become a symbol of the migration to Lolland, when many Poles settled in Denmark and started families.

*Women working in the beet fields*. Plaster model in the Grand Hall at Thorvaldsens Museum.
*Women working in the beet fields*. Plaster model in the Grand Hall at Thorvaldsens Museum.

Another major work is Guapa from the 1940s, which was made in the early years of the German Occupation of Denmark. Eickhoff’s international outlook was strongly expressed in this sculpture, in which he used the battle against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War as an image of the battle against the German Occupation of Denmark. The combination of this outlook, the tight composition of his sculptures and the search for the absolutely essential made his art relevant in his time and a strong presence today. Guapa can normally be seen in Øregård Park in Gentofte, but during the exhibition period the sculpture is on loan to Thorvaldsens Museum.

A tribute to solidarity

Sun-girls, in front of the Central Library in Frederiksberg, is another of Eickhoff’s sculptures that stands in public space. Women working in the beet fields and Sun-girls both depict a sense of community and solidarity – Women working in the beet fields by forming a united front, and Sun-girls by forming a trio standing in a circle. Sun-girls can be experienced at the exhibition in various small plaster sketches that illustrate the artist’s work towards the finished sculpture.

About Gottfred Eickhoff (1902-1982)

Gottfred Eickhoff grew up in the Copenhagen suburb Frederiksberg in a middle-class home where his father expected that in time he would take over the family-owned engineering factory. But Eickhoff had artistic dreams, and after hesitating between various modes of artistic expression, it finally became clear to him in 1927 that he wanted to be a sculptor. His father was disappointed, but agreed to support his son financially, and in the autumn of 1927 Eickhoff went to Paris to train as a sculptor.

In the French capital Eickhoff became part of a Scandinavian artists’ milieu that cultivated sculptors like Maillol and Despiau. And in 1933 when he returned to Copenhagen, he was seen as a breath of fresh air. In 1955-72 he was a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and then he left the sculpture scene to pupils like Hein Heinsen, Poul Isbak and Hanne Varming.

About the exhibition

The exhibition The Sculptor Gottfred Eickhoff offers the viewer absorption in an original artistic universe created by an important sculptor in the twentieth century in the art of sculpture. The exhibition shows sculptures, sketch models and drawings by Eickhoff, and can be experienced both in interaction with Bertel Thorvaldsen’s works and in the special exhibition rooms on the basement floor. A book is to be published about Gottfred Eickhoff in connection with the exhibition.