DETROIT, MICH.- The Detroit Institute of Arts
board of directors has approved the purchase of a work by Danish artist Rita Kernn-Larsen (1904-1998), furthering the museums goal of increasing the number of works by women artists in the collection.
This will be the first work by the artistand the first Surrealist painting by a womanto enter the museums collection; it will also be one of the only paintings by Kernn-Larsen in an American museum collection. And Life Anew
will bolster and diversify the DIAs holdings of Scandinavian art as well as modern European Surrealist art, which includes such masterpieces as Shadow Country (1927) by Yves Tanguy and Self-Portrait II (1938) by Joan Miró. The museum also recently acquired a Surrealist sculpture by Austrian artist Wolfgang Paalen (1905-1959).
We are thrilled to bring Rita Kernn-Larsens painting into our collection. It has a deep resonance with other Surrealist works in the DIAs collection, and we are happy to expand our modern European holdings to include those artists who have been largely overlooked in the canon, says Jill Shaw, Rebecca A. Boylan and Thomas W. Sidlik Curator of European Art, 1850-1970, and Interim Head of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the DIA.
Born in Hillerřd, Denmark, a town north of Copenhagen, Kernn-Larsen attended art schools in Oslo and Copenhagen in the 1920s. She left for Paris in 1929, and there she became a prominent student of Fernand Léger at his Académie Moderne. Shortly upon returning to Denmark, she had her first solo exhibition (1934) and met the Danish Surrealist group in Copenhagen, with whom she began to exhibit. Kernn-Larsens international debut took place in 1936, when she was invited to submit to the International Surrealist Exhibition at The New Burlington Galleries in London. In that same year, photographs of her work were displayed alongside other Scandinavian Surrealists in Alfred Barrs landmark Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Although Kernn-Larsens work remains largely unknown in the United States today, it was an Americanart patron and dealer Peggy Guggenheimwho provided her with one of the biggest breaks of her career. In 1938the same year that Kernn-Larsen participated in the landmark International Surrealist Exhibition with Salvador Dalí and many other notable Surrealists at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in ParisGuggenheim gave her a major exhibition at her newly opened gallery in London. Kernn-Larsen and her future husband, Isaac Grünberg, traveled to London for the exhibition and were forced to stay there due to the impending war; they remained until the end of World War II.
While in London, Kernn-Larsen remained active as an artist, exhibited frequently, and continued to develop her Surrealist style. It was also there, in 1940, that she painted And Life Anew
, a composition that featured the femme-arbre (woman-tree) motif, a theme that had appeared in her work since at least 1934. But in this particular painting, her femme-arbre was likely more personal than ever beforeaccording to the dedication on the back of the canvas, this was a work she made for her first and only child, Danielle, who was born in September 1940.
The work will be on view later this year in the DIAs gallery of Surrealist art.