Helme, Axel Henry Helge (1894-1987)

Helme, Axel Henry Helge (1894-1987)

Danish artist Axel Henry Helge Helme was bewitched and besotted by the female figure. His many paintings of women, often captured in times of rest or reverie, are heed to his fascination, which consumed the great majority of his painting career.

In every painting, women pose in contemplative positions which emphasise their alabaster limbs, perfectly poised with swan-like elegance. There is a timelessness to their beauty as if they are ethereal beings to whom time pays no heed. Even their clothing does not seem touched by any shocking fashion statement, light cottons and buoyant taffetas blending into the pleasantness of his scenes. Indeed, beauty of composition and of figure are the essential tenets of Helme’s work, more crucial than any individualisation of person or evocation of personality. He recalls the idealised forms of classical art in the languid, lounging figures, their nudity sacred.

Helme’s skill in capturing female beauty was recognised, as was his delicate approach to his art. He never executed a quick sketch of his subject, known as croquis, but took his time in the careful completion of his works. This did lead to some critics, however, denouncing his work as lacking spontaneity and charm.
Helme was educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, which could account for his astute knowledge of composition and figurative painting.

Education continued to play a key role in Helme’s life when he set up his own painting school. This was attended by the likes of Richard Mortensen (1910-1993), who would go on to become a great Danish artist.

Helme did also execute a small number of landscape paintings. These are composed with the same careful hand and pleasantness of execution as his female figures. A solitary boat lounges upon sun-crisped sand, ocean waves lightly lapping at its stern. The sky above is a sheet of delicate glass, not cracked with clouds but pristine in condition. The woolly white clouds which do sit upon it are light, transcendent breaths condensing on the glass pane.

Helme was a passionate artist who, despite his perceived lack of spontaneity, offered much to the Danish art world. He developed his skill through travels abroad to places such as Britain, Germany, and France. He also exhibited extensively within his homeland.

Today, some of his work is held in the Copenhagen City Museum.

1894

Born in Roskilde, Denmark.

1914-1915

Studied at the Technical School, Roskilde.

1918-1920

Studied at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

1920

Travelled to Britain.

1922-1923

Travelled to Germany.

1927

Awarded the Ronge Scholarship.

1929

Married Karen Valborg Larsen.

1931

Travelled to France, Holland, and Belgium.

1935

Travelled to Britain.

1937

Travelled to France, Holland, and Belgium.

1987

Died. Buried in Bispebjerg Cemetery, Copenhagen.

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