Sonja Ferlov Mancoba

1911Charlottenlund, Denmark | 1984Paris, France
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Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba in Oigny-en-Valois, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Danish sculptor.

Sonja Ida Ferlov grew up in a Danish middle-class family north of Copenhagen. Originally trained as a painter at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, S. I. Ferlov Mancoba (the name of husband) is mainly known for her sculpture, a medium in which she started working from the middle of the 1930s. She worked primarily in plaster and clay, and sometimes bronze. She also made paintings, drawings and collages. In the early 1930s S. I. Ferlov Mancoba became a member of the Danish Surrealist movement and was a part of the circle around Surrealist publication, Linien (1934-1939). The Surrealist fascination with the unconscious and the power of imagination were central themes throughout her career. One of her first sculptures exploring this was Levende grene [Living branches, 1935], which began a series composed of branches found in nature. This method of working with found objects followed her throughout her life – as an inspiration for her sculptural work and as material in her collages.

In 1936, at age 25, S. I. Ferlov Mancoba moved to Paris, where she acquired a studio and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts. In Paris she became acquainted with artists such as Joan Miró (1893-1983), Max Ernst (1891-1976) and Jean Arp (1886-1966), and her friendship with Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) greatly influenced her work. In addition to Surrealism, she drew inspiration for her art from a rich array of cultures and time periods; from Nordic folk art and ancient Greece, as well as ancient Egyptian, pre-Columbian and Indonesian art, she found figures, expressions and materials that she incorporated into her own artistic vocabulary. This can be seen in Maske (Krigens udbrud) [Mask, outbreak of war, 1939], which is inspired by pre-Columbian art and combines the human form with geometric abstraction.

In her Paris studio, S. I. Ferlov Mancoba kept a large collection of pictures, sketches and letters from fellow artists that also formed a source of inspiration in her art-making process, a process that was reflective, concentrated and stemmed from a curiosity about the world around her. Especially important to her work was traditional African art, which she was introduced to as a child by her parents’ art collecting friend, the Danish lawyer Carl Kjersmeier. She was interested in the idea of art as a collective and spiritual effort, which for her this work embodied. Her multiple sculptural portrayals of the human form vacillate between the abstract and the recognisable, in ways that mirror the expressions she found in traditional African masks. The fascination for African art was enforced in 1939 when S. I. Ferlov Mancoba met South African artist Ernest Mancoba (1904-2002), who became her life partner and creative companion; the couple inspired each other in their effort to unite modern, European and African art in a meaningful way; they lived and worked in Paris until their deaths.

S. I. Ferlov Mancoba’s work has been presented in a number of solo exhibitions, most recently in 2019 with a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Denmark and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

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Sarah Munk Beilin

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Maske (Krigens udbrud) [Mask, Outbreak of War], 1939, bronze with black patina, 35 x 28 x 13 cm, © Galerie Mikael Andersen et Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Levende grene [Living Branches], 1935, assemblage, 18 cm, Collection Museum Jorn, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Skulptur [Sculpture], 1940-1946, bronze, cast of 1970, Statens Museum for Kunst, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba working on the sculpture The Little Careful One, Gudhjem, Denmark, 1951, Photo Johnny Bonne / Ritzau Scanpix, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, The Little Careful One, 1951, bronze, 26 x 31.5 x 26.5 cm, Collection Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Figure, 1959, gypse, 109 x 24 cm, Collection Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, Photo Børre Høstland, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Le combattant (Krigeren), 1961, Collection particulière, Photo Anders Sune Berg, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, probably in 1980, in front of her artwork Tillid [Trust], 1963, Photo Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Jiro Mochizuki / VISDA (cut photo)

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Ferlov Mancoba Sonja, A l’écoute du silence. Hommage à Steingrim Laursen, 1969, Collection Statens Museum for Kunst, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Squelette de l’esprit, 1984, Collection Statens Museum for Kunst, © Galerie Mikael Andersen et Estate Ferlov Mancoba

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Mask og figur, bronze, 96 x 68 x 32 cm, Collection Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, © Galerie Mikael Andersen and Estate Ferlov Mancoba

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