The Danish painter Ole Ahlberg started his artistic career in the 1970s firmly immersed in the contemporary surrealist movement, and for several years was a member of the Pas Partout (French for Not Everywhere) art group. He still likes to quote the Norwegian comedian Marve Fleksnes – ‘There is more between heaven and earth than anywhere else.’

Ahlberg’s early paintings were dominated by his concept of ‘a picture in a picture in a picture’, like a set of Chinese boxes, but he gradually abandoned his subtle illusionism in favour of more ‘normal’ paintings with one flat surface. This did not make his pictures any less enigmatic or ambiguous, as he began making use of a single-colour background, often black or dark blue like many of the Dutch Baroque still life artists, a background which appears inscrutable and mysterious in relation to the brightly-illuminated objects in the foreground.

In the mid-1990s Ahlberg turned to the world of comics, specifically the cast of the Tintin books created by the Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé. Since then Ole Ahlberg has become internationally recognised for these paintings, characterised by their level of detail, creating a strong contrast between the youth and innocence of the cartoon journalist and the scantily-dressed women Tintin and his companions are portrayed with.

The use of Hergé’s much-loved characters in a highly-eroticised setting was not without controversy. In 2001 Ahlberg was sued by Moulinsart, Hergé’s copyright holders, for using images of Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and the Thompson twins in his art. The artist was opening a show of his art in Brussels with the wife of the Danish prime minister when Moulinsart’s lawyers demanded the offending images be removed. Ahlberg refused, and the case went to court, where the judge found in the artist’s favour on the grounds that parody is allowable under Belgian and international copyright law.

Ole Ahlberg’s work is available from several fine art outlets, most notably Art Wolfsen, whose website can be found here.

We are very grateful to our French colleague Gérard Coron for introducing us to the work of this artist.

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