About the Artist
Alfred Jensen was a well-traveled Guatemalan-American artist, whose eclectic works reflect his interest in such diverse topics as physics, color theory, astronomy and Chinese history.
Early Life and Education
Alfred Jensen was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala in 1903, the third of four children. His father was from Denmark and traveled to Guatemala to start a construction and furniture-building business. His mother was of German-Polish ancestry and settled in Guatemala as a governess for a French family.
In 1910, Jensen’s mother died and the children were sent to live with an uncle in Denmark. Jensen began drawing portraits of his classmates and then portraits of the passengers and crew members on the ships he worked on as a seaman after graduating from school.
He returned briefly to Guatemala after his father’s death in 1923, and then went to California, where he received a scholarship San Diego Fine Arts School at Balboa Park. Jensen was determined to study in Munich with Hans Hoffman, so he got work on a ship headed for Germany.
He attended Hoffman’s school, where he met fellow student and art collector, Sadie Adler May, who became his patron, and with whom he traveled for more than thirty years. He attended the Academie Scandinave in Paris in 1929, studying both painting and sculpture.
Jensen established permanent residency in the U.S. in 1934. He studied color theory, painted and continued traveling with May, helping her to expand her art collection.
In 1952, Jensen had his first solo show at the John Heller Gallery in New York. It was a time when Jensen had befriended Mark Rothko, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg, and his works were included in group shows alongside theirs.
His work evolved, using color, geometry, calligraphy, and even hieroglyphics. His work was exhibited in galleries throughout Europe and the U.S., and in 1961 he had his first major solo show at the Guggenheim Museum.
Personal Life and Legacy
In 1963, Jensen married painter Regina Bogat in New York. The couple had two children. Jensen died in 1981, near the family home in Livingston, New Jersey.
In 1985, the Guggenheim held a retrospective of Jensen’s work.
Alfred Jensen’s paintings are included in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian, the Whiney and other major museums and galleries around the world.