The March Exhibition 1951-1982


The March Exhibition was one of the most significant artists’ associations of 20th-century Denmark. United in their belief in the tradition-bound nature of art, its members searched beyond the prevailing styles of art and art-political groups.

The March Exhibition thus represented a break with the avant-gardism that two of the Association’s founders, Ejler Bille and Erik Thommesen, had helped to promote in the 1930s and 1940s. Several of its members also argued strongly for their positions in the public arena, and for more than 30 years, the March Exhibition thereby exerted an important influence on Danish artistic life. 

På billedet ses de udstillende kunstnere fra Martsudstillingen i 1965. Fra venstre: Ejler Bille, Agnete Madsen, Arne Johannesen, Anna Thommesen, Erik Thommesen, Knud Lollesgaard, Poul Ekelund, Jeppe Vontillius og Viggo Jensen.

A personal and human matter

With the March Exhibition as the conceptual and practical focal point, its artists emphasised the sensed reality in an explorative, serene and contemplative expression. The focus was on the intimate and cultivating, as according to the Association members, it was precisely in this aspect that art could be expressed as a personal and human matter. Homogeneity, stability and integrity were fixed characteristics.


The March Exhibition consisted of: Ejler Bille, Poul Ekelund, Viggo Jensen, Arne Johannesen, Harald Leth, Knud Lollesgaard, Agnete Madsen, Anna Thommesen, Erik Thommesen, Gertrud Vasegaard, Åge Vogel-Jørgensen and Jeppe Vontillius. Albert Mertz, Astrid Noack and Erik Ortvad were also associated with or members of the group for short or long periods. This exhibition displays works by selected artists from the March Exhibition.

The history

The March Exhibition was established in 1951 on the initiative of Ejler Bille and Erik Thommesen. From the start the association was intended as an alternative to the other artists' associations of the time, for instance Cobra which had counted Ejler Bille and Erik Thommesen among its members.

Apart from Ejler Bille and Erik Thommesen the painter Harald Leth and the sculptor Astrid Noack, among others, participated in the preparatory meetings. The first 'March Exhibtion' took place in March 1951.
The March Exhibition was formed in response to the Cobra movement's cultivation of primitive art and spontaneity. Moreover, the March Exhibition saw the many formal experiments performed by Cobra and other artists' associations as experiments for the sake of experimenting and not as a source of new artistic creativity.

Martsudstillingen søgte i en anden retning. Væk fra ideen om kunsten som værende i evigt oprør med det bestående. I stedet søgte medlemmerne et ståsted i traditionen, hvor det var indholdet og ikke det ydre formudtryk, der var det vigtigste.

The members of the March Exhibition moved in another direction. Away from the idea of art as being in constant rebellion against the established order. Instead they chose an approach founded on tradition and the idea that content, not form is what matters the most.
Contrary to several other artists' associations the March Exhibition was therefore able to embrace both abstract and figurative artists. What is more, the group rejected the traditional distinctions between craft and other art forms, and so the tapestry weaver Anna Thommesen and the ceramicist Gertrud Vasegaard were later accepted as members. Before that, the painter Viggo Jensen, among others, had become a member.
A common feature of the members of the March Exhibition was that their motifs were often related to nature, even though some of the artists worked in the abstract style. Another common feature was the high weighting given to artistic workmanship and the artistic process. Several of the artists in the group associated the artistic process itself with an almost meditative state. Often the work processes were long and arduous, carried out in self-imposed isolation.
From the start the March Exhibition was a closed group of artists. Most of the artists who joined the association remained faithful and continued to take part in its exhibitions right up until the very last one in 1981.
Albert Mertz was a member in 1959. The colours and shapes of nature can be seen in works from precisely this year, and for a short period of time his work shows an affinity with the artists of the March Exhibtion. However, Albert Mertz wanted to explore new territory and soon travelled to Paris. Here he became engaged with the international artistic movements of the day such as Pop Art and Kinetics Art. With the passing of time Albert Mertz developed a personal, conceptually based art – easily recognisable for the particular red and blue colours that he had a preference for.