Asger Jorn was born Asger Oluf Jörgensen in Vejrum, Denmark, on March3, 1914. He visited Paris in fall 1936, where he studied at Fernand Léger's Académie contemporaine. During World WarII, Jorn remained in Denmark, painting canvases that reflect the influence of James Ensor, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró and contributing to the magazine Helhesten (Ghost horse, nine issues, 1941–44).
Jorn traveled to Swedish Lapland in summer 1946, met Constant (Constant Nieuwenhuys) in Paris that fall, and spent six months in Jerba, Tunisia, in 1947–48. His first solo exhibition in Paris took place in 1948 at the Galerie Breteau. At about the same time the group Cobra (1948–51), an acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, was founded by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille (Guillaume Cornelis Beverloo), Christian Dotremont, Jorn, and Joseph Noiret. The group's unifying doctrine was the complete freedom of expression with an emphasis on color and brushwork. Jorn edited monographs of the Bibliothèque Cobra before disassociating himself from the movement.
In 1951 Jorn returned, poor and ill, to Silkeborg, Denmark, where his family had moved when he was an adolescent. He began his intensive work in ceramics in 1953. The following year he settled in Albisola, Italy, and participated in a continuation of Cobra called Mouvement International pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste (International movement for an imaginist Bauhaus, 1953–57). Jorn's activities included painting, collage, book illustration, prints, drawings, ceramics, tapestries, commissions for murals, and, in his last years, sculpture. He participated in the movement Internationale Situationniste (Situationist International, 1957–72) from 1957 to 1961 and worked on a study of early Scandinavian art between 1961 and 1965. After the mid-1950s Jorn divided his time between Paris and Albisola. His first solo show in New York took place in 1962 at the Lefebre Gallery. From 1966 Jorn concentrated on oil painting and traveled frequently, visiting Cuba, England and Scotland, the United States, and Asia. Jorn died on May1, 1973, in Aarhus, Denmark.