Henning Jensen, prolific artist, illustrator

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 15, 2009 - 8:25 PM

The Danish-born artist, whose works populate collections worldwide, spent three decades at Honeywell as a graphic designer and shared his skills as an instructor at the University of Minnesota.

Henning Jensen

The corporate logos for the French carmaker Renault, toothpaste-maker Colgate and local technology and manufacturing giant Honeywell all come from the hand of Henning B. Jensen, the Danish-born artist, illustrator and painter whose works hang on the walls of museums, corporate offices, hospitals and in hundreds of private collections worldwide.

Jensen explored the world of abstract, nonfigurative and symbolic art in the 800 original paintings he created during his career, many of which have been or are on display at places such as the American Swedish Institute and International Market Square in Minneapolis, the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota, Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, and Honeywell, where he spent 30 years as a graphic designer in sales and promotion from 1958 to 1988.

"He was a erudite type of guy, a real Renaissance man who brought with him from Europe Old World traditions," said Jensen's boss at Honeywell, Frank Klein. "He was a graphic designer and a competent one, but his first love was painting. His art, that is his legacy."

Jensen, who had lived in Edina, died of cancer Dec. 4 at St. Mary's Home in St. Paul. He was 82.

He earned his bachelor's degree from the College of Art and Design in Copenhagen in 1951, then studied drawing and painting for two years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris under the direction of abstract expressionist Helge Ernst, who arranged for Jensen to draw and paint at a villa owned by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

"Henning Jensen is highly regarded for his knowledge of 19th-century and early 20th-century art," said Keith Meland, purchasing manager at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "The curators and I brought Jensen in ... several times to give patrons commentary on special exhibitions. His vast knowledge of art history gave Jensen a solid base, not only as a teacher but also as an artist."

By the mid-1950s, Jensen, who was fluent in several Scandinavian languages, emigrated to the United States. He was an art director for the NCK Advertising group in Denmark and Gray Advertising in New York. He moved to Minneapolis, and while working at Honeywell, he taught drawing and design to hundreds of students as an adjunct professor in the College of Home Economics and Applied Design at the University of Minnesota from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s.

He also taught as part of the Split Rock Arts Program and the U's Duluth campus and more recently at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program for older adults that is affiliated with the University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education and run entirely by volunteers.

"He enjoyed being a teacher," said former student Beth Moorhead.

Jensen wrote and illustrated the book "A History of Lettering" in 1949, and illustrated the books "The Widdles," "Of German Ways" and "Of Danish Ways." Some of his original book drawings and illustrations are on display at the National Museum in Copenhagen, the National Library in Oslo, Norway, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

He enjoyed golf, sailing and astronomy, but his true passion was painting, something he did regularly up until two weeks before he died, Moorhead said.

He is survived by his former wife, Aase (Pelle) Jensen, of St. Paul; a son, Kim Blak Jensen of St. Paul, and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Normandale Road, Edina.

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