The ideas for the existential content of The Great Relief came at a time when Nazism had not yet vitiated Nietzsche’s concept of the superman, and when the notion that the world was still developing in the direction of the better still prevailed. The horrors and atrocities of the First World War did however affect Willumsen’s view of humanity, and in a series of prints from the period he expressed the most shadowy sides of humanity as they are lived through and experienced in wartime, and in his motifs brings out the animal side of mankind – the instincts, the brutal and the primitive.
Haugen Sørensen’s work That’s why they call them dogs, a large tableau with dogs careering round in a huge fight, similarly points to phenomena one experiences in theatres of war where any kind of humane behaviour is out of the question. The behaviour of the dogs reflects that of humans, and Haugen Sørensen offers a raw interpretation of the human animal in its most ruthless and brutal. It is the struggle of all against all where only the strongest survive.
At other points in the exhibition Willumsen’s expressive paintings are seen with Haugen Sørensen’s expressive sculptures modelled in ceramics. Figures of naked, twisted human bodies covering their eyes and ears huddle together and bow their heads to the ground as if to protect themselves against outer or inner danger, and are seen in relation to Willumsen’s painting of a woman collapsing helplessly and despairingly on the beach while nature rages around her, and the family portrait around the supper table where danger and the unheimlich lurk just beneath the surface.