Friday, April 8, 2011

Kay Nielsen, Denmark's star of the Golden Age.

There's a lot going on in the studio this month. That's a good thing—but it does tend to impact the frequency of blog reports.

Looking over the list, as I work on the 50th VIEW post, It says to me that there are a few of the characters in our story that are still in need of credit. While I revel in uncovering the ones that are overlooked and/or buried, there are a few illustrators that we haven't discussed, or looked at, that are familiar to many of us—but maybe not to all. To continue to look past them would border on disrespect. Can't have that.
So let me bring one to the front, who has been influencing me since I was a wee lad, though I had no clue who he was, until much more recently.
Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) was Danish by birth, though he came to America in 1936. Nielsen did work on a few fairy tale volumes, including Andersen's Tales and The Brother's Grimm. His work had a very distinct style—perhaps with some traces of influence from British line artist Aubrey Beardsley. Some others whose work fits this mold might be Harry Clarke, and the work of John Austen in his edition of Hamlet.

Nielsen's work has some great theatrical quality as well—something that did not go unrecognized—even his early illustration work has some of the feeling of a set, with lot's of flat areas of color, and decorative elements. If Nielsen had a masterpiece in illustration it was his edition of East of the Sun, West of the Moon.(1914) More literature from his native Scandanavia, this collection of myths provides some great imagery for Nielsen's sense of environment. There are many illustrated editions, Nielsen's may be the definitive one. Here are some of the best from East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Jim Vadeboncouer's Nielsen Bio-
Calla facsimile edition- here
Back in this century- If you're in the states, up in that NE corner near Mass., not (too) far from me, there is a very promising lecture opportunity going on at the The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies at Norman Rockwell Museum this coming Sunday- From the museum's info--Dr. Jennifer A. Greenhill, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois. Dr. Greenhill’s lecture is entitled “Imperiled Illustrators: J. C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, and the War at ‘The Saturday Evening Post.’” This lecture is based on an article Dr. Greenhill is currently writing about the moment when Leyendecker leaves “The Post” and Rockwell takes over as the magazine's star illustrator. For more info on the event- check it out here. Thanks to the museum for allowing me to pass that on to you.


RachelAKA said...

Our neighborhood library got David Larkin's "The Fantastic Kingdom" (Ballantine, 1974) when it came out. Harry Clarke follows Nielsen in that book. I vividly remember being amazed at how current Nielsen's work from 1914 looked in 1974 (before all the Frazetta-inspired Painters came of age). "The North Wind" could've graced any hard rock album cover. And "The Lad in Battle" is the proto-hero, leaping on his black steed towards a phalanx of spears and shields. Robert Gould and some others drank from that water, but you don't see so much decorative style these days.

CorryK said...

Hi Jeff!

Thanks for mentioning Jennifer's lecture this week. It was a great success - very interesting subject. And thanks too for following "Archives Hunters" our newest blog here at the Norman Rockwell Museum! And for anyone else interested, the link to our site is:

All the best,
Corry Kanzenberg
Curator of Archival Collections
Norman Rockwell Museum

Jeff A. Menges said...

You are so right about your rock album assessment. There are some Roger Dean covers (The Greenslade ones come to mind) that have a smack of that look for sure. I was also a big fan of Gould's combination of fine drawing and patterned details. It makes me think there would be room for a bit of that, but that may just be wishful thinking.

Glad to hear the show went well. Hope to see more on your site and blog soon.

Thank you both!