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["In the Autumn of Youth: Fallen Leaves"]  ["In Powder and Crinoline"]   ["The Drawings of Kay Nielsen"]  ["Perrault in Powder and Patch"]  ["East of the Sun and West of the Moon"]

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["The Lad in the Bear's skin, and the King of Arabia's daughter"]  [ "When he had walked a day or so, a strange man met him. "Whither way?" asked the man"]

["The Faun"]  ["The Marsh King's Daughter"]  ["The Little Match Girl"]  ["The Story of a Mother"]  [Concepts for "Fantasia"]

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["The First Spring"]  ["Mayme and Thomas Wong bookplate"]








Kay Nielsen's Story: In his own words


I was born in Copenhagen the 12th of March 1886. Both my father and mother were artists. My father, Professor

Martinius Nielsen, was in his youth an actor in the classical repertoire. He became the leading and managing

director of the Dagmartheater in Copenhagen, which under his directorate became the modern literary stage.


My mother, Oda Nielsen, was actress to the court of the royal theater in Copenhagen. In her youth she lived in Paris

and brought home the great French repertoire from the eighties. Later she joined the Dagmartheater and the repertoire,

thereon. Her love for the French she kept in her song (repertoire Yvette Gilbert) and she also became the interpretress

of the songs of the Old Danish folklore.


In this tense atmosphere of art, I was brought up. I remember such men as Ibsen, Bjornsen, Lie, Grieg, Sinding, Brandes

and many others probably unknown to the American public. Since early boyhood I have been drawing. When the Sagas

were read to me I drew down the people  therein. Anything I heard about I tried to put in situations on paper. I heard much

and saw much concerning art, but I never really intended to be an artist myself.


When I was twelve years of age I was taken out of school and given my own teachers. I had a vague idea of being a

medical man, but when I was seventeen I suddenly broke off from books and went to Paris to study art.


I lived in Paris at Montparnasse for seven years and I frequented several schools of art. First the

"Académie Julien" under Jean Paul Laurence; thereafter "Collarossi" under Kristian Krog, and

several others; the last was Lucien Simon. I worked and lived in the usual routine of French

school live, always working from nature, but in my hours away from the school I did drawings

out of my imagination; among these, "The Book of Death" (unpublished). Or, inspired from

reading, I did drawings to Heine, Verlaine, Hans Andersen. These drawings, most of them done

in black and white, became numerous and in 1910 they were seen by London people and an

exhibition was offered by Dowdeswel and Dowdeswel.


In 1911 I left Paris for London. In 1912 I had my first show held by Dowdeswel and Dowdeswel,

consisting of the drawings done in my Paris days. After this I worked for England entirely.






To the right, we show "The Chasm", one of Kay Nielsen's

illustrations from "The Book of Death"

Kay Nielsen - ''The Chasm''


From 1918-1922 I worked on a Danish translation from the original "Thousand

Nights and a Night" (Arabian Nights), unpublished, and in the same period I

did series of setting for the Royal Theater in Copenhagen: Shakespeare,

"The Tempest"; Oehlenschlaeger, "Aladdin"; Sibelius, "Scaramouche"; 

Magnussen, "The Dream of the Poet".


I was brought up in a classical view concerning art, but I remember I loved the

Chinese drawings and carvings in my mother's room brought home from China

by her father. And this love for the works of Art from the East has followed me.

My artistic wandering started with the early Italians over Persia, India, to China.






To the right, we show one of Kay Nielsen's illustrations

from his suite for "Thousand Nights and a Night"



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Last modified: 12/31/11