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The Danish artist Kay Nielsen’s luminous interpretations of fairy tales and legends from around the world are among the most celebrated book illustrations of the 20th century, unsurpassed in their dramatic intensity and intricate detail. This book is the first to put his achievements in the context of a career that took him from studies in Paris to the Copenhagen theater, to galleries in London and New York, to the Walt Disney Studios, presenting fresh insights into his life and work as well as his materials and techniques. Dazzling reproductions of original watercolors and drawings from one of the premier collections of Nielsen’s work invite viewers to enter the enchanted world of an imaginative and supremely gifted artist.
Born in Copenhagen and educated in Paris, Kay Nielsen (1886–1957) gained international recognition for his exquisite gift book illustrations, notably his masterpieces East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1914) and Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen (1924). In contrast to some of his contemporaries, Nielsen often focused on the melancholic or dramatic elements of tales, creating memorable visual sequences reflecting themes of love, passion, loss and death. During the last stage of his career, he collaborated with Walt Disney Studios on the landmark animation film Fantasia, and produced several public art commissions.