Kay Nielsen

Looking at the work of Danish Illustrator Kay Nielsen (1886-1957), it is hard to understand how such a brilliant artist could have died in poverty. Kay (rhymes with high) was an artist from the Golden Age of Illustration, among other greats such as Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac.

images above via animation resources

Among Nielson's early work is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, shown above. You can see the influence of Aubrey Beardsley in this work, but Swedish Fairy Tale artist John Bauer also had a big influence on his career.

images above via Art Passions

Illustrations above from Hansel and Gretel

image via Art Passions

The illustration above from Six Swans, one of Grimm's Fairy Tales, is very compelling and dynamic.

All the illustrations below are from East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1914), considered to be Nielsen's masterpiece. Written by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen and comprised of 15 Nordic tales, Nielsen's 25 watercolor illustrations
defined the book. 

image via Sue Ding

image via KingPaper

image via Art Passions

What impresses me about Kay Nielsen's work is not only his excellent draftsmanship, but the imagination that went into his fantastical watercolor illustrations. In illustrations like the one above, there is such attention to detail and decoration but also wide open areas that enhance what he has done and also give the eyes a place to rest.

Below are a couple links with biographical information and more images of
Kay Nielsen's work.  



  1. Absolutely wonderful! A true artist, very talented. Thank you for showing these.

  2. I discovered a few amazing illustrators through your blog that I never heard of before. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Glad to hear it, thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. I have just found your blog (googled happy owls because they make me happy, linked to 'The Happy Owls' children's book).
    I wanted to say Thank You! for this wonderful collection of artwork and extras - exquisite and uplifting.

  5. So glad you liked it - thanks for visiting my blog!