• Amanda Bergloff

The Golden Age of Illustration: The Art of Kay Nielsen


The Golden Age of Illustration is a term applied to a time period (1880s - 1920s) of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustrations by artists in Europe and America. Advances in technology at the time allowed for accurate and inexpensive reproductions of their art, which allowed quality books to be available to the voracious public demand for new graphic art.


Today, The Fairy Tale Magazine is shining a spotlight on one of our favorite European artists from this time period, Kay Nielsen, whose art was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, and the Pre-Raphaelite and Post Impressionist artists of their time. In turn, Nielsen went on to influence many modern illustrators as well.


Learn more about this artist below:

Kay Rasmus Nielsen (March 12, 1886 - June 21, 1957) was a Danish illustrator who was popular in the early 20th century.


After studying art in Paris from 1904 to 1911, Nielsen moved to England where he received his first commission from Hodder and Stroughton in 1913 to illustrate a collection of fairy tales. His 24 color plates and 15 monotone illustrations for the book, In Powder and Crinoline, Fairy Tales Retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, led to The Illustrated London News hiring him to produce illustrations for the tales of Charles Perrault (Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, and Bluebeard) for their 1913 Christmas edition.


From 1914 to 1925, Nielsen produced illustrations for several books including East of the Sun and West of the Moon; Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen; and Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories by the Brothers Grimm. He also worked, during this time, for the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen where he painted stage scenery.


In 1937, after moving to California, he was hired by the Walt Disney Company where his art was used in the film, Fantasia, in the "Ave Maria" and "Night on Bald Mountain" sequences.


To me, Kay Nielsen's striking art has a timeless, graphic quality that still speaks to modern viewers.


Check out Nielsen's art:

From East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1914


L'art Magique, 1913


From The 12 Dancing Princesses, 1913


From In Powder and Crinoline, 1913


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon, 1914


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon,1914


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon,1914


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon,1914


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon,1914


From East of the Sun, West of the Moon,1914


From Hansel & Gretel and Other Stories by The Brothers Grimm, 1925


From Hansel & Gretel and Other Stories by The Brothers Grimm, 1925


From 1001 Arabian Nights, Published in 1976


From 1001 Arabian Nights, Published in 1976


From In Powder and Crinoline, 1913


From In Powder and Crinoline, 1913

And if you'd like to read

East of the Sun, West of the Moon,

illustrated by Kay Nielsen,

you can read it free HERE




Enchanted Conversation's contributing editor, Amanda Bergloff, writes modern fairy tales and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff Join her every Tuesday on Twitter for #FairyTaleTuesday to share what you love about fairy tales, folktales, and myths. Also, if you like sharing your #vss fairy tales on Twitter, follow @fairytaleflash and use #FairyTaleFlash so we can retweet! Cover: Amanda Bergloff

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