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“East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, Illustrations by Kay Nielsen

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

Danish Art Nouveau illustrator Kay Nielson (1886–1957) created these watercolor plates for a 1914 edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a Norwegian folk story.

The images were released by the National Library New Zealand on Flickr Commons in high resolution with no known copyrights. Click here to see the entire set of plates. The description reads,

In the early twentieth century several English publishers issued a series of collector’s editions of children’s literature. These gift books, specially bound in gold-tooled vellum, were elaborately illustrated with coloured plates by the best illustrators of the time such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Hugh Thomson, and Heath Robinson. One of the most stunning is East of the sun and west of the moon illustrated by the Danish illustrator, Kay Nielsen.

Nielsen (1886-1957) was born in Denmark and studied art in Paris. He was influenced by the styles of Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Burne-Jones and the influx of Japanese art that was spreading to the West at this time. East of the Sun and West of the Moon (London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1914]) was his second book and is considered to be his masterpiece and one of the most beautiful illustrated children’s books ever produced.

Nielsen’s burgeoning career was interrupted by World War I, and never really recovered. His publisher, Hodder & Stoughton tried unsuccessfully to reinvigorate the market for gift books after the war and in 1924 and 1925 issued two further fairy tales books illustrated by Nielsen, but these were on a more modest scale and the demand for extravagant books of this type had gone. Nielsen fell into obscurity and died in poverty in 1957.

This set shows the 25 watercolour plates included in East of the sun and west of the moon held in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘And then she lay on a little green patch in the midst of the gloomy thick wood’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘ “Tell me the way, then,” she said, “and I’ll search you out” ’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘Just as they bent down to take the rose a big dense snow-drift came and carried them away’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘And this time she whisked off the wig: and there lay the lad, so lovely, and white and red, just as the Princess had seen him in the morning sun’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘She could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when – Pop! out flew the Moon’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘”Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in East of the sun and west of the moon (1914)

‘He too saw the image in the water; but he looked up at once, and became aware of the lovely Lassie who sat there up in the tree’

Image caption top of page: ‘No sooner had he whistled than he heard a whizzing and a whirring from all quarters, and such a large flock of birds swept down that they blackened all the field in which they settled’

Source: National Library NZ on The Commons

License: No known copyright restrictions

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