BRETON GIRL, 1911
Oil on Canvas
19 x 14¾ Inches
Signed Lower Right "Jais" and Dated 1911
Titled Lower Right, "Bretagne" (Brittany)
Additionally Titled on Partial Exhibition Label Verso, "Piga fra Bretagne" (Pia from Brittany) and Signed
Born in Copenhagen, in 1885, Johann Nielsen acquired the nickname, 'Jais', at an early age and adopted it for his signature. He initially studied at Kristian Zahrtmann’s art school in 1899 and exhibited for the first time at the 1907 Autumn Salon in Copenhagen's Charlottenberg Palace. Neilsen also participated in the ground-breaking Modernist group show with the “Group of Thirteen" where his focus on dynamic figural painting set him apart from his contemporaries. His forms became increasingly simplified in the early years (1907-1911), and his use of 'primitive' Fauve colors reinforced his departure from traditional Danish painting. In 1911, Neilsen moved to Paris, settling in the Latin Quarter near the Musée Cluny. His first formal Paris exhibition was at the Salon d’Automne of 1912. Although Neilsen incorporated Cubist themes in his Paris period and attended several meetings of the Section d’Or at Jacques Villon’s studio, he did not openly collaborate with other members of the Cubist movement.
At the outbreak of World War One, Neilsen moved back to Copenhagen, taking his Parisian Modernist style with him. Sports, dance and circus life were the themes that interested him and he painted many canvases in the best tradition of the early Cubists, of which he became the earliest Danish exponent. Initially, Neilsen's work was not well received by the critics in his own country. In 1920, he began to focus on sculpture and ceramics, and became world renowned for his work with the Royal Copenhagen porcelain company. Neilsen exhibited widely and was the only Danish artist represented in the landmark Futurist exhibition, “Futurismo & Futurismi” in Venice, Italy in 1986. A retrospective of his work was also held at the Galerie 1900-2000 in 1986.
Jais Neilsen has come to be recognized as a founding pioneer of Scandinavian modernism and his works are held in private and public collections including the permanent collections of numerous museums including Denmark's National Art Museum in Copenhagen and the National Museum in Oslo, Norway. The artist is well-listed in all relevant art historical reference works including Thieme-Becker, and Benezit which gives a signature sample.
Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs, Vol. X, p. 213; Thieme-Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler, Vollmer Supplement, Vol. XXV/XXVI, p. 465; Weilbach, Dansk Kunstnerleksikon; Bo Lindwall and Lars Erik Aström in: Bild art in Scandinavia, Vol. 4, 1973, 50, 74; Hanne Abildgaard: New then. Art Hist., Vol. 6, 1994; Davenport’s Art Reference Guide, 2007/8 Edition, p. 1733; et al.
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