(Danish, 1885- 1961)
Oil on Paper
10½ x 14 Inches
Signed Lower Left "Jais" and Dated 1951
Born in Denmark, Jais Nielsen initially studied at Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler under Kristian Zahrtmann and exhibited for the first time at the 1907 Autumn Salon at the Charlottenborg Palace. Nielsen participated in the early and groundbreaking, “Group of Thirteen" Modernist show, where his focus on dynamic figural painting and his bold use of color set him dramatically apart from his contemporaries. From 1907-11, Nielsen's use of 'primitive' Fauve colors would continue to reinforce his break with traditional Danish painting. During this period, he made study excursions to important art centres, including, in 1909, to Berlin. In 1911, he moved to Paris where he settled in the Latin Quarter near the Musée Cluny. His first formal Paris exhibition was at the Salon d’Automne of 1912. During this first Paris period, Nielsen attended meetings of the Section d’Or at the studio of Jacques Villon and, as a result, began to incorporate subtle, yet distinct, Cubist elements into his work.
With the outbreak of World War One, Nielsen returned to Copenhagen, taking with him both his increasing compositional sophistication and a thorough understanding of the principles of Modernism. During this period, ports, dance and circus life became subjects of interest and he painted many canvases in the style of Analytic Cubism, of which he became the earliest and, arguably, the finest Danish exponent. From 1915 onwards, Nielsen also created Cubist sculptures and, from 1922-28, was employed as a sculptor by the Royal Copenhagen porcelain factory. Here, he produced a series of ceramic sculptures on Biblical themes which included the Good Samaritan and several versions of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. His sculptures and ceramics were both widely applauded and, for a time, their fame overshadowed that of his paintings. In 1925, his work 'The Potter' was awarded the Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition.
In 1920, Nielsen travelled to Italy, where he undertook a close study of trecento painting including Giotto's murals at Assisi. Inspired by this experience, he turned his attention to mural painting and, in addition to numerous other public installations, created the monumental frescoes for St. Elisabeth's Hospital in Copenhagen. This fresco cycle, the second largest in Denmark, covers over 3,500 square feet and portrays the legend of Saint Elisabeth of Hungary in a pictorial narrative imbued with the style of the early Italian Renaissance. In 2015, after comprehensive analysis by the Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation, the St. Elisabeth frescoes underwent comprehensive restoration by conservators from the National Museum of Denmark.
Over the course of a long career, Nielsen exhibited widely and with success. In 1986, a posthumous retrospective of his work was held at Galerie 1900-2000 and, in the same year, he was selected as the sole Danish Modernist represented in the landmark Futurist exhibition, “Futurismo & Futurismi”. In 2009, a large exhibition of Nielsen's work was held at the Bornholm Kunstmuseum.
Jais Nielsen is now recognized as the foundational pioneer of Scandinavian Modernism. His works are held in private and public collections worldwide including the permanent collections of the National Art Museum of Denmark, the National Museum of Norway in Oslo and the Museum Lolland-Falsters in Denmark, among others. The artist is well-listed in all relevant art historical reference works including Thieme-Becker and Benezit, which provides 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.