Kay Nielsen was born in 1886 and died in 1957
He was a Danish illustrator who was popular in the
early 20th century, the "golden age of illustration"
which lasted from when Daniel Vierge and other pioneers
developed printing technology to the point that drawings
and paintings could be reproduced with reasonable facility,
He joined the ranks of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac
in enjoying the success of the gift books of the early
20th century. This fad lasted until roughly the end
of World War II when economic changes made it more
difficult to make a profit from elaborately illustrated books.
Born in Copenhagen into an artistic family, his father was
director of the Royal Danish Theatre. He studied art in
Paris from 1904 to 1911, and then lived in England from
about 1911 to 1916. He received his first English
commission from Hodder and Stoughton to illustrate a
collection of fairytales, providing 24 colour plates and more
than 15 monotone illustrations - In Powder and Crinoline,
Fairy Tales Retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 1913.
In the same year, Nielsen was also commissioned by
The Illustrated London News to produce a set of four
illustrations to accompany the tales of Charles Perrault -
with the images for 'Le Belle au Bois Dormant'
('Sleeping Beauty'), 'Le Chat Botté' ('Puss in Boots'),
'Cendrillon' ('Cinderella') and 'La Barbe Bleue' ('Bluebeard')
being published in the 1913 Christmas Edition.
In 1939 he left for California and worked for
Hollywood companies, including The Walt Disney Company,
where his work was used in the "Ave Maria" and
"Night on Bald Mountain" sequences of Fantasia.
In 1940 he was laid off. He did some work on
"The Little Mermaid" story, but it was almost 50 years
before this reached the cinema. His final years were spent
in poverty. His last works were for local schools
including 'The First Spring' mural installed at
Central Junior High School, Los Angeles and
churches including his painting to the Wong Chapel
at the First Congregational Church, Los Angeles -
illustrating the 23rd Psalm.