Kay (pronounced “kigh”) Nielsen is considered one of a triumvirate of classic “great ” illustrators from the golden age of illustration and gift book design during the first quarter of the 20th century. Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, also featured in Gallery IV, were the other stars.

Arthur Rackham looked to the work of the Romantic school of art for inspiration. He was influenced from the start by the styles of Beardsley, Burne-Jones, and the influx of Japanese art that was spreading to the West at this time. The books he illustrated were generally distinct from those of his contemporaries, too. Where Rackham did “The Ingoldsby Legends” and Dulac the “Tanglewood Tales”, both classics of the 19th Century, Nielsen chose “In Powder and Crinoline” (1913). This Arthur Quiller-Couch book is a distinctively 20th Century book that Nielsen made his own. It was published in America as “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” To this day, few artists have dared to attempt a different version.

The Snow Queen: Kay and Gerda

Nielsen was born in Denmark and studied art in Paris. To his artistic influences must be added John Bauer, the great Swedish fairy tale artist. Echoes of his forests and trees lurk in the backgrounds of many of Nielsen’s paintings. Art Nouveau and The Birmingham School, as exemplified by Jessie M. King, were also part of the raw materials he assimilated in search of a style.

His second great book, arguably his masterpiece, was “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” (1914). This was another book that Nielsen appropriated for himself. Written by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, the fifteen Nordic tales were seldom attempted by another artist until the Mercer Mayer edition of 1980 (which only illustrated the title tale), Nielsen’s 25 watercolors so captured the spirit and beauty of the subject matter that they’ve served as a visual intimidator ever since.

World War I was a great interrupter in Nielsen’s life and career. The momentum that he had achieved was thwarted and he published nothing until 1924. The intervening years were spent in Copenhagen where he was active in theater production. The 1924 book was Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, a project begun in 1912 and an obligatory task for any Danish illustrator. This was followed by Hansel and Gretel and ther Stories From the Brothers Grimm in 1925. Both were lavish enough, but were inherently more modest productions with twelve plates each. They seemed to rejuvenate neither Nielsen’s career nor the flagging market for gift books. Kay returned once more to Copenhagen and the theater.

Hansel and Gretel (1925)

…It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted; and when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. “We will set to work on that,” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.” Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. From Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel

The Juniper Tree (1925)

…Marlene went to her chest of drawers, took her best silk scarf from the bottom drawer, and gathered all her brother’s bones from beneath the table and tied them up in her silk scarf, then carried them outside the door, crying tears of blood.

She laid them down beneath the juniper tree on the green grass, and after she had put them there, she suddenly felt better and did not cry anymore.

Then the juniper tree began to move. The branches moved apart, then moved together again, just as if someone were rejoicing and clapping his hands. At the same time a mist seemed to rise from the tree, and in the center of this mist it burned like a fire, and a beautiful bird flew out of the fire singing magnificently, and it flew high into the air, and when it was gone, the juniper tree was just as it had been before, and the cloth with the bones was no longer there. Marlene, however, was as happy and contented as if her brother were still alive. From Grimm’s The Juniper Tree

He and his collaborator, Johannes Poulsen, staged many fantastic productions including “Aladdin,” “The Tempest” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They were invited to stage Max Reinhardt’s “Everyman” at the Hollywood Bowl in 1936 and Nielsen and his wife, Ulla, came to California. After Poulsen’s death, Nielsen chose to remain and try his hand in the animation business. He applied for work at Walt Disney Productions.

According to John Canemaker in his excellent “Before the Animation Begins,” Nielsen’s working pace had always been leisurely, but his vision was so unique that Disney set up an “inspirational assembly line” with Albert Hurter feeding him general ideas. Nielsen would render scenes in pastel in his own style and pass them on to other artists who would supply additional scenes in a similar style or simplified versions for animation guides. Both the style and pace of animation were very foreign to Nielsen. The hard edges and simpler shapes needed for the process were the antithesis of his soft and ornate pastels. The need for speed was a severe problem for a fifty-year-old. The industry was famous for wearing out much younger men and Kay was never fast to begin with. Couple those factors with the intense studio effort to produce “Fantasia” and Nielsen’s career was destined for an early end.

The North Wind Went Over the Sea (1925)

Early next morning the north wind woke her, and puffed himself up, and blew himself out, and made himself so stout and big. that he was gruesome to look at. Off they went high up through the air, as if they would not stop until they reached the end of the world.

Here on earth there was a terrible storm; acres of forest and many houses were blown down, and when it swept over the sea, ships wrecked by the hundred.

They tore on and on — no one can believe how far they went — and all the while they still went over the sea, and the north wind got more and more weary, and so out of breath he could barely bring out a puff, and his wings drooped and drooped, until at last he sunk so low that the tops of the waves splashed over his heels.

“Are you afraid?” said the north wind.

No, she wasn’t.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Nielsen’s designs were featured in the “Ave Maria” and “Night on Bald Mountain” sequences of “Fantasia,” but in 1940 he was laid off. He was brought back to work on designs for a “Fantasia” sequel that was discontinued after the disappointing showing of the original at the box office. He did some drawings for a version of “The Little Mermaid,” a film that had to wait almost 50 years to be made. Nielsen was given a posthumous screen credit as one of the designers.

He died in 1957 in poverty. The home he lived in and much of the necessities of his life for his last decades had been provided by local friends. His work during those decades was comprised of four local mural commissions for schools and a church. His wife, Ulla, died a year later. In 1975, David Larkin published Kay Nielsen, a collection of his work in his series of books on illustrators of the golden age. Suddenly his work was appreciated and loved again. Two years later, two of the Nielsens’ friends came forward with a set of 42 paintings he had done years before for an unpublished edition of “A Thousand and One Nights.” They had carefully held the canvasses in trust after his death, certain that he would again be acknowledged by the public. The “Unknown Paintings of Kay Nielsen” also contains a moving and loving tribute to Nielsen by Hildegarde Flanner. She was one of the custodians of the paintings and a neighbor who had supported and treasured her once-famous friends.

The Two Brothers (1925)

The next morning, the princess was brought to the hill, and the king’s marshal watched. The seven-headed dragon came and breathed fire, setting all the grass ablaze, but the animals trampled the flames out. The huntsman cut off six of its heads and its tail and had the animals tear it to bits. The princess distributed her necklace among the animals, and gave the huntsman her knife, with which he cut off the dragon’s tongues. He was exhausted and told the lion to keep watch while he slept, but the lion was also exhausted, and told the bear to keep watch, and so on down to the hare, who had no one to tell to keep watch. The marshal cut off the huntsman’s head and forced the princess to promise to say that he had rescued her. From Grimm’s The Two Brothers

Visit Gallery IV to see the paintings from Kay Nielsen.


Edmund Dulac was born in 1882 in Toulouse, France, and his artistic bent manifested itself early and drawings exist from his early teens. Many of these early efforts are watercolors, a medium he would favor through most of his life. He studied law at the University of Toulouse for two years while attending classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. As Colin White puts it in his inestimable book, Edmund Dulac;

“Two years of boredom at the law school and the winning of a prize at the Ecole des Beaux Arts convinced Dulac where his future lay.”

He left law school and enrolled full-time in the Ecole. He won the 1901 and 1903 Grand Prix for his paintings submitted to the annual competitions. A scholarship took him to Paris and the Académie Julien where he stayed for three weeks. That same year (1904) he left for London and the start of a meteoric career.

In 1935, Dulac illustrated a book by Hugh Ross Williamson called Gods and Mortals in Love, which contained tales of various relationships between mythical deities and humans, most of which end tragically.

Selene and Endymion 1935

The story of Selene and Endymion tells how Selene fell in love with the shepherd King, Endymion of Elis.

Selene was the Goddess of the Moon, and its personification in Classical Mythology. In many ways, she and her brother Helios took the places of Nyx and Hemera. Helios, Selene, and Eos, were the three siblings who effectively ruled the changing of the hours.

While Selene was driving her milky horses across the sky one evening, she saw the shepherd Endymion sleeping and fell in love with him. So that same night, Selene went to Zeus and told him how beautiful Endymion looked while sleeping. She asked if he could be granted eternal youth and eternal life and Zeus granted her wish. But true to his perverse form, Zeus fulfilled his promise by putting Endymion into an eternal sleep.

In his eternal slumber, Endymion dreamed that he held the moon in his arms, but it was more than a dream, because Selene bore fifty daughters to Endymion – all beautiful, pale, and sleepy. And it was in recognition of this eternal slumber that Keats opened his poem Endymion with the immortal lines;

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Perseus and Andromeda 1935

Cassiopeia, Queen of the Ethiopians, was so proud of her beauty that she dared to compare herself to the Sea-Nymphs. In a fit of pique, the indignant Sea-Nymphs sent a sea-monster to ravage the coast. Her husband, King Cepheus was told by the oracle to sacrifice his daughter Andromeda to the monster. Perseus found Andromeda chained to a rock, waiting for the serpent to seal her fate. Had it not been for her tears and her hair that moved with the breeze, he would have taken her for a marble statue.

He asked her, “O virgin, undeserving of those chains, but rather of such as bind fond lovers together, tell me, I beseech you, your name, and the name of your country, and why you are thus bound.” Andromeda, silent from modesty, did not answer at once, but Perseus persisted. Finally, she revealed her name and that of her country, and told the tale of her mother’s pride. As she was talking, the sea-monster appeared, his head reared above the waters, breaking the waves with his breast. Andromeda cried out. Then Perseus spoke, “There will be time enough for tears; this hour is all we have for rescue.”

Perseus killed the monster and took Andromeda as his wife, thought not without having to fight for her against another suitor and a band of killers.

The story of Perseus and Andromeda has been popular with painters and there are two other paintings of the same story in the Leominster Galleries. I encourage you to find them 😉

Pan and Syrinx 1935

The god Pan fell in love with the nymph Syrinx, who had until then eluded the pursuit of both gods and satyrs. Syrinx disdained Pan – who was neither man nor goat – and spurned his love and prayers. Pan pursued her, but when she reached the stream of the river Ladon, she was unable to escape. Synrinx then asked to the nymphs of the river to disguise her. The nymphs granted her prayers by turning her into marsh reeds.

When Pan tried to hold her, there were only the reeds and the sound which the air produced in them. On hearing it, Pan was charmed, and thinking of the nymph, said to himself in triumph, “This converse, at least, shall I have with you.”

Joining reeds of different sizes, he invented the musical instrument that was named syrinx after her, or sometimes Pan flute, after Pan himself.

Orpheus and Eurydice 1935

The quest for, and loss of, a beloved is not just a standard in classical mythology but an enduring theme in human relationships. Fans of the critical panned but actually visually stunning What Dreams May Come will see echoes of the Orphic quest in the story of Chris (Robin Williams) and Annie (Annabella Sciorra).

In the myth, Eurydice was fleeing from Aristaeus, a son of Apollo, when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately. Orpheus, the son of Apollo and blessed with musical talents, was so crushed by the loss of Eurydice that he composed music to express the emptiness of his life without her. In desperation, he decided to beg Hades for her return. Many had approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and all had been denied.

But Orpheus’ music softened the hard heart of Hades and he gave permission for Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the world of light with only one condition: Orpheus must not look back as he ascended. He must trust that Eurydice followed him. The journey back was long and difficult and as he glimpsed the light, he turned and looked behind him. Eurydice fell back into the Underworld and was lost to Orpheus forever.

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, has Eurydice dancing with naiads at her wedding when she is bitten by a snake, and not being chased by Aristaeus. Whatever the “true” version may be, the underlying loss of a lover remains.

Ice Maiden 1915

The Ice Maiden is not part of the Gods and Mortals in Love series but a watercolor painting made for a book called Dreamer of Dreams. It depicts a young woman walking through the icy snow holding a human heart, her dress glimmers, and she has two polar bears with her. Reminiscent of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the painting appears in Gallery IV for the simple reason that it is beautiful.

Gallery I of the Leominster Galleries

In-world, you should be able to use the Search facility and type “Leominster Galleries” to find the location. Or you can use the following SLurl:

secondlife://Root Squared/236/243/351

The galleries are way up in the sky so the SLurl takes you to Gallery I, where you can then use a teleport pad to visit the other galleries. I may be around either in the galleries or my “fortress of solitude” that hovers between them.

The Leominster Galleries

Feel free to IM me in-world for a landmark. At some point I may start a Leominster Galleries group – but let’s see how it goes, eh?

As 2010 approaches, I’m changing the nature of this blog from a review of virtual world news to a vehicle for my new art galleries that exist in the Second Life virtual world.

It’s been a desire of mine to create my own collection of classic works of art since I opened an account with the Second Life platform. However, my work as a writer in that same environment has kept me too busy to build the galleries. It’s also been the case that my real life has been somewhat turbulent over 2009 and my virtual life activities have diminished. I now concentrate on my involvement with SLentrepreneur magazine, MBC News, and the Metaverse Tribune. If I can slip in the occasional piece for the Alphaville Herald or Prim Perfect, that’s all well and good, but I’m trying not to overextend myself.

So what will you find at the Leominster Galleries?

The Leominster Galleries

Galleries I through III represent my permanent collection. By that, I mean that the works of art found there will rarely change, and any changes are likely to be small – such as replacing one Waterhouse painting with another just for variety.

And the works you will find there are predominantly 19th century paintings from such artists as John William Waterhouse, John Martin, Elihu Vedder, William Adolphe Bouguereau, Thomas Cole, John Collier, and many others. However, they do extend into the early 20th century and go back to the 16th but if you are a hopeless Romantic or Symbolist, the Leominster Galleries are definitely for you.

Sigs in Gallery I

Gallery IV will be reserved for my “traveling collection,” by which I mean there will be different exhibitions on a monthly or bimonthly basis, offering a complete change of scene based on my whim. For example, opening in January will be “The Illustrators Collection,” a number of renderings of engravings and images by such illustrators are Kay Nielsen, Gustave Dore, and Edmund Dulac.

Each Gallery IV exhibition will be supported by this site, with links to related sites and notes and comments from myself and possibly guest commentators.

Copies of any of the paintings can be purchased at the gallery, which won’t make me rich but go toward sustaining the galleries. By all means just stop by, spend some time, and then leave – I won’t be offended. Oh, and I am looking for a cool logo for the galleries so if you are a talented designer and want to help a dude out, just leave a comment or IM me in-world.

Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University has created a funny yet informative review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.

Tagged.com logo

Tagged.com logo

New York’s attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has charged that Tagged.com stole the identities of more than 60 million internet users worldwide – by sending emails that raided their private accounts. He plans to sue the social networking website for deceptive marketing and invasion of privacy.

iPhone users can now download a memorial to their deceased loved ones called the Pocket Cemetery. Although you can create your own animated tombstones, a pre-designed Michael Jackson version is already available.

At $2.99, it’s a bargain – well, sort of.