Strawberryluna

Kay Nielsen: Illustrations of Gorgeous Form & Light in “East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon”

Kay Nielsen illustration from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”1914, via Brain Pickings.

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

As a lifelong lover of fairy tales & folk tales (quite literally, I have never grown out of my adoration for their magic and storylines ever). Like many others, I have been fascinated by the illustrations that have come to accompany theses tales in the past couple of centuries. How lucky we are in this way to have not only the tales, but books beautifully illustrated by visionary artists illuminating twists, turns, and the drama of these ancient stories.

One of my many favorites is the Danish genius of form & light, Kay Nielsen (1886 – 1957) who worked both in his native Denmark as well as the UK and the US in his career. He illustrated many books and set decorations, as well as his noted work for Disney, but today I am highlighting his unbelievably epic and lovely work in one book, “East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon”, (this version published in 1914)as it is staggering in its detail, drama and use of light and texture.

Following are some of my favorite examples from 3 pretty great sources: Brain Pickings, 50 Watts, and the Flickr feed of the National Library NZ on The Commons all of which are amazing resources and well worth your time and support.

Kay Nielsen illustration from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”1914, via 50 Watts.

‘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’.

 

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Illustration by Kay Nielsen in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, 1914, via National Library NZ on The Commons

‘On that island stands a church; in that church is a well; in that well swims a duck.’

 

Illustration by Kay Nielsen for “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, 1914 via Brain Pickings

‘The King went into the Castle, and at first his Queen didn’t know him, he was so wan and thin, through wandering so far and being so woeful.’

 

Kay Nielsen illustration from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”1914, via 50 Watts.

‘So the man gave him a pair of snow-shoes.’

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, 1914, via National Library NZ on The Commons

Illustration by Kay Nielsen in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, 1914, via National Library NZ on The Commons

‘He took a long, long farewell of the Princess, and when he got out of the Giant’s door, there stood the Wolf waiting for him.’

Published in 1914, this version of “East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon” marks a high point in the American era known as the Golden Age Of Illustration (roughly from the 1880′s through the early 1920′s). We will we publishing more posts from some of our favorites from that time in the near future. Thanks for reading & I hope that you enjoy!

Book Cover Design in India 1964 to 1984, from 50 Watts

Click to see more from this collection.

In my morning-coffee-stumble-through-the-internet-while-waking-up ritual today I came across a fantastically cool / I can’t believe that I didn’t know about this before blog, called 50 Watts, run by Philadelphian (yay! My hometown!) Will Schofield.

50 Watts is great little space of the web covering the intersection of book collection, design, and illustration. Sounds like heaven to me.  What caught my eye was an image from a post on now vintage book covers from the 40 year span from 1964 – 1984. Here, I’ve posted a few of my favorites, but definitely check out the full post at 50 Watts here.

And yeah, part of me wishes that I could read the text on these beauties. At the same time, they still speak quite clearly and the other part of me loves being able to make up stories about what these stories are about.

Click to see more from this collection.

Mostly, I just adore the flatness of the color fields, the kapow! of their graphics and layout, and symbolic style of the illustrations. Being a silkscreen printmaker, there is something so excellently familiar about the way that these were printed, probably cheaply, probably in a spot, or one color at a time process like screenprinting. You can see the areas where pieces aren’t in perfect register, or where colors overprint one another, and the use of halftones to mimic saturation levels of a color. All make my heart do little flips. The limitations of this type of printing force incredibly creative and freeing design and illustration choices, which, clearly I love and have embraced as a career. So, no. It’s no surprise that I dig these. I hope that you do too.

Click to see more from this collection.

Click to see more from this collection.