Kay Nielsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1886. His first success as an illustrator came with the book we digitized for inclusion in our media database today... "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". Nielsen differed from his contemporaries, who were steeped in the European tradition, by following the lead of artists from the art nouveau movement like Aubrey Beardsley, as well as Persian and Asian art.
Nielsen's interests shifted from book illustration to design for the theater; and in 1936, he was brought to Los Angeles to design a production at the Hollywood Bowl. He decided to join the Disney Studios as a concept artist and made a significant contribution to "Fantasia". In fact, you can see early precursors of the designs for the Pastoral Sequence in a couple of the illustrations from "Twelve Dancing Princesses" below.
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive was fortunate to obtain a first edition of "Twelve Dancing Princesses" to digitize. The vivid colors and sharp details in this vintage book do justice to Nielsen's genius better than the fuzzy, faded reproductions in later collections do.
Nielsen's pen and ink drawings are just as beautiful as the color illustrations. If you would like to see all the images from this book, stop by the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive anytime during office hours.