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Ejnar Nielsen: 'The Blind Girl. Gjern', 1896-98. The Hirschsprung Collection. © Ejnar Nielsen / VISDA

EJNAR NIELSEN. Painter of the Unseen

24 August – 11 December 2022

Of all Danish artists active around the year 1900, Ejnar Nielsen (1872–1956) is the one who most directly and bluntly responded to fundamentally existential, yet at the time taboo subjects such as illness, poverty, disability, loneliness, life and death. His works dating from his years in the central Jutland village of Gjern, for which he left Copenhagen as a young artist in 1894, show a particular focus on these themes. Here he painted graveyards, terminally ill tuberculosis-stricken young people, funeral scenes set in beautiful landscapes, coffins and scenes of hell. His monumental paintings are often peopled by individuals of a kind who only rarely find their way into art: blind people, the poor, the sick and people whose lives are consigned to the fringes of society.

Ejnar Nielsen has been nicknamed the ‘painter of death’, and his early oeuvre has been called his ‘medical record from Gjern’. Yet beneath the seemingly bleak surface, hope, light, and life lie ready to sprout forth. The artist’s interest in flowers and plants takes root in even the most subdued subjects, and in his portraits light seems to flow from inside the figures like manifestations of their inherent life force. His art stands as a modern memento mori, a reminder that we must remember to live, sense, love and be while we are here.

The exhibition is created in collaboration with Vejen Art Museum.

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Ejnar Nielsen: 'The Blind Girl. Gjern', 1896-98. The Hirschsprung Collection. © Ejnar Nielsen / VISDA