Kai Nielsen (b. Svendborg 1882, d. Frederiksberg 1924)

“Aarhuspigen” (The Aarhus Girl). Signed Kai Nielsen 1921 No. III. Green patinated bronze. H. 175 cm.

Literature: Poul Uttenreiter “Kai Nielsen”, Slesvigsk forlag, Copenhagen-Flensborg, 1925, p. 54–55. Here, the version “Staaende Kvindefigur” (Standing Female Figure), which is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Denmark. Literature: Vilhelm Wanscher “Kai Nielsen. Hans Liv og Værker” (His Life and Work), P. Haase & Søn, Copenhagen, 1926, depicted p. 67–68. Literature: Nina Kai Nielsen “Billedbogen om Kai Nielsen” (Kai Nielsen in Pictures), Dafolo, Frederikshavn p. 178. Literature: Faaborg Museum, “Kai Nielsen 1882–1924”, 1995, p. 38. Version from City Hall in Aarhus.

"Do not forsake your splendidness, of kisses I give you a dress. Death will release my thoughts of you, but ‘til then I’ll never be through."

Johannes V. Jensen

With the ”Aarhuspigen” (The Aarhus Girl) sculpture, Kai Nielsen demonstrated his masterful understanding of the aesthetic rules of sculptural art. In contrast to the other artforms, the sculptural artform stands apart by being a physical presence in the space of the viewer, which therefore is directly influenced by the surroundings. For a sculptor such as Kai Nielsen, this insight is crucial. The work lives its own life apart from the creating hands, or as he writes in his diary: “Art is always a message from human to human about inter-relational issues”. (Zakarias Jensen: “Den ukendte Kai Nielsen” (The Unknown Kai Nielsen), Alfred G. Hassings Forlag, Copenhagen, 1941 p. 99)

The sculpture was originally commissioned by Scala's director at the time, Frede Skaarup, as an installation at the entrance to the sports stadium in Aarhus. After a fire, the sculpture was re-erected in 1948 in the City Hall Park, where it stands today as a monument of classical Modernism in Denmark. With “Århuspigen” Kai Nielsen exemplifies how the classical elements can be translated to a modern idiom and brought into a new day and age. The figure frees herself from her solid form and extends far into the world of the living. Just waking up, with her eyes still closed tightly in a vulnerable and fleeting moment between dream and waking life, the girl moves us deeply. Her pose, strong and gentle – both shy and passionate – with her hip slightly sideways, feet inward, the face hidden but the body exposed. At the same time, the composition proves Kai Nielsen's ability to physically move the viewer. He carefully guides us around the figure, which should therefore not only be understood frontally but as a spatial whole.

As Pygmalion fell in love with his own creation, one clearly senses Kai Nielsen's great love for the woman, the body and the sensuality: “A great and extensive sense of love is the basis for the inspiration of this figure. Past and present, all of nature and all women are part of this figure as if it was a composed photograph, copied over with many images”.

(Johannes. V. Jensen: "Stadier i skulptur” (Stages in Sculpture) in Form og Sjæl, 1931, p. 195)


Condition report on request. Please contact: modernart@bruun-rasmussen.dk

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Paintings and sculptures, 4 December 2019



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