The World of Yesterday Lost: Mourning, beauty and consolation in the oeuvre of Danish artist Palle Nielsen

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The graphic artist and draftsman Palle Nielsen (1920–2000) was one of the greatest Danish artists of the twentieth century. Nielsen’s oeuvre can be read as a monument to the tragedies of the twentieth century, thematizing modernity’s experience of contingency and expressing a mourning for the loss of the world of yesterday (Thorborg, 2015b). His work expresses a conscious approach to the legacy of classical art, and he has been interpreted as a modern tragedian. (Gammelgaard, 2005; Thorborg, 2015a).
From the Terreur of the French revolution to the Gulag archipelago, from Auschwitz to Hiroshima, from the Stahlgewittern of WWI to 9/11, humankind has experienced the tragic shadow of modernity. Still, since the “emergence from self-imposed nonage” in the enlightenment, humankind has progressed to heights hitherto unimaginable. As Sophocles puts it: “Many the wonders but nothing walks stranger than man.”
This tragic duality in modernity is thematized in the oeuvre of Nielsen. The study endeavours to show how Nielsen pointed to an other modernity, bridging the gap between the classical legacy and modernism. It is maintained that Nielsen suggested a synthesis of classicism and modernism in his art as an answer to the “death of God” and the problem of nihilism. Herein classical beauty plays a crucial role. By expressing the tragedies of modernity through the beautiful form of classicism, Nielsen provides a Catharsis, an emotional purging, which offers consolation. Thus he shows a way forward for the role of art in the Fearful Futures of the twenty-first century.
Publikationsdatojul. 2018
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2018
BegivenhedEuropean Conference on Arts & Humanities 2018: Fearfull Futures - IAFOR, Brighton, Storbritannien
Varighed: 9 jul. 201810 jul. 2018


KonferenceEuropean Conference on Arts & Humanities 2018


  • Kunsthistorie
  • Tragedie
  • Klassicisme
  • Modernitet
  • Palle Nielsen

Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

  • Nej