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Jewelry making in Denmark has existed since well before the time of Christ, the first of which utilized such materials as amber and bone.
RC Figurines - Gerhard Henning
Most early jewelry was imported from other countries at the time, and even the little jewelry created by Danish gold and silver smiths was often designed on foreign models and illustrations, and even still, the materials used to create these pieces often came from melting down old jewelry, which essentially erases the small traces of history that give us a definitive view on the evolution of jewelry in Denmark.
Another difficulty in tracing the past of Danish jewelry comes from the lack of definitive marks, denoting the craftsmen and countries of origin, on many pieces, making them nearly impossible to trace. Historicism The periods of design previous to what would be called "Old Nordic" often came from the styles of other countries, such as the Classicism of France, which preceded it. As the name "Historicism" implies, much of the style of of this period comes from the designs of periods much prior, including the Bronze and Iron Ages, and though richly ornamented, many of the shapes and designs mirrored the tools of the previous times.
Viking motifs and ornamental axes came together to form brooches, and reflected nationalist feelings of the time. Even though this would be the first truly Danish style, the goldsmiths and silversmiths of Denmark had developed quite a bit of skill through the ages, and this was reflected in the difficult to copy stylings of this new jewelry.
Partially due to this, its popularity caught on in other nations and soon after, in , one of the first stores to sell Danish jewelry outside of the country had opened on New Bond Street in London. Unfortunately, few designs were actually produced in Old Nordic. The craftsmen had much talent in reproducing works, however, few had much interest in creating new designs of their own. The late 19th century had created foundation of what would come though, and craftsmen would start to collaborate with a number of artists in order to advance the field.
Also helpful would be the influx of gold and silver from the Americas, greatly increasing the raw materials for the public consumption. Also discovered during this time period was the art of galvanoplasty, a form electroplating, which would allow for works to be reproduced cheaper and heralded in part the arrival of industrialism.
Also present during this time were the neo-baroque and neo-rococo stylings, which would supplant the less popular classicism of France. Utilizing natural themes in a freer manner, and often making use of big flowing leaves, the style would have its influence upon Danish jewelry, the greatest of which might lie with Countess Danner, who was wed by King Fredrik VII, whom, according to legend, gave her a piece of jewelry ever morning.
Regardless of truth in the legend, upon her death, almost pieces were sold at auction. A number of the pieces King Fredrik VII bought had been from the best goldsmiths in Denmark, Including Bernhard Hertz, whom was one of the first danish craftsmen to specialize in jewelry, and competed with foreign importers.
Gold and silver set with pearls and diamonds decorate this piece, and the Dagmar cross, which rendered beautifully in enamel also contained a piece of the True Cross from the Old Nordic Museum, and a piece of St. Also during this period Peter Hertz, relation to the aforementioned Bernhard Hertz, which became one of the largest jewelry manufacturers of Denmark with exports to many outside countries.
Vilhelm Christesen also made a name for himself during this period, and with the Old Nordic style, where he was oft imitated by English goldsmiths, and Arent Nicolaj Dragsted, whose company with P. Hertz and A Michelsen would continue to influence trends and create many styles of jewelry for generations to come.
Reacting against the poor quality of the industrially produced jewelry of the time and looking for something new and different from the historicism that preceded it, each country reinvented their styles in their own ways. Skonvirke was unique in its own right, and like the other styles of the time, both influenced and was influenced by each other. Skonvirke was unique however, as the period made great use of enamel, something known but not often used in periods prior, as well as semiprecious stones to give bright and vibrant color to the pieces created.
Skonvirke craftsmen also developed a unique texture for the pieces they created, a hand hammered effect creating a play of light and softness unique to itself, and setting it apart from the machined surfaces.
Though this too was later duplicated by machines using special molds. Skonvirke also had its own ethic behind it, much of which is owed to Mogens Ballin , and the silversmiths he influenced many artists wanted to create not just works of beauty, but also wanting something affordable to the every day person. Another unique quality to Skonvirke was the incredible collaboration between artists and craftsmen.
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Many of the silver and goldsmiths at this time had been trained in the field of arts. Bindesboll had worked with ceramics for example, Georg Jensen being a sculptor, as well as Just Andersen and Siegfried Wagner.
Mogens Ballin, whom Georg Jensen had worked under, also had his own unique artistic training, having been a painter. Also helpful to the movement was the establishment of the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, which supported many Danish artists by purchasing and reviewing their works, and organizing exhibitions to provide inspiration. Some of the more "inspirational" purchases made included the works of C. Having the formal training and working his entire life as a painter, Harald Slott-Moller also took his ideas towards the decorative arts, and in particular jewelry.
Utilizing enamels and precious metals, as well as ivory and semiprecious stones, he would create piece of jewelry which often told of stories through pictorial means. His use of stones was also quite unique, using diamonds for stars, pearls for shells, and many other creative elements, often took on many of the same themes as the Renaissance artists of the past, which of course can be traced back to his travels with his wife, Agnes Slott-Moller, to Italy, where the artists of the Renaissance captured their eyes and inspired.
One of his most notable piece of jewelry, the famous "Helen of Troy" necklace,demonstrates this. Utilizing ivory and enamel to bring color and form to the piece, he depicts the lovely Helen, daughter of Zeus and Leda, with Troy burning in the background as well as battling soldiers to each side.
The piece was considered quite beautiful although its heavy reliance on enamel for color, which may hearken back to his artistic roots, is too colorful for a piece of jewelry, and contrasts too greatly with its graceful forms. Critics were quite aware of this at the time, however, it was also noticed that he worked on the piece himself, with the exception of some of the more difficult settings being handled by A.
Thorvald Bindesboll If anyone is responsible for the definitive look of Skonvirke, it is Thorvald Bindesboll. Trained as an architect, he did much more to establish his name through the decorative arts, and in particular, that of jewelry.
Inspired by virtually everything from Celtic knotwork to Japanese tsuba, he developed the unique abstract, nature inspired designs that would construct the majority of his work. Bindesboll was extremely prolific throughout his lifetime and as Svend Hammershoj had once described him, "Bindesboll simply hand to produce", and created a great number of illustrations and in depth drawing profiling his many ideas.
The biggest issue of which was the disconnect between artist-designer and craftsman and Bindesboll himself did not work with silver, but with pottery, and his "living clay" style of ornamentation and design with organic forms were unusual and difficult for silversmiths to understand. This in turn gave a simpler and mostly misunderstood translation of his sketches into silver, where part of the impact was lost. Over designs were created during this period, and the Skonvirke idiom started to gain its distinctive look.
From there he went traveled to Brittany where he had a religious experience and converted to Catholicism in A deeply religious man, he first joined a Benedictine monastery and then later a Franciscan. His travels to Italy had also inspired him to create a new school of art based on his impressions of early Italian art. Unfortunately, the monastic life was too rigid for him, and the sacrifices it demanded too great, so in he married and with his own money, he started his workshop in He wrote of the experience to one of his superiors at the monastery in Beuron, "I want to make everyday objects with a lovely form, of bronze, pewter, polished copper, and other cheap metals.
It is my intention to make things which even the smallest purse can afford. Art for the people and not refined art for rich parvenus. As you see, I am building on some of the ideas of the English: William Morris, John Ruskin and their fellows have shown me the way On a number of his pieces, one can also see the hammer marks that were definitive of the style.
Drawing his artistic inspiration from Bindesboll and working with his colleague Siegfried Wagner as well as a number of other well known Danish silversmiths, he created jewelry that did its best to serve his ideals and produce jewelry that common folk could afford and which could compete with foreign imported goods. After his wife died, he sold the workshop however its impact on Danish jewelry was far longer lasting.
In fact, the workshop of Mogens Ballin itself was the site where many names were first made. The workshop had sold a number of decorative items when it first opened, including lamps, writing sets and hollowware along side the brooches, clasps and buckles and other jewelry items mentioned.
From the start, Siegfried Wagner, the sculptor, had been employed and worked alongside Mogens Ballin creating and designing a number of models himself. Wagner had been trained at the Royal academy of Fine arts and also worked two years at Bong and Grondahl Porcelain Manufactury, an experience whose influence could be seen.
Also from the beginning was the work of Gudmund Hentz whom contrasted greatly from the other two artists, and his roots in book illustration can be seen in his highly illustrative designs.
Also notably employed by Mogens Ballin was perhaps one of the greatest names in the history of Danish jewelry, Georg Jensen. Pedersstaede in Copenhagen, where upon completing his apprenticeship, he trained as a journeyman and attended a technical school in addition to his training as a sculptor, making him one of the first Skonvirke designers with training as a craftsman.
Originally Georg Jensen wished to pursue the career of a sculptor, and after showing a bust of his father done in his youth to professor Theobald Stein, he began down the path of training towards his goals and afterward enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in One of his more well recognized earlier pieces, a buckle depicting Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, is typical of the early style, however, it was truly working with Mogens Ballin and Seigfried Wagner and under the influence of their ideals: The change could be seen in his exhibits as well.
His exhibition at the Kleis Art Gallery, only a year after displaying his sculptures, had a new focus on jewelry, which became his new sculptural medium and not only was a piece purchased by the the Museum of Decorative Arts, but also gained positive reviews. The very first year in business he exhibited at the Museum of Decorative Arts as an independent silversmith to much praise.
In Georg Jensen had won a gold medal at a world exposition in Brussels, and soon his shop employed over 60 workers and had moved several times. Another great help to Georg Jensen and the success of his workshop was his friendship with Johan Rohde, who designed a great number of pieces for the silversmithy, and also advised him to not expand at the rate business increased, lest the shop lose its artistic view and Georg Jensen himself lose his influence as outside financiers were brought in which, the latter tragically would happen, causing Georg Jensen to start anew in Paris from Much of his success can be attributed to the fluidity and detail of his designs, combined with his exceptional craftsmanship and expert use of materials.
He breathed life into the silver, and contrasted the stark whiteness of the silver with warm richly colored amber, coral, and other stones, as well as contrasting surfaces.
His designs often had more detail than, say, Bindesboll, yet never as highly stylized as Rene Lalique or others whom might have inspired the formation of his own particular idiom. Mostly self taught, he also studied chasing for half a year under painter and silversmith H.
Viggo-Hansen, as well as modeling with sculptor Stephan Sinding, however his fiercely independent and willful nature prevented many from taking him on as an apprentice. He went abroad to also study in Berlin, for two years, and when he returned in , he opened his own workshop, having sold one of his masterpieces, the grasshopper brooch, to the Museum of Decorative Art.
He also produced a number of other jewelry pieces in gold and silver as well as starting to make a number of pieces using porcelain plaques with settings experimented with Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactury as well as developing his own crystal glazing. Many of his best works had insect motifs, and his own incredibly high standards for the art is reflected in his works. Author Herman Bang wrote once, "From the earliest years, he set a goal for himself: We are too poor to cultivate what most would call luxury.
As soon as Erik Magnussen arrived in the U, he found success with Gorham, and began a tour of a number of major cities in the United States, whilst developing a unique style he would call, "skyscraper style". All of this; the tours, the exhibitions, the advertisements, the interviews; did much to promote him in his new home, however in Denmark, it had created a bit of criticism, pointing out that he had finally compromised his artistic talents. Traveling across the country, by , he opened a workshop in Los Angeles in that supplied a number of stars with jewelry.
Six years later he would return to Denmark and during the second war, developed a line of jewelry in a Nordic style. In particular his jewelry is perhaps the most original of the Skonvirke artists.
Michelsen, but perhaps most famously Georg Jensen. Georg Jensen and he had actually been acquainted for some time before this however, as Rohde was one of the founders of the Free Exhibition where Georg Jensen had exhibited in His jewelry, as well as his other pieces have a very logical design to them, often building on the simplest of forms, and often utilized gemstones as well as the other materials to form an overall "whole" whereas other artist often focused on the gems themselves,and everything placed in a well thought out manner.
Most of his jewelry has a floral motif, and often made in gold and utilizing traditional filigree or tendril acanthus like leaves, the flatware pattern, Acanthus, also by Johan Rohde, gives a decent understanding of this style of motif , which hearkened back to more neoclassical Danish roots.
Kai Nielsens skulpturer
Evald Nielsen Evald Nielsen originally applied to apprentice under A. Fleron in Copenhagen to make flatware, however the goldsmith had trained him as a chaser and an engraver, working with silver and steel in particular.
In he applied for a travel grant and started off by traveling throughout Germany and finally Paris, studying the jewelry of the times. When he came back to Denmark in , he started his own business, and started working immediately, up 18 hours at first. Jacobson, who was given the exclusive rights to sell his designs in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and gave him access to one of the largest productions in Denmark, and by World War I, the "Nielsen style" was on par with the "Jensen style".
Most of his designs utilized a bold opulent forms with stones that emerged tightly from flower buds like new blossoms. It was a technique no one else at the time could master, and is perhaps one of the few notable Skonvirke designers that was not trained as an artist.