Ejnar Nielsen (1872-1956) was one of the clearest Danish exponents of the artistic movement known as “Symbolism”. His paintings are often dark or bleak, depicting ill or otherwise unfortunate souls, on canvases of a monumental scale.

The Hirschsprung Collection in central Copenhagen, one of the nation’s most important museums for turn-of-the-century art, in 2022 produced a large solo exhibition for the artist, the show “Ejnar Nielsen – Signs of Life” for which we did the exhibition design.

To allow for paintings of this monumental scale, the museum moved their permanent collection out of the main halls. A new dark color-scheme was applied to all of the mouldings and wall faces. We also had a text frieze revealing passages from the artist’s love letters to his sweetheart hand-painted below the plaster cornice encompassing each room.

Symbolism was closely linked to the Danish Arts-and-Crafts equivalent movement known as “Skønvirke”. For this reason we designed stools and display tables re-interpreting Skønvirke details.

As part of the exhibition, the museum did a collaboration with The Danish Association for the Blind – many of Ejnar Nielsen’s subjects were the blind inhabitants from the village of Gjern, so throughout the exhibition are interviews with blind or visually impaired people, describing different concepts relating to blindness and visual art. To add to this, we studded the stools and display tables with text bites in Braille lettering – both as an ornamental feature, but also as an extra communicating layer for those who use their fingertips to read.

One of Ejnar Nielsen most famous works is the painting “The Blind Girl” depicting a young woman standing in front of a meandering creek set in lustrous gold leaf. To emphasize the importance of this piece we proposed gilding the wall that the painting was mounted on. The result can be seen below.

The exhibition ran from August 22 – December 15 2023.

All photos by Laura Stamer.