Long-Lost Watercolors Of '1001 Nights' Bring New Life To Age-Old Tales

A long-lost work of Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen is being published for the first time, evoking all the magic of this legendary collection of Indo-Persian and Arabic folktales.
This original watercolor is from "The Tale of the First Dervish" about a brother and sister who suffer the consequences of falling in love. Source: Courtesy of TASCHEN

In the early 20th century, artists experimented with color and less realistic dimensions, and mixed the worlds of Eastern and Western mythologies. Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, working in Europe during World War I, finished his own evocative version of A Thousand and One Nights. His mysticism-tinted take on the Arabian stories pushed visual storytelling to new heights.

Nielsen filled his illustrations with expressionist, nearly surrealist characters and whimsical landscapes, breaking the boundaries of what visual storytelling was supposed to look like.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min read
Sports Illustrated Magazine Now Under Ross Levinsohn, Exec With Controversial Past
The storied magazine was sold last month. And now editorial control of the 65-year-old magazine has been licensed to TheMaven, a digital outfit that is bringing in a controversial CEO.
NPR5 min read
Replacing Plastic: Can Bacteria Help Us Break The Habit?
Entrepreneurs are eager to find substitutes for plastic that naturally degrade. One option is a "natural" plastic made by microbes and then eaten by them. But the process is still in early days.
NPR12 min readPolitics
Tobacco's 'Special Friend': What Internal Documents Say About Mitch McConnell
The Senate majority leader wants to raise the age for tobacco sales to 21. An NPR review of once-secret documents shows how closely McConnell has worked with the industry over decades.