Ejnar Nielsen (1872-1956), And in His Eyes I Saw Death, 1897
Of all Ejnar Nielsen’s works from his years spent in the small Jutland town in Gjern 1894-1900, this is the painting that stays with you.
A dialogue about death
Spectators have no chance of letting their gaze and mind wander. We are transfixed, drawn into a dialogue about the inescapable, the meaningless, and if our gaze seeks to look away, it is met and stopped by the large dark coffin to the left. The colour scheme is dark and sombre, and every element in the picture serves to accentuate and relay the feeling of total powerlessness in this waiting room of Death.
The many victims of tuberculosis
The young man was afflicted with tuberculosis, a disease which claimed particularly many victims among Ejnar Nielsen’s contemporaries in the 1890s, a fact which might explain the sympathetic insight and fascination with death that characterises this picture.
A testimony of the artist's world view
Suspended between tortured life and the release of death, this painting is a very personal testimony to Ejnar Nielsen’s world view, which did not include a God. In Ejnar Nielsen’s universe, man is left to his own devices; we must face the random fate allotted to us all, handling it as best we can and finding beauty in our lives in spite of everything. A painful realisation that was a particular feature of the turn of the century, but which appears at its most raw and honest in Ejnar Nielsen’s art.