Jais Nielsen (1885-1961), Circus Performance. Acrobats, 1916
Acrobats is a highlight among the many circus pictures that he painted in 1916 and 1917. A simplification of the shapes and colours and a slight fragmentation of the picture plane into facets testify to the impact that Cubism had on Jais Nielsen, who lived in Paris in 1911-14 and was acquainted with parts of the Cubist scene.
The circuc as motif
Circus was a favourite motif for avant-garde artists all over Europe, both before and after the turn of the last century. The artists felt an affinity with the circus performers, who also lived on the fringes of society and dedicated their lives to something that had no meaning in the outside world, but which was perfectly legitimate within its own artistic space. Thus, circus performers were commonly used as symbols of the artists themselves, and circus as a symbol of art.
The trapeze artists soaring through the air
Nielsen’s painting describes the artistic climax where the trapeze artists appear to soar weightlessly through the air. The link to the visual arts is accentuated by the remarkably empty ring space, prominently placed in the centre of the composition and dominated by pronounced brushstrokes. Circus ring and picture plane, circus performer and painter are correlated as two metaphorically linked sides of the same motif.