From illustrator to cosmopolitan multi-artist
Bjørn Wiinblad was born in Copenhagen in 1918. At a very early age, he began to show signs of his talent for drawing and creating imaginative worlds. Aged 17, he began an apprenticeship as a typographer, but soon realised that his heart was set on following the path of an artist.
He has a high profile worldwide as a painter, stage and poster designer, designer of tapestry, pottery, metalware and ceramics. He is regarded as one of the most imaginative and versatile artist. Next to many other things, he illustrated the 16 volume Danish edition of ‘Arabian Nights’. His work has been widely shown in Europe, the United States (since 1954), Japan, Australia and Canada (since 1968). He was attached to the US Embassy in Paris in 1947 as a poster designer. Later his playful posters illustrated Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli Gardens and many other activities and events in Denmark, as well as the Paralympic Summer Games in Seoul, the New World Symphony Orchestra Academy in Miami, and the Royal Danish Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House, all in 1988. His textile work was used for costumes for numerous ballets and stage presentations.
Characteristics of Wiinblad’s work include whimsical round-faced people, dressed in vaguely 19th century costume. They are often surrounded by natural elements; twining vines, floral wreaths, and fantastical trees. When Wiinblad employed colour, he did so with great assurance. His colour choice is saturated and strong, sometimes almost psychedelic and often supplemented with gold or silver tones.
Museums around the world have Wiinblad’s work in their collections and he has received many awards. Among these are the V&A in London, MOMA in New York and Stockholm’s National Museum. His large series of ceramics and tapestries have been used for hotel decorations in Japan and the US. For the World Trade Center in Dallas he designed a large Scheherazade tapestry.
Women were a consistent theme in the Wiinblad universe and production. His women displayed a wide range of emotional nuances, and their eyes – specifically, their gaze – were always very special. As a rule, they looked out with openness and curiosity – but with traces of dejection, melancholy and mysticism.
The eyes meant something very special to Wiinblad, so even though he employed a large number of people, he always painted the eyes himself. The personality of the women also found expression through unusual heads and strange, sprout-like ears, short arms, small breasts and angular noses. In other words, the women were intensely “Wiinbladian”.