Kai Nielsen – Born of Everyday Life

Special Exhibitions /30.05.2024 - 05.01.2025

You have probably already met The Water Mother, who welcomes visitors to the Glyptotek from her pool in the Winter Garden. The Danish sculptor Kai Nielsen (1882-1924) created the work specially for the Glyptotek. Nielsen’s works will form the focal point for a collaborative exhibition project involving Faaborg Museum and the Glyptotek – two special exhibitions, which will run in parallel at the two museums from summer 2024.

Despite the popularity of The Water Mother, Kai Nielsen is largely unknown, even though his works can be seen in a number of public spaces in Denmark: for example, on Blågårds Plads in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, and on the town square in Faaborg (the sculpture Ymir’s Well). He is perhaps best known for the small ornaments and statuettes he designed for the Danish porcelain companies Bing & Grøndahl and Kähler, and for Dansk Kunsthandel.


Kristeligt Dagblad


Muscle men, mythology and motherhood
Kai Nielsen (1882 – 1924) was fascinated by the human body. His themes included both strong male bodies with the ideal physique of antiquity as a role model – for example, in the monumental sculpture First Generation – and female figures inspired by ancient mythology like Aphrodite – for example in the sculpture Aarhus Girl or Venus with the Apple. But he was also dedicated to everyday motifs: for example, Girl Fiddling with Her Toes, statuettes of children, and busts of his family and of famous athletes, artists and art collectors of his day.

The Glyptotek and Kai Nielsen
Kai Nielsen’s endeavour to depict ‘what is natural’ and make his works accessible invests his art with a down-to-earth, popular quality. At the same time, his sculptures feature references to mythological and ancient stories.

Kai Nielsen attended the academy in Copenhagen and found inspiration at the Glyptotek, where he studied 19th-century French and Danish sculpture, and ancient Greek and Roman art. At an early stage in his career, he got in touch with the brewer Carl Jacobsen: maybe to inspire the patron of art to invest in his works. The Glyptotek has an extensive collection of Kai Nielsen’s sculptures and sketches, which are presented in the exhibition alongside loans from museums and private collections in Denmark and Norway.

Studying the body
Kai Nielsen was born and raised in Svendborg. There was something both down-to-earth and lofty about Kai Nielsen. This was reflected in the quasi-mythological story of Kai the sculptor and human being, to which his family, friends and acquaintances all contributed. He possessed a sparkling sense of humour, great charisma, superhuman willpower and manic industriousness, despite his rather frail constitution and poor health.

“It takes a healthy body to make healthy art,” was one of the mottos of the artist from Funen. This was a conviction he took literally. Persistently, he modelled the human body, while training his own. He rowed, swam, boxed, rode, fenced and wrestled, and hiked in the mountains of Norway, the home country of his wife, the painter Yanna Lange Kielland Holm (1880-1932). He fought an eternal battle between health and illness and, after several years of illness and operations, died in 1924 at the early age of 41.

Faaborg Museum will present their Kai Nielsen exhibition from 9 June to 5 January 2025.

This joint special exhibition project will present works from the collections of the Glyptotek and Faaborg Museum together with loans from private collectors and museums.

Book about Kai Nielsen
The exhibition will be accompanied by book about Kai Nielsen. The book can be bought in the webshop and the museum shop after publication.

Exclusive for season ticket holders
Plan a summer excursion to Faaborg Museum, show your season ticket The Glyptotek, and get a 20% discount on entry. The offer is valid from June 9, 2024, to January 5, 2025.


The exhibitions at the Glyptotek and Faaborg Museum are generously supported by:

Ny Carlsbergfondet

Dronning Margrethes og Prins Henriks Fond



Den Faberske Fond

Hoffmann og Husmans Fond


Fondet for Dansk-Norsk Samarbejde

Lilian og Dan Finks Fond

Gottfred & Gerda Eickhoffs Fond

Overretssagfører L. Zeuthens Mindelegat

Arne V. Schleschs Fond

C.L. Davids Fond og Samling

Oda og Hans Svenningsens Fond

Axel Muusfeldts Fond

The exhibition at the Glyptotek is further supported by:

Read more +
Kai Nielsen særudstilling på Glyptoteket

Kai Nielsen - Born of Everyday Life © 2024 David Stjernholm

Kai Nielsen særudstilling på Glyptoteket

Kai Nielsen - Born of Everyday Life © 2024 David Stjernholm

Kai Nielsen - Born of Everyday Life © 2024 David Stjernholm

Kai Nielsen - Born of Everyday Life © 2024 David Stjernholm

Kai Nielsen særudstilling på Glyptoteket

Kai Nielsen - Born of Everyday Life © 2024 David Stjernholm

Kai Nielsen - Født af hverdagen 2024 på Glyptoteket

Kai Nielsen, The Water Mother, Copy carved 2003-2004. Installed 2005. The Glyptotek © Kim Nilsson


See the exciting activities and events, the Glyptotek has to offer. Please note, the events in Danish will not be presented here. Go to the Danish version of the homepage to see all events.


Enjoy a delicious lunch at Picnic overlooking the Glyptotek's beautiful Winter Garden.

After Nature

Experience a new reading of the Glyptotek’s paintings by the Danish writer Josefine Klougart