For those of us standing in the Harry Ransom Center’s Denius Seminar Room, looking at Elsa de Brun’s pastels was an amazing experience. She managed to take the simple medium of pastels into a three-dimensional art form while also keeping the lines sharply demarcated–something often difficult to do with pastels. We were also taken aback by the rich colors that jumped from the paper.
According to an article written by Swedish scholar Dr. Leif Sjöberg (“The Art of Elsa de Brun” in The American-Scandinavian Review, Winter, 1971-72), at the time, Elsa de Brun may have been one of the only artists in America working almost exclusively with pastels. The medium is notorious for being one that does not hold up well over time and with much handling. However, de Brun played with various techniques, including incorporating other mediums such as watercolor, and using several different types of papers to figure out a method of reducing the danger of degredation to the finished artwork. A result of her technique is that the art takes on a three-dimensional quality while also deepening the color saturation.
The technique described by Dr. Sjöberg was clearly evident to those of us viewing de Brun’s work for the first time. It is also a significant reason that de Brun’s work should not be forgotten. She worked in a medium rarely used by artists and created a technique that enabled the medium to withstand time and handling. These reasons alone would be enough to argue the significance of her work, yet her depth of movement, characterization, and connection with the viewer and with the greater art community are also equally important.
The fact that Elsa de Brun has fallen out of the public’s recognition as a significant artist of the 20th century is a driving force behind this project. We want to make sure the art world does not forget Elsa de Brun and her work.
I have a piece by Elsa De Brun Nuala and would line to know more about it and it’s worth.
Jill, Unfortunately, I am not able to provide a value for you. I am interested in learning the story behind the piece you own, though. If you wouldn’t mind sharing a bit about it, please use the form on the Contact page of this website to reach out to me. Thanks!
Hi Alisa, I am Elsa De Brun’s great niece. Her brother, Gustav Adolf Dahn, is my grandfather. I never met him because he died in New York when my mother was just 7 years old. I have old newspaper articles about Elsa and I recently found a post card that she wrote to my grandmother, her sister-in-law, after my grandmother lost her first child. I just thought you might want to know that she has family alive and well. Only one of us lives in New York now, I live on Cape Cod and my mother is in Florida.
Jodi, thanks so much for reaching out. If you care to digitally share any of the items you have from Elsa, I would love to see them. If you use the contact form on this website, then we can share information without our email addresses being public.
I will make digital copies and send you the file this week. Thanks for responding!
I am a granddaughter of Elsa. My father John de Brun was her son from her marriage to Olav J S de Brun in NYC. They divorced around 1921 but we had contact with her most of her life. We attended her marriage to Patrick at Carnegie Hall in 1985.
I made a typo – the divorce was 1936
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