Oskar Klever - Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale world in watercolour
Oskar Klever (1887 - 1975) belonged to an old artistic family, actually of Baltic origin, but since Catherine II's days, the family had been active in St. Petersburg (Leningrad). Oskar Klever's father, Julij Juljevitch Klever, once was a much acknowledged landscape painter who was appointed professor at the Academy of Fine Arts and ennobled by the Czar. One of Oskar Klever's uncles, a sister, and a brother were also active painters. Today, the works of the various family members are shown in Russian museums.
The artistic education and evolving painting activity of Oskar Klever took place before the Russian Revolution in 1917. Klever started as a landscape painter, but in time the scene-painting became his favorite form of expression - not least after the revolution which did in many ways change the premises of his artistic work. He painted decorations and drew costumes for several theatres in Leningrad and environs, he worked as a producer, indeed even as an actor.
Also the puppet theatre and amateur theatres profited from his energy.
Ever since his youth, Oskar Klever had been absorbed by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales and stories. In fact, it was an Andersen picture that effected his entrance to the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. In the course of time, he created a collection of some 50 paintings, all in watercolour.
During the World War II, when Germans put him into prisoner's camp, one can only wonder how he managed to procure paper, colours and brushes. He indeed knew Andersen's texts by heart, and along with the painting he was telling fairy tales to the children in the camp.
Oskar Klever's paintings which have been created within a great span of years - 1915-64 - are illustrations of 28 of Andersen's fairy tales and stories. It is significant that the artist has disregarded several of the most famous and most often translated and illustrated fairy tales, whereas several of the less known works from Andersen's late years, the 1850'ies and the 1860'ies, has especially claimed his attention and inspired him in his painting.
Klever transferred his works to The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in 1968. The 46 illustrations were published for the very first time in bookform in H.C. Andersen. Eventyr. Illustrationer af Oskar Klever ('Hans Christian Andersen. Fairy Tales. Illustrations by Oskar Klever'), with a foreword by Johan de Mylius, Gyldendal, Copenhagen 1991.