Thorkild Osvald Olsen (1890-1973) was a Danish painter and ceramicist known for his work with both earthenware and porcelain. He was born on July 7, 1890, in Glumsø, Denmark, to a family of tailors. After completing his education in 1906, Olsen became an apprentice at the Royal Porcelain Factory, where he worked under the supervision of Arnold Krog, a renowned Danish ceramist. In 1911, he attended the Technical School and the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he honed his skills in painting and ceramic arts.
Throughout his career, Olsen worked at various capacities for the Royal Porcelain Factory, where he became an important collaborator for Nils Thorsson in his revival of Aluminia. Olsen was also instrumental in establishing the Royal Porcelain Factory's world reputation, working in both modeling and decoration. He was particularly skilled in over- and underglaze painting and played a crucial role in the development of glazes. In the 1920s, he created a series of works in crackle porcelain, featuring naturalistic decoration in iron red and gold with botanical motifs. Later on, he became preoccupied with stylizing his decoration, which eventually became pure abstraction based on the observation of nature, an important influence on his work.
Olsen's work was always rooted in naturalism, and he frequently used abstract ornamentation in his woodcuts and fabric prints. In the 1950s, he worked with soft-paste porcelain, recreating the old Chinese pourpre de chine glaze, and decorations in bleu royal glaze, using abstract ornamentation. In his later works, he experimented with blanc de chine, incorporating cuts and reliefs that emphasized the transparency of the mass.
Over his career, Olsen was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the K.A. Larssens Legat in 1925 and 1937, support from Den Reiersenske Fond in 1925, a silver medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1925, Laur. Andersen in 1935, Diplôme d'honneur at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1935 and in Paris in 1937, and H.H. Bruun and Højesteretssagfører C.L. David's Grant for Family and Friends in 1958.
Olsen was married twice in his life. His first marriage was to the ceramicist Ellinor Selchau in 1920, with whom he had a son named Jørgen Selchau, who later became an architect. His second marriage was to Berthe Christensen, a language teacher, in 1938.
Today, Olsen's work can be found in several prominent museums worldwide, including the Royal Copenhagen Museum, Design Museum Denmark, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza. Thorkild Osvald Olsen died on April 30, 1973, in Frederiksberg, Denmark, leaving behind a legacy of exquisite ceramics and paintings.