Jóhannes Kjarval 1885-1972
Jóhannes Kjarval is one of the artists who laid the foundation for modern Icelandic art in the first half of the 20th century. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts 1913–17 , and lived mostly in Denmark until 1922. He visited Italy in 1920 and France in 1928. Kjarval took a free hand with notions of style, using many different stylistic variants according to his subjects. Symbolist and Cubist influence is evident in his art from an early date. Following Cubist principles, he breaks down Icelandic lava fields into geometric forms, creating a mass that establishes a tangible proximity, in contrast with the pale-blue tones of the distant mountains and the creamy-yellow light of morning. By his paintings of Þingvellir in the 1930s, Kjarval introduced proximity into Icelandic landscape art, focussing on the rugged soil, lava fields, rocks and low-growing vegetation. Certain places in the lava field at Þingvellir were his favourites; Frá Þingvöllum/From Þingvellir is one of many works he painted from the same viewpoint at different seasons. In the foreground are weighty grey-blue tones, and line-drawing outlines the lava and the rocks, while limpid morning light plays on the background, including the Mt. Skjaldbreiður lava shield in the distance. For Kjarval, Icelandic nature thus became a medium for expressing his feelings and ideas on expressionist principles; but he relied primarily on his own creative innovation. Jóhannes Kjarval represented Iceland at the Venice Biennale in 1960, along with sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. On his death in 1968 Kjarval bequeathed most of his works and personal effects to the City of Reykjavík.