Svavar Guðnason 1909-1988
Svavar Guðnason grew up in the fishing town of Höfn in Hornafjörður in the southeast, where the quality of light is extraordinary due to reflection from the ocean and the glaciers, and no doubt that contributed to his heightened sense of colour. Though Svavar enrolled at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1935, he was a largely self-taught artist, who pursued abstract art and spontaneous expression, but never turned his back on nature, which he saw as a major influence on his art. In 1945 Svavar held a major solo show in Iceland, which became a landmark in Icelandic art, paving the way for abstract art. In the 1940s Svavar was active on the Danish art scene, where he found much in common with leading artists who sought inspiration in children’s and “primitive” art, as well as in their own cultural heritage; some of them went on to form the core of the Cobra group. The powerful emotional expression seen in Svavar’s art from 1943–49 establishes a special place for him in Icelandic and international art. The works emerged from the artist’s mind as if by magic, as he stood facing the empty canvas.