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Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876–1958) is one of the pioneers in the history of Icelandic art; he was the first Icelandic painter to make a career in art.
Ásgrímur's life and oeuvre span a long period of Iceland's history – a time when the old rural society was starting to decline and Reykjavík was growing from a town into a city.
Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876–1958) was one of the pioneers of Icelandic visual art and the first Icelandic painter to make art his main profession. Ásgrímur was born on March 4th, 1876 on the farm Suðurkot in Rútsstaðahverfi in South Iceland's Flói region. In 1897 he moved to Copenhagen, where he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art from 1900 to 1903. Ásgrímur stayed abroad until 1909 and spent his last winter in Italy. On his way to and from Italy he stopped in Berlin and Weimar and saw, among others, the works of the French Impressionists, which made a deep impact on him.
Icelandic nature was Ásgrímur's principal subject from the beginning, and his work formed the foundation of Icelandic landscape art. His vision of nature was shaped by 19th-century romanticism, and he remained faithful to that vision, though his emphases and work methods changed over the course of a career spanning nearly 60 years. Ásgrímur was also a pioneer in the illustration of Icelandic folktales and adventures and remains one of Iceland's most prolific folktale illustrators.
Ásgrímur painted in nature and made a particular effort to interpret the light of the land. He painted both with watercolors and oil paint and occupies a unique place in Icelandic art history as a watercolor artist. He remained true to naturalism to begin with, but toward the end of the 1920s, impressionist influences begin to emerge in his works. After 1940 his work methods became more organic and his art was characterized by colorful expressionism.
Ásgrímur Jónsson died in 1958 and bequeathed all his own works that remained in his possession to the Icelandic nation, along with a property at Bergstaðastræti 74 in Reykjavík. The Ásgrímur Jónsson Collection was opened in his house in 1960. In 1987, when the National Gallery of Iceland moved to its own premises, the Ásgrímur Jónsson Collection was merged with the National Gallery in accordance with clauses in his will. The Ásgrímur Jónsson Collection is now a special division of the National Gallery of Iceland.