CITYSCAPE

During the last century Reykjavík developed from a small town to a city and its appearance  and social life in general underwent radical changes. At the same time Icelandic contemporary art grew and flourished and the town of Reykjavík and its surroundings became in all its diversity a subject matter for many an artist – be it streets, houses or people. When Ásgrímur returned home from his studies in Copenhagen in 1909 he painted a great deal in Reykjavík, not least during the winter when travel was difficult in the country. The long summers and the closeness to the ocean had a great impact on Ásgrímur and he strived from early on to interpret the light and its effect on the land in the spirit of the impressionism which he had become acquainted with in his travels abroad. Many of the oldest works from Reykjavík in the Ásgrímur collection could be classified as mood paintings – some of the pictures are painted in the short days, in midwinter, some in the moonlight or early morning while others are bathed in the afterglow.

REYKJAVÍK

Although Ásgrímur mostly depicted Icelandic nature in his works, his pictures from Reykjavík show that he had a keen eye for the pictorial in his closest surroundings. In many of his pictures he interprets the influence of light on the surroundings and the effects of various light conditions. During 1909-15 Ásgrímur lived and worked in the stately wooden house Vinaminni in the Grjótaþorp area in the centre of Reykjavík, where he also held his art shows. The pictures often depicted the view from a northern window of Vinaminni, particularly of Mt. Esja, the city mountain of the people of Reykjavík.  In 1928 Ásgrímur then built a two-family house at Bergstaðastræti 74 together with painter Jón Stefánsson, designed by architect Sigurður Guðmundsson, one of the pioneers of modern architecture in Iceland. Most of the pictures which Ásgrímur painted in his later years from the window of his house in Bergstaðastræti show a view of the pond (Tjörnin) and many of them are close to being abstract colour studies. 

THE VICINITY OF REYKJAVÍK

Shortly before 1930 there was a change in Ásgrímur's art – the interpretation became freer than before and the colour palette bolder. During those years Ásgrímur painted many pictures in winter at the outskirts of Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður; in those pictures the rendering of the influence of the winter twilight became more important than the motif itself. In the winter paintings he matches warm and cold colours by swift brush-strokes in the spirit of impressionism, reflecting the influence of French painter Claude Monet, whose work was much admired by Ásgrímur. One of Ásgrímur's best known works of that time is Hafnarfjarðarvegurinn from 1931.