LANDSCAPE

Around 1900 there was a revolution in the Icelanders' view of nature, which has its roots in the landscape paintings of the pioneers in Icelandic art, Ásgrímur Jónsson, Þórarinn B. Þorláksson, Kristín Jónsdóttir and Jóhannes Kjarval. They put forward a new perspective and an attitude towards nature, which was not based in its utility. From the beginning of the history of Icelandic art around the year 1900 and until the middle of the 20th century landscape was the main subject of Icelandic artists. The beauty of nature, which had been cherished in poems by the romantic poets of the 19th century, became a kind of image of the nation in the days of the campaign for independence and thus the landscape became a worthy theme for the painter.

Ásgrímur Jónsson may be said to have been the first Icelandic artist who opened the eyes of others to the beauty of the country. He taught his generation to appreciate the beauty of Iceland in a new light and that view had a deep effect on the younger generations. In the Ásgrímur Jónsson Museum there about 550 landscapes, both oil and watercolour and the motifs are mainly from Húsafell and Þingvellir where Ásgrímur spent most of his time towards the end of his life. Many of the early oil paintings o are dark and rather similar to the atmospheric paintings from around 1900. Around and after 1905 his palette started to lighten up and one can see clear influence from the French impressionists, who emphasised catching the light, the fleeting effect and the clear air.

ÞINGVELLIR

In Icelandic art Þingvellir plays a special role, because of its beauty and history. Ever since people started painting outside in Icelandic nature the Þingvellir area has been the subject of artists and is without doubt the place where most people have painted. Þingvellir plays an important part in Ásgrímur's art and it can be said that there he both began and finished his career as a painter of landscape, although he painted neither his first nor the last landscape picture in those areas. Ásgrímur came to Þingvellir at every period of his career and he and the artist Jóhannes S. Kjarval have interpreted the nature of the place more than most.

In Ásgrímur‘s collection there are about 130 paintings from Þingvellir and neighbouring area. Most of the paintings from Þingvellir in Ásgrímur's collection date from the latter part of his career, and the autumn colours in Þingvellir with all their beautiful colours were a favourite of Ásgrímur during his last years. During the latter part of his active life he turned his attention to the vegetation and the water in the gorges, the mobile and colourful aspects of nature which could change very suddenly, according to the light and the wind direction.

HÚSAFELL

In the Ásgrímur collection there are about 130 paintings which he painted at Húsafell and in the surrounding area. There he first came to stay for the summer in 1915 and again in the summers of 1917 and 1919 and after that Húsafell became the place he loved the most. The pictures from Húsafell in the Ásgrímur collection are from all periods of his career but mostly from the 1940s.

In the summer of 1941 Ásgrímur stayed at Húsafell with his friend and former student, Þorvaldur Skúlason the painter, who had recently returned home after studying in France. The fresh winds Þorvaldur brought with him from Paris had an immense effect on Ásgrímur and opened new paths in his artistic interpretation. The main change was that Ásgrímur started narrowing his point of view and the attention shifted from the wide mountain circle to what was nearer to him. During that period Húsafellsskógur wood became Ásgrímur's main interest and his intense perception of nature brought him to new paths where the main emphasis was on the emotional value of the colour. Ásgrímur's paintings from Húsafell wood are strongly influenced by the expressionism of Vincent van Gogh, which Ásgrímur was introduced to while studying in Copenhagen.

WATERCOLOURS OF MOUNTAINS

The watercolours of Ásgrímur Jónsson have a special place in Icelandic art history. Throughout his career Ásgrímur worked equally with watercolour and oil and he generally regarded his watercolours as authentic art. Ásgrímur soon strived to interpret the Icelandic light and its influence on the country and he used watercolour as the medium for interpreting his perception of the variable light in nature. In 1904 Ásgrímur started painting with watercolours and after that he aimed at gaining control of that difficult medium. He acquired his first watercolours as a young boy in Eyrarbakki around 1890 when he was an errand boy in the Lefolii shop but it was only after he returned home after studying that he began using watercolours to any extent. In his watercolours Ásgrímur saw himself as being under the influence of the English painter J.M.W. Turner, whose work he saw at a British art exhibition in Copenhagen when he was studying there, and later in Berlin. 

In the Ásgrímur Jónsson collection there are over a hundred watercolour paintings and among them many among the best of his work in that field. The oldest picture of Ásgrímur's that has been preserved is a small watercolour of the mail ship Laura from 1896 which shows that Ásgrímur had at an early age developed a feeling for the clear light which was to be his main feature as a watercolour painter.