Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982) was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture. In his early days his pieces invariably met with opposition and fierce criticism but over the years they have established themselves as one of the manifestations of the Icelandic narrative tradition, society and nature in the 20th century. Ásmundur studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm under the guidance of sculptor Carl Milles. In the late 1920s he lived in Paris for three years and travelled around Italy and Greece. That time had no less effect on him than his student years in Stockholm. Ásmundur remained faithful all his life to the principle that art was relevant to the people and belonged with the masses. He was called the “folk poet” of visual art, and without a doubt that ideal arose from his philosophy no less than from the tradition of sculpture. Many of his pieces were conceived as a part of public space, an integral part of the surroundings, or were developed as design and craft works.
Ásmundur bequeathed his works and his home/studio to the City of Reykjavík at his death, and the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum in Sigtún was formally opened in the spring of 1983. The collection spans his entire artistic career and shows how his work evolved and changed over his long life. A large number of Ásmundur's works can also been seen in public spaces in Reykjavík.
In the garden of the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum there are regular exhibitions of Ásmundur's works and those of other artists. A number of the artist’s works are on display in the Sculpture Garden, either enlarged, or specifically conceived as outdoor pieces.
Ásmundur Sveinsson - Sculpture
Ásmundur's sculpture underwent many changes during his life. Until 1936 his work embodies strong features of naturalism, portraying anatomy and proportions in a largely conventional manner. During his years in Paris, 1926–29, Ásmundur was exposed to the Cubism and its experiments with form. In the latter half of the 1930s Ásmundur started to simplify and transform the human form. His main subject was people at work. In the 1940s social themes made way for references to literature: the expression became deeper and the transformation of forms often more radical. In the 1950s and 60s his works evolved increasingly toward pure abstract art. In 1955-56 he discovered a new material for his art, iron, which had a powerful impact on his methods and style. Instead of moulding clay or plaster of Paris, or carving wood, he assembled bits of iron, usually unchanged or cut out to his specifications. Towards the end of his career, Ásmundur returned to working in stone, usually selecting rather small rocks which he smoothed and polished to bring out their natural shape.
Ásmundur Sveinsson - Drawings
Reykjavík Art Museum possesses almost 2,000 drawings and sketches by Ásmundur. They feature various subjects; figure drawings, religious icons, landscapes, form studies, portraits, abstracts, and a number of drawings associated with specific sculptures. Ásmundur had no opportunity to study drawing before the age of 22, when he arrived in Reykjavík in 1915 to study woodcarving. From that time he drew prolifically. The collection contains drawings from Ásmundur's time in Copenhagen, his study years in Stockholm, his stay in Paris, from his travels in southern Europe, as well as drawings associated with his artworks in Iceland, but there are fewer drawings from later stages of his career.