Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Decade

Ásmundur Sveinsson

Járnsmiðurinn

Year
1936
Height
275 cm
Width
cm
Category
Skúlptúr
Sub-category
Steinskúlptúr

Location: By Snorrabraut. Ásmundur created The Blacksmith in Copenhagen in 1936. It depicts a blacksmith leaning forward on his anvil. For this work the artist won a competition for the emblem of the Industries Exhibition in Reykjavík in 1952. He enlarged the work in concrete in 1955, and it was installed on Snorrabraut in Reykjavík. In this work, distortion has become predominant in Ásmundur’s art. Human proportions have almost been eliminated, and anatomy is adapted as the artist chooses – short, sturdy legs, and an unnaturally large and extended right shoulder, to mention but a few features. The composition of the piece is based upon vertical and horizontal forces which maintain the work in a state of static tension. In an interview in daily Morgunblaðið on 10 October 1954 the artist discussed this piece in detail: “ ‘I often used to visit metalworkers in Reykjavík [when I was about 20]; I saw modern metalworking at its best – and I was awestruck by the invisible yet overwhelming forces that I saw unleashed by modern technology. Metalworking had become a world of witchcraft – the huge machines seemed to me like gargantuan trolls at their skilled work. ... That train of thought, which gradually developed into a powerful urge, led to the quickening of the idea of The Blacksmith. In my mind I was constantly accompanied by the hammer and anvil in my father’s rural smithy, or in the fantastical domain of the metalworkers in Reykjavík: who could blame me for seeking some release for my fevered imagination – seeking to express the gigantic in contrast with the small – the opposites that battled inside me?’ ... ‘ Unfortunately,’ comments Ásmundur, ‘people see this sculpture as depicting an individual. The Blacksmith is seen as a blacksmith. But I was trying to create a symbol of today’s large-scale metal industry – and at the same time the colossal changes that have taken place since the time when I stood in the smithy as a boy. And it’s true for all the skilled trades – it’s everywhere, that prodigious change. And in a sense I have faith in modern large-scale technology – I believe it will set people free from the drudgery of the old days – and in many ways it already has.’ ... ‘Look,’ remarks the artist, pointing out a clay/terracotta maquette of the Blacksmith on the table in front of us. ‘Those straight, powerful lines – I had a lot of trouble getting them right, but I had to, whatever it cost, in order to grasp the overall effect – that thousandfold power, compressed into the form. The blacksmith is seen in a posture of rest – looking ahead, into the present – and the old blacksmith is there too – the hammer and anvil – like a connection between old and new, between what was and what is.’ ... – But what about the right shoulder – in a posture of rest? ‘ Yes, it’s meant to highlight the power on one side, in order to reveal the restfulness – the absence of exertion – on the other side more clearly. The whole thing must maintain its own balance, even though it’s at rest. It’s not meant to represent primarily exertion – but power that is still – overwhelming, potent energy – something monumental. The monumental for me is something big and filled with power, which is incompatible with the delicate and sensitive – although I enjoy both.’... ‘That was what I meant to do. I’ve no idea whether I succeeded, but I’m trying to tell the truth. Works of art don’t necessarily give much to the life outside, even though they may have cost huge interior passion and conflict.’ ”

Other works by artist