Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Decade

Ásmundur Sveinsson

Vatnsberinn

Year
1937
Height
206 cm
Width
160 cm
Category
Skúlptúr
Sub-category
Málmskúlptúr

Location: Corner of Lækjargata/Bankastræti. The Water Carrier was made when Ásmundur was working on his art in Copenhagen in the winter of 1936–7. It depicts a female figure carrying two pails of water. In 1948 it was purchased by the Reykjavík Beautification Society, with the intention of erecting it at Bakarabrekka (now Bankastræti) overlooking Lækjargata in Reykjavík. Vocal opposition from some influential Reykjavík people prevented this, and the sculpture became a controversial issue. It was then placed in the sculpture park at Ásmundur’s home/studio on Sigtún. In 1967 the sculpture was cast in bronze, and later that year it was erected adjacent to Öskjuhlíð hill in Reykjavík. In August 2011 the Water Carrier was finally installed by Lækjargata, as originally proposed. The composition of the Water Carrier achieves an expertly-achieved equilibrium: the water pails and arms form a symmetrical structure, while the left foot projects forward between the pails, and the right foot back, so the base forms a triangle. The lines of force in the sculpture thus form a near-pyramidal shape, seen from any side; this form of composition is well-known in art history as establishing stability and steadfastness. That equipoise is disrupted by only one element: as in many of Ásmundur’s other works, the posture of the head, slightly tilted, gives a sense of mobility. The characteristic quality of this sculpture is its massiness. The material is smooth, the form enclosed and bold. The weightiness of the Water Carrier is expressive of the import of the piece: “When I made the Water Carrier, I was thinking of Iceland’s mighty mountain ranges,” said the artist to editor Matthías Johannessen in Bókin um Ásmund. “And also of the servant women I used to see in my youth, struggling out into the blizzard, to return chilled to the bone, with their buckets of water. They didn’t want people to feel sorry for them. Not at all. I would never make a sculpture of labouring people which seemed to express pity. They deserve more than that.”

Other works by artist