The slopes of Mt. Esja, across the bay from Reykjavík, inspired Kjarval to paint a new series in 1956-9. One of these pieces is called Mt. Esja in the Spring Thaw. The piece is an ode to the transformative power of nature, an intense symphony of subtle and understated tones. The shape of the mountain is secondary; the form of the painting is almost abstract and brings to mind the nature-inspired abstract works of Svavar Guðnason. Here Kjarval runs wild, presenting us with a new view of Iceland, which expresses his state of mind and his perception of nature.
Writer Steingerður Guðmundsdóttir visited Kjarval in his studio in 1957 and saw the painting of Esja: “Before my eyes is Mt. Esja – as the artist sees her, and skilfully puts down on the canvas: adorned in a white dress she dances with the breeze, that tenderly kisses her forehead – in the view of the deep blue sky... behind the picture resides another Esja, entirely different from the former, dark in tone, and the ridge like frozen music. It's as if spring is in one eye of the artist, and winter in the other.” (Sunnudagsblaðið, 10 November 1957). Steingerður later received Mt. Esja in the Spring Thaw as a gift from the artist, and shortly before her death she presented the piece to the Kjarval Collection in memory of her friend Kjarval.