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Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Decade

Ásgrímur Jónsson

Úr Húsafellsskógi

Year
1941
Height
100 cm
Width
139.8 cm
Category
Málverk
Sub-category
Olíumálverk

In the autumn of 1938 Ásgrímur Jónsson sought medical treatment in the little German town of Reichenhall in Bavaria, at a famous sanatorium for asthmatics. He stayed there until the summer of 1939 while getting re-acquainted with his old idols, Cézanne, Renoir and van Gogh, and going to see their paintings on display in Munich. In his memoir, Myndir og minningar (Paintings and Memories), Ásgrímur says: “I was very impressed with their powerful art and I felt that I experienced it in a deeper and clearer light than ever before”(p. 184). What followed is discussed by Björn Th. Björnsson in his art history: “This re-acquaintance was without doubt primarily responsible for the great change which fully materialised in Ásgrímur's painting from Húsafell in the summer of 1941, and which characterised his art for the next seven years. … In these paintings little remains of the serene study of nature from his earlier years. … Now it is the powerful and contradictory life of proximity which captivates his mind, the battle of life and death, the fight for life of the vegetation at the outermost limits by the frozen tundra. … Nowhere else is the earth as hotly coloured, as lush, as on these boundaries of the wasteland. It is as if Ásgrímur found he had in common with this natural environment, that the closer one is to destruction, the more superhuman energy is required. These paintings reach far beyond the scene depicted: they are a magnificent and triumphant rhapsody on the power of life in the eternal struggle here on earth.” Björn continues: “But it is not primarily this passionate, high-contrast interpretation that is reminiscent of van Gogh, but rather the manner of interpretation. Like van Gogh, Ásgrímur at this period uses very thick, stark paint work ... and often applying it in short, parallel strokes, and then the next colour at a different angle, creating not only artistic tension, but also conflict in the structure itself, that sets off an inner restlessness. … In this way he succeeds in engaging every aspect of nature in his paintings; every birch trunk, every shimmering cloud, plays a living role.”(Björn Th. Björnsson: Íslenzk myndlist á 19. og 20. Öld/Icelandic Art in the 19th and 20th Centuries I, p. 136–138).

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