Ásmundur Sveinsson

  • Year : 1937
  • Height : 130 cm
  • Width : 130 cm
  • Category : Skúlptúr
  • Sub-category : Málmskúlptúr

Location: Reykjavík Botanical Garden. Ásmundur made this piece when he took a break from building his home/studio on Freyjugata in Reykjavík and spent some time in Copenhagen in 1936-7. Part of the piece – the woman with the washing tub – was enlarged in the winter of 1938-9. In 1958 the City of Reykjavík purchased a cast of The Washerwoman, which stands at the site of the hot springs where Reykjavík woman washed laundry until the mid-20th century. By comparison with naturalistic images, these strong, stylised women bear only a distant resemblance to reality, drawn from deep in the artist’s memory. In an interview with daily Vísir on 19 October 1939, Ásmundur discussed one of the washerwomen: “It was two years ago, in Copenhagen. I did the first maquette of the sculpture there – and I gave it an Icelandic look, as I remembered it from my old country home. At that time there was a lot of debate about a hot-water system [piping hot water from geothermal springs into homes for heating] – and in that context I started thinking about the washerwomen at the hot springs, who were very noticeable when I first moved to Reykjavík. And at the same time it occurred to me that it might be possible to combine a sculpture with hot water and steam. When the hot-water system is installed in town, I’d like to pipe hot water to the Washerwoman and into her tub, and make it into a fountain. I should think it would make a nice impression, for instance in cold weather, to have the sculpture wreathed in steam. I think that would be the right setting for it. So it would also serve as a memorial to those good old washerwomen who took their laundry to the hot springs – because that will probably be a thing of the past in Reykjavík life, once the hot water is piped into every house.”

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