Þorvaldur Skúlason

  • Year : 1942
  • Height : 140 cm
  • Width : 100 cm
  • Category : Málverk
  • Sub-category : Olíumálverk

After Þorvaldur Skúlason returned to Iceland from France in 1940, he focused on subjects and expression connected to Icelandic nature and the evolution of art in the country. His works from 1940 to the end of World War II are characterised by concrete Expressionism, the artist reconciling various perspectives from the international avant-garde with features that have a strongly Icelandic character. “The most important event in this period of Þorvaldur's art is undoubtedly the exhibition he held in the autumn of 1943 in Listamannaskálinn gallery along with Gunnlaugur Scheving,” writes Björn Th. Björnsson. “Here his regeneration emerged fully-formed – bigger and softer in forms and interplay than before, not least because this form of expression gave his powerful drawing style more space than before. In these paintings he was not depicting the outer appearance of things, but the feelings they inspire: a woman rests on a chair, hand supporting her cheek, a remote expression on her face” (Björn Th. Björnsson: Íslenzk myndlist á 19. og 20. öld (Icelandic Art in the 19th and 20th Centuries) II, p. 210). This piece, Woman, is one of three important paintings of seated women painted by Þorvaldur in 1939–42. The first of the three, Woman Reading a Book (University of Iceland Art Collection) was painted just before Þorvaldur returned to Iceland. It brings together various elements of the styles of both Picasso and Matisse. Björn Th. Björnsson says of it: “The girl's face is moulded by whole colour planes … and is definitely grounded in the facial mask of the Cubists” (Björn Th. Björnsson: Þorvaldur Skúlason, brautryðjandi íslenzkrar samtímalistar (Þorvaldur Skúlason, A Pioneer of Icelandic Contemporary Art) p. 71). The third variation on this theme, Seated Woman (1942), also in the University of Iceland Art Collection, depicts a woman sitting in a wicker chair with her hands in her lap. Björn Th. Björnsson says of it: “The predominant colours – saturated blues, browns and dark greens – express stillness and stability. … The drawing is perfectly balanced, and with the same measured pace as the colour spectrum; two lines leading inwards, in the curtain and in the posture of the woman's feet, perfectly counterbalance her positioning in the chair so that no disruption – and not even the hint of a disruption – is made to the deep and sincere calm expressed.” (Björn Th. Björnsson: Þorvaldur Skúlason, brautryðjandi íslenzkrar samtímalistar (Þorvaldur Skúlason, A Pioneer of Icelandic Contemporary Art), p. 100). It is probable that Þorvaldur's wife, Astrid, was the model for all three paintings.

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