From the beginning and until the present day, landscape has been the central preoccupation of Icelandic artists. Naturally, their attitude to landscape has undergone various changes in accordance with changing social mores and cultural preoccupations. The work of the Icelandic landscape pioneers, Þórarinn B. Þorláksson, Ásgrímur Jónsson, Kjarval and Jón Stefánsson was suffused with the optimism and patriotic fervour of the independence movement. The reality facing Icelanders in the wake of the commonwealth declaration of 1918 was not quite as idyllic. At the “Alþingishátíð“, the Parliament festivities of 1930 they were confronted with an international economic depression, growing unemployment and increasing political polarization.
This reality is reflected in the works of the generation of landscape painters which emerged during the 1920s. The charming summer scenes in the paintings of the pioneers give way to grim descriptions of frozen wastes, harsh lava outcrops and rocky wildernes, challenging our ideas of “natural beauty“ and personal safety. Thus, Eggert Laxdal (1897-1951) sees the “hallowed“ landscape of Parliamentary Plains, Þingvellir, as a pile of rocks. Finnur Jónsson (1892- 1993) redefines the Romantic highlands as the graveyard of hapless men and beasts, while Guðmundur Einarsson frá Miðdal (1895-1963) seeks out places where geysers boil and volcanoes erupt. In a painting by Sveinn Þórarinsson (1899-1977) Mt. Herðubreið is seen as an inaccessible fortress, belonging to some threatening dark force.
(text: Iceland Post)