The Einar Jónsson Museum

13.7.2007
Words by Sveinn Birkir Björnsson
The first art museum in Reykjavík, the Einar Jónsson museum, opened in 1923. The history of this beautiful building goes back to 1909 when the beloved artist offered to give his whole collection to the Icelandic people under the condition that a museum would be built to house his works. The Icelandic Parliament originally rejected the idea, but in 1914 the Parliament contributed one third of the building costs and the rest was gathered through private donations.

Einar Jónsson was Iceland’s first sculptor. He attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen from 1896 to 1899. His early works were inspired by Icelandic folklore, but he later rejected naturalistic depiction in classical art in favour of added religious symbolism following the artist’s spiritual awakening.

Jónsson’s public monuments can be seen around the city. Opposite the museum, in front of Hallgrímskirkja church, stands the monument of Ingólfur Arnarson, the first Icelandic settler. In Austurvöllur, you will find his monument of the independence hero Jón Sigurðsson, and in front of the Government Offices of Iceland stand statues of Iceland’s governor Hannes Hafsteinn and Danish King Christian IX, commemorating the Act of Union of 1918 – Iceland’s first step towards becoming an independent nation. That same year, Jónsson was commissioned to build a memorial of Þorfinnur Karlsefni, which stands along Kelly Drive in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The museum houses over 300 art works, spanning the artist’s 60-year career. It was more or less designed by the artist himself, with the assistance of Einar Erlendsson, State Architect at the time. The building served both as the artist’s studio and home, which is now a part of the museum. Several of the artist’s works are on display in the museum garden, which is open to the public admission-free. Entrance through Freyjugata.

The Einar Jónsson Museum
Eiríksgata, 101 Reykjavík
Tel.: 551 3797. www.skulptur.is
Open Tuesday-Sunday 14.00-17.00.
Closed on Mondays.
Admission: 400 ISK.

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