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22 January 2018 / leggypeggy

Sculpture in the snow and a magnificent church

Sculpture by Ásmundur Sveinsson

I missed getting the name of this Sveinsson sculpture but two friends have helped out. Siggi in Iceland and Sy in New York say this is called Tröllkonan or The Troll Woman

Washing the floor by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Washing the floor by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Siggi, one of our wonderful hosts in Iceland, surprised us when he suggested that we visit a couple of Reykjavik’s outdoor sculpture gardens. It was cold, grey, windy, icy and had been snowing, but what the heck. Let’s go!

I’m so glad we did.

The first garden introduced us to the work of Ásmundur Sveinsson, a pioneer of Icelandic sculpture. I was surprised to learn that his early work was fiercely opposed and criticised. That early work is large, chunky and captivating, especially covered in snow.

Poor John and I wandered around the entire garden, and never minded the fact that we had to wade through ankle-deep snow. The garden wraps around Ásmundarsafn, the distinctive home and studio that Sveinsson designed with a Mediterranean theme.

As a young man, Sveinsson studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, mostly under the guidance of sculptor, Carl Milles. In the late 1920s, he lived in Paris for three years and travelled around Italy and Greece.

In Ásmundur Sveinsson's annexe

In Ásmundur Sveinsson’s annexe

Religions by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Religions by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Sveinsson returned to Iceland in 1929 and began producing a series of abstracted figurative works. His themes were often men and women at work. During the 1940s, his work moved away from the human and animal forms that had been his mainstay, and he began producing work that was much lighter and almost entirely abstract.

Throughout his life, Sveinsson believed that art was relevant to the people and belonged to the masses. Not surprisingly, he has been called Iceland’s ‘folk poet’ of visual art, and many of his works are displayed in Reykjavík’s public places.

Studio of Ásmundur Sveinsson

A small part of Sveinsson’s studio

Sveinsson died in 1982 (aged 89), and bequeathed all his work and his home/studio to the City of Reykjavík. Please scroll down to the comments. One of my faithful followers, efge63, has posted a short video about Sveinsson and his work and studio. 

After visiting Ásmundarsafn, we had a bonus stop at Reykjavík’s famous Lutheran church—Hallgrímskirkja—and one of the city’s most important landmarks.

Interior of Hallgrímskirkja church

A choir performs in front of the magnificent pipe organ in Reykjavik’s massive Lutheran church

Iceland's Hallgrímskirkja church, exterior

The tower at Hallgrímskirkja is 74.5 metres

At 74.5 metres (244 ft) high, it is the largest church in Iceland and one of the tallest structures in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–74), author of the Passion Hymns.

Guðjón Samúelsson, who was inspired by the shapes created when lava cools into basalt rock, designed the church in 1937. Construction lasted from 1945 to 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building.

Another impressive part of the church is its pipe organ, designed and constructed by the German organ builder, Johannes Klais of Bonn. The organ stands 15 metres tall and weighs 25 tons. I was interested to see that there was a organ appeal going. They want money to get the organ’s 5275 pipes cleaned. 

A choir was performing when we arrived, so we had a quick look before moving on to the Einar Jónsson Museum, another distinctive building that also served as the sculptor’s home and studio.

Christmas (Jol) by Einar Jónsson

Christmas (Jol) by Einar Jónsson

The sun had set and the museum had closed by the time we arrived, but we were still able to admire a few of Jónsson’s pieces in the garden.

Jónsson was another sculpture pioneer in Iceland. In fact, he was many years ahead of Sveinsson. He lived abroad for more than 20 years before returning to his home country.

Unlike most other sculptors, Jónsson worked almost entirely in plaster. This had to do partly with the lack of good modeling clay in Iceland, but it allowed Jónsson to work on his individual sculptures for years. He sometimes spent more than a decade on a particular piece.

Heimir by Einar Jónsson

He had a hand in the design of his home, gallery and studio, which is where the museum is now located. His penthouse apartment there is considered to have one of the best views of Reykjavík.

Jónsson donated the premises and his work to the Einar Jónsson Museum in Reykjavík, which opened in 1923.

Einar Jónsson Museum, Reykjavik

Wish we could have visited the penthouse at the Einar Jónsson Museum. See the Hallgrímskirkja church tower at the right

Having seen some of the various sculptures—just a small representation—do you have a favourite?

Note on naming
I was interested to read that the Icelandic names of Sveinsson and Jónsson are patronymic, meaning they are not family names. What I read said that both should be referred to by their ‘first names’ of Ásmundur and Einar.

Icelanders don’t always follow that. Both museums/gardens had plaques that used the ‘apparent’ surnames of Sveinsson and Jónsson, when mentioning either man for the second time. There’s an example below.

Plaque about Ásmundur Sveinsson

A bit of evidence

85 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jamie Dedes / Jan 22 2018 10:42 pm

    Peggy, so beautiful. I’ve always been rather intrigued by Iceland. I’m sure you and hubby are having a lovely time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 22 2018 10:46 pm

      Oh my goodness, Iceland is amazing—even when it’s cold and snowing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. efge63 / Jan 22 2018 10:51 pm

    Τhank you !!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 22 2018 10:56 pm

      Thank you too! Most appreciative to see this video. I have added a link to your site and encouraged people to scroll down to your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

    • efge63 / Jan 22 2018 11:13 pm

      Always faithful to your posts!!!!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. beetleypete / Jan 22 2018 10:54 pm

    Very unusual and interesting, Peggy. I love the architectural style of his home and studio.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. pvcann / Jan 22 2018 11:21 pm

    A post I adore, I just love sculpture, and these are a real treat. The story is great, and what a good friend to push you to go out in the snow, and we’ve all been able to share in a bit of it too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 22 2018 11:23 pm

      So glad you liked the post. Siggi didn’t have to push us, he just had the suggest the option.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Red Letters / Jan 22 2018 11:38 pm

    Very interesting post, thank you for sharing, Peggy 😊💕

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Carol Taloni / Jan 22 2018 11:45 pm

    Peggy. You continue to enthrall me with your posts. The most amazing sights I am viewing through your photos and descriptions. Totally overwhelmed by the beauty of the pieces and places you choose. Grateful Thanks for these experiences. Carol

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:49 pm

      Thanks so much, Carol. I so appreciate you coming along with us.

      Like

  7. Andrew Petcher / Jan 23 2018 12:04 am

    I always think that church looks like a Space Shuttle!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Robert Parker / Jan 23 2018 12:54 am

    Very interesting! I didn’t know this artist, and especially like his more abstract works, as you said, lighter, and full of energy and positive tension – – looking ready to start moving. I wonder if Sveinsson and Alexander Calder knew each other, some of these pieces seem like they’re close to being mobiles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:51 pm

      Interesting you should say mobiles. That’s exactly what I thought about the lighter pieces. Must be all the angles.

      Like

  9. Osyth / Jan 23 2018 12:59 am

    Forgive brevity of comment – I’m in the midst of packing for a trip. But what a lovely interlude you have given me. I had no notion of this wonderful sculptor – I am quite captivated by the work (and the house!) Thank you, Peggy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:51 pm

      Safe travels. I hadn’t heard of either sculptor before. Always new treats.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth / Jan 27 2018 2:57 am

        The world is our oyster full of pearls, nest-ce pas?

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jan 27 2018 10:28 am

        Indeed.

        Like

  10. lexklein / Jan 23 2018 2:13 am

    You’re making me want to head back to Iceland – this time in winter! Love the sculptor’s work, especially the more abstract ones, and I was so focused on going up in the Hallgrímskirkja tower that I didn’t really take time to appreciate that interior.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:53 pm

      Yes, I think Iceland is worth seeing in all the seasons. By the way, the tower was closing as we arrived, so climbing it wasn’t an option, but the interior is well worth seeing.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Phil Huston / Jan 23 2018 2:50 am

    I think the first one is dancing bears, and the snow adds another dimension to the sculptor’s intent in all of them. The modernist abstract work is what really appeals to me, living somewhere in the artistic soul of the Art Deco age, rethinking relative shapes in three dimensional space. Geometry, live. 5,275 pipes. Jeez. Open the windows, tell the organist to crank the compressor and start avalanches a hundred miles away. That’ll clean those pipes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:58 pm

      Clever plans for the pipes. I’ll ask Siggi to pass on the suggestion. And I prefer the more abstract pieces too.

      Like

  12. Phyllis Gaetz / Jan 23 2018 3:08 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post Peggy. I wish we had been told to visit this site as well when we were there. Thank you again for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 2:59 pm

      I’m so glad you liked this, Phyllis. We were lucky to be staying with locals who wanted to show us as much variety as possible.

      Like

  13. afterthelasttime / Jan 23 2018 3:24 am

    Very nice, Peggy! Thank you!😀
    Your photo of the sphere holding candles looks very familiar, did you photograph another similar sphere in Europe?
    I’ve seen the church from other friends who’ve visited however your photo of the sanctuary is the best, terrific!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. themomfred / Jan 23 2018 5:09 am

    I love how the snow compliments the pieces. Makes me wonder if that was intentional?
    Lovely photos and words as usual. Belinda

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 3:03 pm

      It might have been intentional, but I don’t think Iceland gets a lot of snow, so it’s probably just a lucky outcome. Glad you like the pics and words.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. jeanleesworld / Jan 23 2018 7:23 am

    Yes, these sculptures look beautiful with that coating of white! But it all looks glorious, of course. I need to look up those Passion Hymns. The Lenten season has such beautiful music. xxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  16. chattykerry / Jan 23 2018 7:38 am

    What fantastic photographs of sculpture and architecture. It somehow summons up the simplicity of the Lutheran lifestyle, the harshness of the Icelandic climate and the joy of the people.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 5:07 pm

      You make an excellent observation. Thanks so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • chattykerry / Jan 25 2018 1:56 am

        You are most welcome, Peggy. Iceland is a bucket list but is becoming more achievable because of some cheap flights from Texas to Reykjavik.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jan 25 2018 2:57 pm

        Lucky you.

        Like

  17. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jan 23 2018 7:49 am

    This is such an interesting photo essay, Peggy. I really appreciate that you include so much art in your posts. The sculptures are wonderful, the outdoor ones enhanced by snow. I like reading about all the history of the places you visit – the world is rich with treasure of all kinds, manmade and natural. The sculptural quality of the church is superb and fits well with the intended sculptures.

    Even more than paintings, sculpture is meant to involve the viewer not only as one who looks it, but as one who has an impact on the art, as the position of the viewer can include him (a viewer becomes part of the art) and certainly presents that person’s singular point of view.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 5:10 pm

      Thanks so much. I love art of all kinds so am very pleased to share the pieces I encounter. I’m glad you got the link between the sculpture gardens and the church. I almost saved the church for a separate post, but realised it is a sculpture in its own right.

      Like

  18. Chris Riley / Jan 23 2018 8:52 am

    Some great pics there Peggy. I loved the one called ‘religions’ – a nice clean looking piece that would fit almost anywhere.That church was most unusual, so chunky looking. Is that typical of Icelandic architecture?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 5:11 pm

      I like Religions too. The church isn’t really typical of Icelandic architecture, but it does seem to reflect some of the ruggedness of the country’s landscapes.

      Like

  19. Brian Lageose / Jan 23 2018 9:40 am

    I don’t even know where to begin to show my appreciation for these terrific photos (and the background stories). Wait, yes I do: Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. gerard oosterman / Jan 23 2018 9:46 am

    Great post, Peggy. Love Iceland and as in most of Scandinavia, its many public sculptures. Those countries seem to acknowledge that we have sight and that we might as well make things beautiful to look upon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 5:13 pm

      Yes, Scandinavia places a high importance on public art. Canberra does a pretty good job too and I really should do a post on some of what we have here.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Curt Mekemson / Jan 23 2018 12:08 pm

    I always enjoy sculpture, Peggy. Chunky is good. I particularly liked the life obvious in the ‘dancers’ but also enjoyed the more abstract ‘Religions.’ Thanks. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  22. paolsoren / Jan 23 2018 1:20 pm

    I am continually taken aback by the magnificence of the countries that I always thought of as just vacant pieces of land on a map. When we were at school Iceland would have been seen as a part of the Arctic and therefore just an icy waste. Thanks again for opening my eyes again and again and again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 5:30 pm

      I’m delighted to be able to show you that Iceland is definitely no wasteland.

      Like

  23. vinneve / Jan 23 2018 2:50 pm

    Magical white! Beautiful. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. thewonderer86 / Jan 23 2018 5:21 pm

    It’s always such a treat coming across something new. I love the sculptures and the landscape. The snow definitely adds something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 7:06 pm

      Yes, I thought the snow added a wonderful dimension not usually seen.

      Like

  25. derrickjknight / Jan 23 2018 7:25 pm

    Another fascinating, informative, post

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Vicki / Jan 24 2018 10:29 am

    Iceland seems to be a fascinating place (despite the cold, ice & snow), or should I say because of it, as I love the snow.

    I like Einar Jansson’s work, but in general, I’m not a big fan of abstract sculpture unless it has smooth flowing curves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 24 2018 9:03 pm

      I’m sorry I couldn’t have shown more of his work, but the Einar Jónsson museum was closed by the time we arrived.

      Like

      • Vicki / Jan 24 2018 9:44 pm

        Yes, that was a shame it was closed, but missing something usually means you get to see something else entirely (which might be just as interesting).

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jan 24 2018 9:48 pm

        Gives meaning to one door closes and another opens.

        Like

  27. Cecilia / Jan 25 2018 1:45 am

    I’m a big fan of sculptures, the one called Religions is specifically speaking to me. Thanks for this post and greetings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 25 2018 2:18 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment.

      Like

  28. Anita / Jan 26 2018 10:52 pm

    Happy new year dear
    Such beautiful pictures, really enjoy hem, thank you for good sharing
    Kisses
    Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 27 2018 10:28 am

      Thanks Anita. Happy New Year and kisses to you too.

      Like

  29. Niladri / Jan 28 2018 5:22 pm

    Great insight ….your blogs are so diverse and informative.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. B. / Feb 15 2018 1:16 am

    😱 sorry beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Forestwood / Feb 26 2018 7:50 am

    They keep their patrynomic naming system as it aids them in remembering their oral family trees. MistIcelanders are taught their heritage in song form, I believe. The sculptures are amazing. Rejkjavik doesn’t always get snow, when were you there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 26 2018 8:13 am

      Thanks for pointing out the link between naming and family history. We were there in the last half of November.

      Like

  32. artandkitchen / Feb 26 2018 8:07 am

    I loved this place as well and your images and report are very well done! Iceland even in winter is not as cold as most imagine and the heart of the people is very warm! No wonder that they are such great artists! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  33. mikemows / Mar 20 2018 3:57 pm

    nice post

    Liked by 1 person

  34. mikemows / Mar 21 2018 3:21 pm

    welcome

    Liked by 1 person

  35. bellabasket / Mar 30 2018 3:25 am

    Went to Iceland to see the Northern lights unfortunately we weren’t lucky but by chance we found the sculpture garden. It was so beautiful and the we discovered that the museum was open and were blown away by the sculptures and the views from the apartment. Your photos bring back happy memories.
    We went to Cafe Loki which is opposite Hallgrimskirkja Church. If you go again go and look at their painting in the restaurant, it tells the story of Loki.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 30 2018 7:23 am

      Sorry you didn’t get to see the lights, but glad you saw the sculptures. I would have loved to see the apartment. Were you allowed to take photos inside? Thanks for the tip about the cafe. I’d love to get back to Iceland.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bellabasket / Mar 30 2018 5:17 pm

        We were asked not to take photos. It has a stunning view of the church but when it was built the church was not there so the original view would have spectacular. The area is know as the neighbourhood of the Gods. Hence the names of the streets and the picture of Loki in the cafe. There is also an amazing photo about 3ft x 20ft in the cafe of the area taken about 1909 it shows the museum but no church and ano old man pulling an elderly out of a hole.

        The picture of Loki is also large maybe 4ft x 30 ft. It takes up the whole of one wall.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 30 2018 9:09 pm

        Wow, those large images sound amazing. As an aside, I’m always saddened when photos aren’t allowed. It’s fine to say ‘no flash’ but a pity when we can’t record or share the wonders we see.

        Liked by 1 person

  36. bellabasket / Mar 30 2018 9:22 pm

    I will not confess of occasionally taking the odd phot where I am told not to.

    Liked by 1 person

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