Einar Jonsson Museum

Einar Jonsson was Iceland’s first sculptor. He attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen from 1896-99. He was a ground-breaking figure in Icelandic sculpture and his influence on the visual arts in Iceland has been considerable. Jonsson laid the foundation for Icelandic sculpture with his first publicly exhibited work, "Outlaws," which was shown at the Spring Salon in Copenhagen in 1901.

Einar returned to Iceland where he produced an amazing body of work, none of it seen outside the country. Unlike most other sculptors, Einar worked almost entirely in plaster. This had to do partly with the lack of good modelling clay in Iceland, but it allowed Einar to work on his individual sculptures for years. Spending over a decade on a particular piece was not uncommon for him.

In 1909, Einar Jonsson offered all of his works as a gift to the Icelandic people on the condition that a museum be built to house them. This gift was not accepted by the Icelandic Parliament until 1914, however. The Parliament contributed 10,000 crowns to the construction of the museum, while a national collection yielded 20,000 crowns in private donations.

The museum was built according to a plan by the artist himself and it may be said that the museum itself, the building is his biggest sculpture. The museum building is indisputably the work of Jonsson, although it was the architect Einar Erlendsson who officially signed the plans for the museum in June 1916, the same year the foundation of the museum was laid. The Einar Jonsson Museum was officially opened on Midsummer's Day in 1923. This was a watershed event for Icelandic art, as the building was the country's first art museum.

 

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