Iceland // Reykjavík //

Ásmundur Sveinsson Museum

If sculpture is your thing, you’ll want to check out the domed Ásmundur Sveinsson Museum, part of the Reykjavík Art Museum, a ten-minute dog-leg walk from Höfði; first head east along Sæbraut, then south into Kringlumýrarbraut and east again into Sigtún where you’ll see the peculiar white igloo shape beyond the trees on your right-hand side. Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982) was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture, and his powerful, often provocative, work was inspired by his country’s nature and literature. During the 1920s he studied in both Stockholm and Paris, returning to Iceland to develop his unique sculptural cubism, a style infused with Icelandic myth and legend, which you can view here at his former home that he designed and built with his own hands in 1942–50; he lived where the museum shop and reception are currently located.

The museum is an uncommon shape for Reykjavík because when Ásmundur planned it, he was experimenting with Mediterranean and North African themes, drawing particular inspiration from the domed houses common to Greece. The crescent-shaped building beyond reception contains examples of the sculptor’s work, including several busts from his period of Greek influence, but the original of his most famous sculpture from 1926, Sæmundur á selnum (Sæmundur on the Seal), is not on display here but, appropriately, stands outside the main university building on Suðurgata. It shows one of the first Icelanders to receive a university education, the priest and historian Sæmundur Sigfússon (1056–1133), astride a seal, psalter in hand. A smaller version of the original now stands in the museum grounds, where you’ll also find many of Ásmundur’s other soft-edged, gently curved monuments to the ordinary working people of the country.

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