Iceland // Reykjavík //

The Einar Jónsson museum

The heroic form of the Leifur Eiríksson statue is found in several other statues around the city, many of them the work of Einar Jónsson (1874–1954), who is remembered more officially by the pebbledash building to the right of Hallgrímskirkja at the corner of Eiríksgata and Njarðargata, home to the Einar Jónsson museum. Einar was Iceland’s foremost modern sculptor, and this cube-like structure was built by him between 1916 and 1923; he lived here in the upstairs apartment with his Danish wife, Anna. He worked here in an increasingly reclusive manner until his death in 1954, when the building was given over to displaying more than a hundred of his works, many based on religious themes and Icelandic folklore. A specially constructed group of rooms, connected by slim corridors and a spiral staircase, takes the visitor through a chronological survey of Einar’s career – and it’s pretty deep stuff. Einar claimed that his self-imposed isolation and total devotion to his work enabled him to achieve mystical states of creativity, and looking at the pieces exhibited here, many of them heavy with religious allegory and all dripping with spiritual energy, it’s a claim that doesn’t seem far-fetched; look out for his Vókumaðurinn (The Guardian) from 1902, a ghost keeping watch over a graveyard to make sure the dead receive a decent burial. If the museum is closed, peek into the garden at the rear, where several examples of Einar’s work are displayed alfresco; his most visible work, the statue of independence leader Jón Sigurðsson, stands in front of the Alþingishúsið in Austurvöllur square.

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