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It has been said that, through Kjarval’s eyes, the people of Iceland learned to see their country in a new way. Gone are the verdant slopes of romanticism; the land seen by his eyes and depicted on his canvases is a stark and spectacular land of rugged mountains, lava and moss. Every season imbues the land with new life, and every cloud sheds new colour upon the mountains. An ever-changing land of contrasts, with its shifting boundaries between the visible and the perceived, faces in stone, and spirits inhabiting every rock. In the works of Jóhannes Kjarval, land and saga merge to become one.
In the autumn of 2013 an exhibition of the art of Jóhannes S. Kjarval (1885-1972) was shown at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, with the aim of bringing out that essential quality in his art. The exhibition included examples of his portrayal of lava fields and mountain landscape as he observed them at changing seasons of the year; also pieces in which he combines landscape with otherworldly beings and creatures to create a mystical, enigmatic ambiance. The St. Petersburg show was well received, and hence it is now being shown at Kjarvalsstaðir with minor alterations, under the theme The Seasons in Kjarval’s Art.
© Reykjavik Art Museum.