• Jon_Stefansson-LI_06304_HR

Mother Earth

Jón Stefánsson 1915

Mother Earth has some of artist Jón Stefánsson's most familiar characteristics while at the same time being in many ways very different from his most famous works. A far away background seems to be the Icelandic landscape but the foreground is something entirely different as wild and exotic plants can be seen growing there. This setting frames two beings with white scarves. One of them stands on the left side in a yellowish robe and looks as if astonished at the other one who is half-raised in a red robe and stares at three leafy plants with equally prominent seeds. An icecap rises up between them from a plain far below the grassy patch in the foreground, a setting that is repeated in many of Jón's later works and indicates the depth of the distance in an impressive way.

Jón's paintings are dramatic, as if they encompass a heavy and fateful undertone. Mother Earth is no exception and no wonder since its subject is in part the universal law of existence that everyone must obey despite the difficulty and even suffering it sometimes causes. It is the moment when children discover an adult within and realise by their own wits how life works. There are several aspects that indicate that Mother Earth is connected to The Rainbow, another equally magnificent work from the early years of the Great War. They are almost identical in size and both depict a landscape of paradise while dealing with the human beings in a very emotional way. Jón's fondness of Cézanne and his use of colour was no secret and after studying with Henri Matisse in Paris from 1908 to 1911 he was touched by his mentor's methods. He also admired Picasso and was interested in him but none of these artists were doing anything similar to Jón in 1915 when he painted Mother Earth. Only Marcel Duchamp went so far as to read a mystical secret from ancient images of Saint Mary in a similar way as in Mother Earth.


LÍ 6304

The National Gallery of Iceland