• Juliana-Sveinsdottir-LI-778--Fra-Vestmannaeyjum-Ellidaey

From the Westman Islands (Elliðaey)

Júlíana Sveinsdóttir 1946

Júlíana Sveinsdóttir is one of the pioneers of the Icelandic painting and one of the first Icelandic women to make a career out of art. She was also a productive weaver and a notable pioneer in that field in Denmark where she lived most of her life and where she participated actively in the art scene. Júlíana was on an artistic search in the first years after she graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1917. Around 1930 a certain upheaval can be detected in her art, after which she started working more on the harmony of light and colour and her interpretation became much more poetic. It is that strong poetic feeling that makes Júlíana a unique Icelandic landscape artist.


Júlíana often painted outdoors and spent long hours looking for the right subject and the right light. She would often choose dark and cloudy weather or dusk which results in many of her works having a certain mystical atmosphere to them. She had no qualms about using the entire colour spectrum and in a way not many artists have used the colours of the Icelandic nature with such sensitivity as Júlíana Sveinsdóttir. Júlíana received the honorary Eckersberg Medal in 1947, one of the most prestigious public recognitions awarded to artists in Denmark. She was awarded the medal for her work From the Westman Islands (Elliðaey) that she painted outdoors in the Westman Islands in 1946. She had returned to Iceland that summer after being abroad for a long time due to the war and her reunion with her homeland was most welcome. She said that it was this summer that she saw the islands as they truly were for the first time. It was primarily the rocks, the black stones of the shore and the ocean in its countless colours that inspired Júlíana in the Westman Islands. According to her it wasn't just the cliffs and mountains she wanted to depict in her works but the essence of the sea which to her represented her own struggle for existence and people's labouring in general.


LÍ 778

The National Gallery of Iceland