The National Gallery of Iceland is located in downtown Reykjavik. It occupies a site on the eastern shore of The Pond not far from the City Hall and the House of Parliament.
It was founded in 1884 by Björn Bjarnarson, not in Reykjavik but in Copenhagen. Iceland was part of the Kingdom of Denmark at the time and thus it is not surprising that most of the art that was given or donated to the museum at that time was by Danish artists.
In the beginning, the collection was shown at the House of Parliament in Reykjavik. However, in 1951, the Gallery moved into Museum House, which it shared with the National Museum of Iceland.
The Gallery moved to its current location in 1987. Its older building, which dates from 1916, was designed by Guojon Samuelson. It was originally an ice storage facility for the fishing industry but was later used as a dance hall. In 1971, a fire gutted the building. Shortly thereafter, the National Gallery purchased the remains of the building. It decided that in addition to refurbishing the existing building, it would also need an annex. This was designed by Goudar Halldorsson carrying forward the arched style of the older building. The annex is connected to the older building by a glass structure.. There are also offices and a research library adjacent to these buildings.
There are two exhibition galleries in each building, one on each floor.. The Gallery uses them to present temporary exhibitions drawn from its permanent collection as well as exhibitions focusing on the work of individual artists.
The focus of the collection is on Icelandic art from the 19th and 20th century. As a broad generalization, the main preoccupation of Icelandic artists into the 20th century was the nature of Iceland and so landscape work dominated. However, in the 1930s artists turned increased attention to genre works depicting the people and their interaction with the environment. During World War II and thereafter, artists became interested in abstract and modernistic styles.
Included in its collection are numerous works by Ásgrímur Jónsson, who was a pioneer in Icelandic landscape painting. He also illustrated numerous Icelandic folk tales. When he died, he bequeathed the remaining works in his possession to the nation. The National Gallery has opened his home and studio, which is not far from the Gallery, to the public.
In addition, the Gallery has works by artists from other countries including works by Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch.
The Gallery also has a shop and a cafe.
For more information on visiting, see the National Gallery of Iceland website.
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Above: Ásgrímur Jónsson, "Mount Hekla".
Below: Jonsson's home is open to the public.
Places to see art - - Reykjavik - Iceland - - National Gallery of Iceland