Jóhannes S. Kjarval: Can't Draw a Harebell
The artist Eggert Pétursson (b. 1956) has assembled an exhibition of the floral works of Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Upon taking on this project for Reykjavík Art Museum, Eggert decided to examine the floral factor in Kjarval’s work and approach it from an artistic viewpoint. According to Eggert, Kjarval’s flower works are more extensive than his own, Kjarval traverses all over. He does not limit himself to botany but paints and sketches flowers around him, be it ornamental plants, potted plants or wildflowers, and last but not least he paints the flora of the mind. Eggert resolved to categorise the works by their elements and figurative connection and display them as he would his own work. His selection is intended to create a coherent exhibition rather than as a historical overview of Kjarval’s floral works.
The artworks are divided into three main groups in the three exhibition halls. The centre hall contains floral landscape and images from Icelandic wild flora. This includes works where Kjarval first grapples with wildflowers, mainly heather. In his sketches, common plant species are often recognisable, and these kind of sketches can be viewed in the display cases. Landscape and flowers are intertwined in Kjarval’s works and in his last years he paints landscapes of the mind, a grey world, illuminated by flowers. The north hall contains what may be called festive flowers, i.e. cut flowers, potted plants and flower baskets, artwork which Kjarval created as gifts, both from himself and others. Lastly, the south hall is where we find his floral fantasies, where faces and creatures are interlaced with flowers in paintings and sketches.