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Kjarval – Insights: Warrior Maidens and Ships of Fancy

The drawings and sketches in the Reykjavík Art Museum’s Kjarval collection number in the thousands. In recent months Reykjavík Art Museum has been making these works available in digital form to facilitate research on Kjarval’s oeuvre and a closer examination of specific subjects in his work. Kjarval’s thought world abounds in diverse beings but this exhibition singles out warrior maidens and boats, or ships of fancy, that seem to traverse the gap between human and hidden worlds. Warrior maidens and boats are frequent subjects in Kjarval’s small drawings and sketches, some of which are here exhibited for the first time; the exhibition also illustrates how these subjects resurface in his paintings.

Upcoming exhibitions will show how Kjarval reworks single ideas into diverse material. The pictorial subjects that fascinated Kjarval include warrior maidens, winged horses, boats, harps, angels, and birds.

Ships of Fancy
Sailing boats and ships are a recurrent theme in Kjarval’s pictorial world. Kjarval claimed that while learning to write as a lad in Borgarfjörður Eystri he drew a ship in every other line of his notebook. Embarcations for America sparked his interest: he drew the ships bound west for the promised land and gave his drawings to the passengers.

Over time the ship became a symbol of change, hope, and new life across the sea and would remain a dominant theme throughout Kjarval’s art. Kjarval developed his ideas in sketches and drawings of his various subjects, later giving them new incarnations on canvas. In this exhibition we examine the ships as means to cross the gap between human and hidden worlds, as ships of fancy, foremost on the picture plane or off in the distance, sailing in the background.

Warrior Maidens
Swords and shields are the warrior maiden’s emblems. She appears in Kjarval’s works as a translucent being, wafting through thin air, almost always in the same pose. The warrior maiden is said to be a token of Mount Skjaldbreiður, one of the artist’s most beloved pictorial subjects from Þingvellir; she also evokes Jónas Hallgrímsson’s poem about the mountain. The peak of Mount Skjaldbreiður may be glimpsed in the background of many of these works. The drawings reveal the artist’s method, as he constantly recreates his subjects on materials as diverse as canvas and a taxi cab receipt.

Sunday 7 February 3 p.m.
Kjarvalsstaðir – Kjarval – Insights
Curator´s Talk of Warrior Maidens and Ships of Fancy.

Overview photos: 
Pétur Thomsen
Helga Lára Þorsteinsdóttir
Events related to exhibition: 
Sunnudag 7. febrúar kl. 15 Kjarvalsstaðir – Kjarval – Innsýn Skjaldmeyjar og hugarfley, sýningastjóraspjall.

Click on the pictures to view some more on Instagram and post your own by using the #hashtag of the exhibition.
Remember to follow Reykjavík Art Museum on @reykjavikartmuseum.