Exhibition Opening - Louisa Matthíasdóttir: Calm

Louisa Matthíasdóttir, Þingvallavatn, 1989, oil on canvas, 67x90 cm.

A retrospective of the works of Louisa Matthíasdóttir – Calm – opens at Reykjavík Art Museum – Kjarvalsstaðir, Sunday, 30 April at 16h00. The President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will open the exhibition.

The artist Louisa Matthíasdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1917. At seventeen years of age she moved to Copenhagen, where she studied art for three years, and shortly thereafter she moved to Paris for further studies. She returned to Iceland shortly before the war in 1939. Three years later she moved to New York to study art and there she met her American husband-to-be, painter Leland Bell. This year is the centennial of her birth, but she died in 2000, in USA where she lived for most of her life.

The exhibition in the western hall of Kjarvalsstaðir is a welcome opportunity to gain an overview over the career of a female artist who has portrayed Icelandic landscape in a unique manner. There are also many paintings of urban life in Reykjavík, still life images, self-portraits and paintings of members of Louisa´s family. Curator is Jón Proppé.

Louisa is known for her personal style, simple and powerful forms, whole and decisive colour planes and confident and vigorous writing. Her works contain a certain calmness and purity which reflects the artist herself and her character. Louisa didn´t often talk about her art but in a text from 1983, she is quoted as saying: “When it comes down to it, a painting is not a still life or landscape, it´s just canvas. It can never be reality. It must always be just a painting.”

In a sense, Louisa was a kind of a hidden figure in Icelandic art until her works were exhibited at the autumn exhibition of the Association of Icelandic Visual Artists in 1974 when she was well into her forties. By then, Louisa was a fully developed artist and at the height of her career in USA, had held numerous exhibitions and had a contract with a well-known gallery in New York. Icelandic art lovers and critics welcomed Louisa and praised her work and when she held her first solo exhibition in Iceland, in Gallerí Borg in autumn 1987, critic Ólafur Gíslason wrote in Þjóðviljinn that if Louisa´s best landscapes don´t touch your heart, you must be blind.

Along with the exhibition, a catalogue with texts about Louisa and pictures of her paintings will be issued. Kjarvalsstaðir will also offer an extensive program in relation to the exhibition.