The subject of this work can be traced back to the folktale of the Night-troll. A tale is told of a girl, alone on her farm, on the night before Christmas. All of the others from the farm are attending church, and it is the duty of the girl to watch over the farmstead while they are away. As she notices the troll outside of her window, it attempts to lure her out into the night. A battle of wits through poetry ensues, with the troll losing track of time and suddenly the dawn has arrived, turning the troll into stone.
Jónsson established his role as a sculptor of the world with the exhibition of Outlaws at the Charlottenborg art show in Copenhagen during 1901. Once again, the subject calls upon the old Icelandic folktales of the outlaws. Within the exhibition catalogue it is stated that the story is of a man who had been convicted of a crime and fled with his wife and child into the highlands of Iceland.
Einar Jónsson envisioned Natura Mater (Mother Nature) as a monument for a mass grave. The subject links itself to the Egyptian and Greek myths of the Sphinx, a curious animal with the face of a woman and the body of a lion. This motif appears in the works of various artists around the turn of the 19th century.
Jónsson started working on The Spell broken in 1916, he then enlarged and completed it in 1927. At the center of the piece stands a knight who firmly grips the hilt of his sword, he has thrust the sword through the head of the dragon lying at his feet. He holds a young unclothed female who extends her hand, throwing off a shroud of an old crone. With his other hand he holds a shield high and behind them is the dragon’s body and folded wings.
The first version of the Wave of Ages was created in Rome during 1902-1903. Within this initial version there is evidence indicating that main elements found in the finished work were already in place. In the larger, final version forms are rendered more clearly and there is a change in the posture of the woman. Similar to that, in the earlier version she rises up with her hands at her sides.
The Birth of Psyche draws upon the ancient Greek myth of Psyche, the human soul personified. The piece has a square structure and forms the ancient symbol of the sun cross. The elements are personified in the four panels.
"The knight that rides down his fellow man is accompanied by the ghost he himself awakened whith violence, it sits behind him on the exhausted horse, reminding him of the debt he must pay." This is the way in which Einar Jonsson describes the narrative of Fate. The first draft of the work was created in 1900 but it remained incomplete until he moved permanently to Iceland years later. His statement points to the subject as a look into moral nature, one concerning mans responsibility for his own actions.
While in Rome during the years 1902-1903 Jónsson made a small statue of Iceland’s first settler Ingolfur Arnarson. The statue shows a man in full armor standing next to a dragon figurehead holding a halberd. Some time after Jónsson returned to Copenhagen he continued his work on a statue of Ingólfur Arnarson and he exhibited it at the De Frie Billedhuggere exhibition in the spring of 1906.
Rest is modeled as the giant head of a young man. Half of his face is hidden beneath a layer of six-sided forms or basalt strands, while the other half of the face and the neck are visible. The back of his head and his neck are covered with four-sided basalt columns, some protrude at an angle, and resemble rays of light. Underneath his chin stands a small man dressed in robes, supporting himself on a large hammer with both hands, beside him is a large seashell. The man’s clothing and hammer suggest that he is a sculptor who has taken a rest from his work.
There are many sculptures and attempts at public art strewn over Reykjavík. Most of the time we don’t notice them, blinded by the familiar surroundings of our day to day. We should stop and look every now and again. A lot of them are beautiful, and almost every one of them has an interesting story that goes with it. To encourage this, we made you up a short walk which should take about 40–50 minutes of your time. In the walk, we focus exclusively on the work of fabled sculptor Einar Jónsson (1874–1954), who is one of Iceland’s most celebrated artists and is responsible for some groundbreaking sculptures. Do read on, and get to know some of the stern- faced green figures dotting our urban landscape, and why they are there.