Idyllic ÁsmundarsafnBeautiful works by a pioneer of Icelandic sculpture

The sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982) designed, worked and lived in a unique, dome-shaped building that now houses Ásmundarsafn. The structure is surrounded by Ásmundur’s sculptures in the garden, and the inside of the building, inspired by vernacular Mediterranean architecture, is a stand-alone work of art. His work is often exhibited along with the works of other modern or contemporary Icelandic artists.

Ásmundur studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm under the guidance of sculptor Carl Milles and later lived in France, Italy and Greece before returning to Reykjavík. Several of Ásmundur’s works can also be seen in public spaces throughout Reykjavík. Upon his death in 1982, Ásmundur bequeathed his works and his home/studio to the City of Reykjavík, and the museum was formally opened in the spring of 1983. The collection spans his entire artistic career and shows how his work evolved and changed over his long life.The current exhibition, Mentor: Ásmundur Sveinsson and Carl Milles, features the works of both sculptors and is part of the collaboration between Millesgården Museum and Ásmundarsafn, the museums dedicated to the life and work of the two artists. Carl Milles is one of Sweden’s most respected sculptors, and, like Ásmundur, he donated his house, studio and work to the public after his death.

Carl Milles was Ásmundur’s mentor during his student years in Stockholm and had a lasting impact on Ásmundur’s art. The two museums have preserved records that shed light on how strong the bond between the two men was, and it can be found in their careers and works.

Milles used the history and culture of Sweden as inspiration for his works. Similarly, he encouraged Ásmundur to seek inspiration from Icelandic cultural heritage, as seen in his sculptures throughout his career. Both men emphasised that art belongs in public spaces where most people can access it. Ásmundur made most of the outdoor artworks in the Reykjavík area; some of his works can be found in other parts of the country. Milles’ work can also be found in many places in Sweden, and he is primarily known for his fountains and water creatures. His works can also be found in other parts of the world, most notably in the United States where he lived and taught for several years.