Jóhannes Sveinsson, who adopted the artist Kjarval in his twenties, holds a significant place in Icelandic art history. He was an artist who won the people’s hearts and quickly became one of the nation’s most beloved artists. He was born in extreme poverty in 1885 in Meðaland, close to Kirkjubæjarklaustur. He grew up in Borgarfjörður Eystri until he became an adult. In 1911, he moved to London and, a year later, to Copenhagen. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in 1917. After returning home, Jóhannes Kjarval became a legend. This bohemian lived in his studio until the end of his life and mainly painted Icelandic landscapes in his own way; he was a genius, after all. Kjarvalsstaðir, named after Jóhannes, is the first building in Iceland explicitly designed for art. Kjarvalsstaðir is part of the Reykjavík Art Museum, but the building turns 50 this year. You can experience the magic of Master Kjarval at Kjarvalsstaðir. Here you can see a selection of his works, a portrait of Jóhannes and a photo of Kjarvalsstaðir from the outside, which you can see at Kjarvalsstaðir today.

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson