MUGGUR – Guðmundur Thorsteinsson 1891–1924

National Gallery of Iceland Between 2.10. 2121 – 13.2.2022

At the National Gallery of Iceland is a newly opened exhibition that showcases the short career of Guðmundur Thorsteinsson or Muggur, as most people know him.

Muggur was a prolific artist despite his short life, but he managed to create a unique and personal world of art. His best-known work is probably the story of Dimmalimm, which he wrote and drew for his niece in 1921 when he was on his way from Italy to Iceland on a cargo ship.

Kristín G. Guðnadóttir, the exhibition’s curator, says that it was time to show Icelanders the works of Muggur again. “It’s been almost 40 years since we had an exhibition with his works. We felt it was time to show Icelanders his works”, she said. “He did much more than just illustration.”

The exhibition seeks to cover all aspects of Muggur’s imagery. He was an imaginative man and drew landscapes and Icelanders’ lives, travel memories from foreign countries such as entertainment in New York and rural life in Norway. He also drew a world of folklore and fairy tales where delicate princes and princesses live in beautiful castles, trolls live in the darkness and religious worlds where Christ heals the sick.

To bring his ideas to life, he used all kinds of media. He used everything from pencils, chalk and pens to watercolours and oil paints. In addition, he did needlework, made collages, embroidered, and carved in wood. He not only created art by hand but was a stage actor and singer, too. He also played the lead role in the film Saga Borgaraættarinnar, which premiered in 1920.

He was born in Bíldudalur in 1891, but the family moved to Copenhagen in 1903 when he was 12 years old. There he studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1911-1915. His short artistic career spanned only about ten years, as he died of tuberculosis in 1924, at only 33 years old. He was a diverse artist who was characterized by naturalism and humour.

The works in the exhibition are both privately owned and from the collection of the National Gallery of Iceland. The museum received 46 pieces by Muggur as a gift in 1958 from the Danish painter and professor Elof Risbye (1892-1961).

The exhibition will run until 13th February 2022.