The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum opened in 1923 as the first public art museum in Iceland in its own distinct building. The museum’s foundation however can be traced back to 1909. Today the museum is centrally located on a landmark hill (Skólavörðuholt) in Reykjavík, next to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church.
Einar Jónsson (1874-1954) was Iceland’s very first sculptor who donated his life’s work to the Icelandic nation with strict stipulations that a museum was to be built to preserve his work for permanent display. The Icelandic Parliament accepted his gift in 1914 and contributed 1/3 of the funds needed for the construction of the building, the rest was raised through fundraising. The museum is a curious conglomerate of the original museum hall, the artist’s many studio spaces, a small penthouse apartment and a sculpture garden with twenty-six bronze casts.
Einar Jónsson is also the author of many landmark monuments in Reykjavík and throughout the country, such as the statue of the first settler in Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson and the statue of Jón Sigurðsson, who was a major proponent for Icelandic independence and located in front of Althingi, the parliament house. The works of Einar Jónsson are considered to be ground-breaking in Icelandic art history and his influence on the visual arts has been considerable. The museum holds close to 300 artworks, spanning Einar Jónsson’s 60-year career; carvings from his youth, sculptures, paintings and drawings.
The building that houses the Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum is considered to be the brainchild of the artist, his largest sculpture so to speak, although an architect worked alongside Einar Jónsson to fulfil his adventurous vision in practice. Today the building is protected as a listed structure.
The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum works with schools, universities, musicians and other public and private organizations aiming at developing a solid relationship between the museum and its public. The main role of the museum is to collect, preserve, educate and display the works of Einar Jónsson, alongside conducting research on his life and art.
An aura of mystery surrounds the museum. The mediation venues of the museum are severely restricted, legally, and financially. Furthering of knowledge based on primary evidence is however the museum’s particular responsibility and it aims at reaching young people by offering them to have a voice in the interpretation of our collection through creative approaches that suits them. Museums have an important duty to develop their educational role as stated in the ICOM code of ethics and the Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum aims to increase its interaction with their constituent community and promote its public heritage in collaboration with young people, with the aim of becoming more relevant.