Literature in the City Landscape
Throughout much of Reykjavík's cultural history, literature has been by far the most common term of reference for artists of all genres. Examples of such artwork in the city landscape are works by sculptors Einar Jónsson (1874–1954) and Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982). Both were inspired by the Icelandic sagas, Norse mythology and folktales. Einar´s sculpture Útlagar (Outlaws) for instance draws on motifs from Icelandic folk tales about people living outside society in the harsh Icelandic nature. This sculpture of a man carrying a woman on his back and a child in his arms, made such an impression on writer Halldór Laxness when he first saw it that he decided to use it on the cover of the second volume of his novel Sjálfstætt fólk (Independent People), published in 1935. One of Ásmundur Sveinsson's better known works, Sæmundur á selnum (Sæmundur on the Seal's Back) is based on a folk story known to most Icelanders to this day. The sculpture is situated in front of the University of Iceland's main building, a fitting location, as the story centres around the use of wisdom and thought to overcome what could be seen as insurmountable obstacles. One of the newest elementary schools in the city, Sæmundarskóli, is named for this same Sæmundur “the Wise”. Another work by Ásmundur, Fýkur yfir hædir (Snowdrift) draws upon a poem by Jónas Hallgrímsson; a statue of a mother clasping her child in her arms. The poem tells the tragic story of a mother that dies from exposure in the Icelandic winter, but saves her child by protecting it with her body. Statues of poets in Reykjavík include Einar Benediktsson (1864–1940) and Thorsteinn Erlingsson (1858–1914) in Klambratún Park and aforementioned Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807–1845) in Hljómskálagarður Park by the City Lake. The newest addition is a statue of poet Tómas Gudmundsson, sitting on a bench overlooking the Lake. The statue was unveiled in December 2010. Tómas Gudmundsson is commonly referred to as the Reykjavík Poet, since he was one of the first to depict Reykjavík and the city life in a positive light, and it does justice to his popular appeal that passers by can sit on the bench next to the poet, instead of looking up at him on a pedestal as is the case with many older monuments. A profile sculpture has also been made of this Reykjavík Poet, situated in Reykjavík City Library's main library, and stanzas from his poetry decorate windows in the City Hall (see on p. 58).
UNESCO City of Literature
Published on Jul 23, 2012