Iceland Arts and Music

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From the so-called “pagan” period (ca. 875-1000) only metal objects found in Viking tombs remain. Fragments of a Last Judgment engraved on wood (c. 1100; Reykjavík, National Museum) testify to the influence of iconography and the Byzantine style even in such peripheral areas. Being devoid of real urban agglomerations, Iceland did not know the architecture typical of the European cities of the Middle Ages (cathedrals and other monumental buildings), nor the large stone sculpture connected to architecture. On the other hand, the production of wooden sculptures (portal of the church of Valthjöfsstadir, where the legend of the knight with the lion is depicted, ca. 1200; Reykjavík, National Museum), goldsmiths (filigree) and polychrome frontals embroidered according to the Bayeux tapestry technique. Fresco and panel painting must have been widespread in churches, as evidenced by the so-called “Icelandic Drawings Album”, a collection of models of figures of saints, scenes of biblical subjects, etc. Evidence of medieval Icelandic painting is also provided by the miniatures of the codices, the oldest of which dates back to 1200, while the most beautiful are from the 13th century. XIV-XV. If the Middle Ages was a period of discreet artistic fervor, from the age of the Reformation (1550) to 1850 ca. there was a sharp decline in the quantity and quality of artistic production. Only the popular and applied arts (fabrics, filigrees, wood carvings) remained alive, repeating traditional motifs, such as the ancient Romanesque tendril. The artistic awakening coincided towards the middle of the century. XIX with the birth of the national movement. The first Icelandic painter was S. Gudhmundsson (1832-1874), founder of the National Museum of Iceland. Later the landscape painters TB Thorláksson (1867-1924) and A. Jonsson (1876-1958), the first true Icelandic landscape painter, author of several oils and watercolors, approached Impressionism, JS Kjarval (1885-1972) and sculptor E. Jonsson (1874-1954), to symbolism. Artists of subsequent generations, mostly trained in Paris, joined the avant-garde movements and the international style. Perhaps the best known are Sjöfn Har (b.1953) for his paintings on wall and glass, the abstractionist Tryggvi Ólafsson (b.1940) and Erró (Guðmundur Guðmundsson, b.1932), an exponent of pop art par excellence Icelandic, to which the Reykjavík Art Museum dedicates a permanent exhibition. Among the sculptors we should mention Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982) who for his abstract works in concrete is inspired by the sagas and tales of traditional popular culture, and Ásmundur Sveinsson (1908-1982), famous above all for his busts. As for the architecture, since the century. XVI Iceland built its buildings in a style very similar to the Scandinavian one, using wood as a raw material although its territory could guarantee a great abundance of volcanic rock. After a few centuries characterized by the absence of signs of change, the 1950s saw the advent of design which introduced new lines, shapes and materials (stone, glass, concrete and steel) in the architectural field. The most interesting buildings, ranging from neoclassical to functional style, are concentrated in Reykjavík. According to 3rjewelry, Iceland is a country in Europe.


Traditional music is still very popular in Iceland today, with a rich repertoire of songs and rímur, a sonorous version of poems and sagas, once performed without music or accompanied by the fiddla, an ancient two-stringed instrument played with the bow. Among the most popular traditional motifs are the legend of the bandit’s wife Falla-Eyvindur and Á Sprengisandi old ballad of shepherds and outlaws. At the beginning of the sixties a rock group, Hljómar, nicknamed “the Icelandic Beatles “, achieved some success, followed by that of Flowers and Trúbot, a band born from the confluence of the first two formations, which together released Lifun, recorded in English and considered one of the masterpieces of Icelandic music. A decade later Megas conquered the general public, while in the Eighties it was the turn of punk that fascinated the Icelandic public and not only thanks above all to two musical groups: Fræbbblarnir and Utangarðsmenn. But the Icelandic music scene is famous above all for pop music, which arrived on the international scene in 1986 with the Sugarcubes group. Innovative and cultured, founders of the Bad Taste record company, they owe their fortune mainly to the singer Björk (b. 1965) who then continued her journey alone. The air of an elf, the originality of his production, the extraordinary skill, an intense film appearance directed by the director Lars Von Trier in Dancer in the Dark, have made Björk, since his first solo album (Debut, 1993) an icon of Icelandic music culture. Finally, every year in October, the Airwaves rock music festival takes place in the capital, attended by guests from all over the world.


From a cinematographic point of view, Iceland is an extraordinarily young country, having only begun to produce films in a systematic way since the 1980s. But he almost seems to want to make up for lost time, so much has the quality of his works increased, the success of which undoubtedly contributes to the natural beauty of the places, the perfect setting for any setting. Börn náttúrunnar (Children of nature, based on a book by Einar Már Guðmundsson, directed by Fridrik Thór Fridriksson, in 1991 he obtained a nomination to ‘ Oscar as best foreign film, attracting the attention of the international audience to Icelandic cinema. The same director and the same writer find themselves together again, in 2000, for another success with Englar Alhemsins (Angels of the universe), a human story told by its protagonist who has now passed into the afterlife. Again based on an Icelandic novel, this time by Hallgrímur Helgason, it is a work that has aroused great interest in life in Iceland. It is 101 Reykjavík, shot in 2000 by director Baltasar Kormákur, chronicling the paradoxical story of a young man and his mother who live together in the capital. In 2002 the unusual Noi Albinoi, directed by Dagur Kàri, instead triumphed at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Iceland Arts and Music

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