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Icelandic Art VII. Post-war Geometric Abstraction

Post-war geometric abstraction
Geometric abstraction, which shook the foundations of Icelandic art during the 1950s, is undoubtedly a watershed in the country’ s short history of modern art. For the first time a substantial group of Icelandic artists came together under the banner of a particular artistic ideology which saw the work of art as an autonomous and wholly non-objective extension of the visible world. From the middle of the 1950’ s onwards, this new Icelandic art increasingly caught the largely favourable attention of foreign critics and art publications. Like other notable developments in Icelandic art, geometric art largely arises out of the interaction of Icelandic artists abroad. During 1947-55, some 15 Icelandic painters and sculptors lived and studied in Paris. The leading lights of the artists were undoubtedly Hörður Ágústsson and Valtýr Pétursson, idealists who saw in European non-objective art a settling of accounts with the art of the past, which they regarded as morally bankrupt and artistically out-of-date. On their return to Reykjavik, this group of artists began proselytizing for their cause with exhibitions, lectures and statements, to a largely hostile and uncomprehending public. The abstract artists were criticized for their hostility towards traditional Icelandic art, as well as for their adoption of an artistic ideology “alien”  to national cultural values. In retrospect these works are clearly characterized by strong individual traits and a good deal of variety. Every artist had his or her own way with structure, colours and visual space, as is evidenced by the stamps in the present series, featuring choice paintings by Karl Kvaran (1924-1989), Nína Tryggvadóttir (1913-1968), Valtýr Pétursson (1919-1988) and Þorvaldur Skúlason (1906-1984).