December 21, 2012

Samúel Jónsson, Chapel, museum and sculpture garden


 unless otherwise stated pictures (sept 2004) courtesy of 
Paul Kornaat, from his website IJsland, land van uitersten 

Already in Iceland this site is considered as located in a remote part in the west of the country, so from a mainland perspective it may rank as the westernmost outsider environment in Europe, and a rather remote one too.

Life and works

Farmer Samúel Jónsson (1884-1969), who lived alone on a farm in the SelárdalurValley, from youngmanhood on had artistic ambitions, he expressed by making paintings. Restricted by the hard labor at the farm, he only could fully devote himself to creative activities once he had become retired.

Some sources say he began developping the site around 1954, when he was in his early seventies.


This folk art environment consists of a sculpture garden and two builded structures: a chapel and a museum with Jónsson's paintings and other small works.

The story related with the chapel says that Jónsson had made an altar, he wanted to donate to the local church, an offer that was rejected however, because the existing device was useful enough. So to provide a place for the artwork, Jónsson constructed his own chapel (on the picture above the building to the left, with the small tower).

The other building he has constructed, is a museum as in next picture. Here he would expose his paintings and smaller creations, like small replica of famous buildings.


Annex to these buildings there is a sculpture garden. Its chef d´oeuvre is a replica of the Alhambra Lions Fountain, as in the first picture, but there are some other sculptures too, like personalities (the famous Icelandic explorer Leifr Eriksson), seals, seahorses, a duck with ducklings.

Jónsson made these sculptures using concrete, and it has been reported that he went to a nearby beach to collect the sand he needed to mix the raw material.



The site is being cared for

Jónsson lived alone on the farm and after he died in 1969, there was no one to take care of the site. Maybe in that period the valley already experienced a decline in population, given that in 2010 the last farmer left the regio that once had some fifteen farms..


the sculptures in a misty atmosphere

Without maintenance, especially the buildings suffered the risk of decay. However, in 1998 an association has been formed to take care of the site. With help of the Department of Agriculture, owner of the lands, a restoration project has been designed, that from 2004 on has been implemented.

The idea is to have the site transformed into an artistic complex, with a visitor centre, exposition facilities, apartments and studios where artists in residence can stay and work.

Documentation, more pictures
* A video of the site by Heim 713 (Youtube, 3'30", uploaded may 2011) (the propped up wall in the video is what has been left of the original farmhouse; the plan is to rebuild it)
.  

Sámuel Jónsson
Chapel, museum, sculpture garden
Brautarholt
Selárdalur Valley, Vestfirôir (Westfjords)
exterior can be visited 
foreign visitors better contact a local 
tourist agency about collective tours 

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