December 21, 2012

Samúel Jónsson, Chapel, museum and sculpture garden

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 which 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 includes 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 which 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 this altar, Jónsson constructed his own chapel (on the picture above the building to the left, with the small tower).

The other building he constructed is a museum as in next picture. Here he would expose his paintings and smaller creations like small replicas 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 from 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 region, 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 was formed to take care of the site. With help of the Department of Agriculture, owner of the lands, a restoration project was designed which from 2004 on has been implemented.

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

Documentation, more pictures

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

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