Eiríkur Smith

The Icelandic art scene went through a transformative period in the 1950s, as new ideas and movements gained traction in the country. Geometric abstraction was spreading across the globe as a wave of change and Iceland was no exception. The artist Eiríkur Smith was studying in Copenhagen and Paris at the time and he was among those influenced by this artistic revolution. Soon after returning to Iceland in 1951, he had a solo exhibition of abstract paintings at Listamannaskálinn in Reykjavík, as well as taking part in a pivotal exhibition of abstract art by Icelandic artists, also at Listamannaskálinn, in 1953.

Eiríkur’s paintings, ink and gouache works from this period demonstrate the artist’s firm grasp of the technique and logic inherent in the direct visual language of geometric abstraction, without restricting himself to the rules and ideas of a single movement. In 1957, Eiríkur made up his mind towards this genre of abstraction, deciding to burn a part of these works, along with some of his older pieces, in a quarry in Hafnarfjörður. As a result, works from this period are hard to come by, but the ones that have been preserved clearly show Eiríkur’s knack for the style of geometric abstraction, even if he later went in a different direction. The exhibition Untitled will feature previously unseen works that the artist painted in gouache, alongside works from the Hafnarborg Collection, from this short but creative period of the artist’s career.

Eiríkur Smith was born in Hafnarfjörður in 1925 and passed away at his home in town in 2016. Eiríkur was a student at the Painting and Drawing School of Finnur Jónsson and Jóhann Briem during the winter of 1939-1940 and at the Icelandic College of Art and Crafts from 1946-1948. Thereafter, he went to Copenhagen to study drawing and he moved to Paris for further study of the arts at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére, in 1951. He had numerous solo exhibition, as well as taking part in group exhibitions all over the world throughout his career. Eiríkur’s works can be found in many museums, such as the National Gallery of Iceland, Gerðarsafn and the Reykjavík Art Museum, in addition to Hafnarborg’s vast collection of the artist’s work, counting around 400 works.