Mikines – Best Artist in the Faroe Islands

By Verified Expert
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The real history of art in the Faroe Islands begins in 1927 with an exhibition held in Tórshavn by three young artists: William Heinesen, Jákup Olsen, and Sámal Joensen-Mikines.

It was the youngest of the three exhibitors who was to achieve international attention and spark off the impulse to paint among many of his fellow countrymen. Sámal Joensen-Mikines (1906-1979), is the father of art in the Faroe Islands.

He grew up in Mykines, the most isolated of the islands. He received his first instruction from a Swedish artist, who had come to Mykines to paint birds.

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Whereas his early paintings are quite naturalistic, and record his home surroundings in careful detail, Sámal Joensen-Mikines later become highly original in his use of colour and design, and the best of his paintings are psychologically very suggestive.

You can see his famous painting “Home from the Funeral” at the Art Museum in Tórshavn. This painting evokes the inevitability and fatalism of a Greek tragedy; his characters are painted in dark, greenish colours with faces and hands accentuated.

This picture won acclaim for its daring use of lines and shapes: the figures form a steep mountain, in the eternal shape of the landscapes in the Faroe Islands.

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Mikines is the painter of human life. He paints the land, the people, the immense sea. You can feel the salty sea and the salty tears in the heavily loaded boat in paintings such as Home from the Funeral.

Mikines acknowledged his indebtedness to the artist Edvard Munch as well as his admiration for El Greco and Delacroix. The best place to see paintings by Mikines is to visit the Art Museum in Tórshavn.  

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The doubt and depression that often overwhelmed him account for the deep pessimism and pathos in his pictures of the late 1930s.

In all his work Mikines turns to the Faroe Islands, and especially his native island of Mykines, for his themes. As the artist said: “Without this sense of belonging and this world of images I would lose my identity both as an artist and as a human being”.

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