Court dispute over Icelandic painter’s alleged promise Skip to content

Court dispute over Icelandic painter’s alleged promise

Defenders and prosecutors had a heated debate at Reykjavík District Court yesterday in the case of the descendents of artist Jóhannes S. Kjarval vs. the City of Reykjavík.

According to Morgunbladid, the City Reykjavík took over Kjarval’s property 38 years ago; his studio, personal belongings and nearly 5,000 works of art.

Allegedly the painter had promised former mayor of Reykjavík Geir Hallgrímsson in 1968 that the City of Reykjavík would inherit his possessions after his death.

Advocate to the Supreme Court and lawyer of Kjarval’s family Kristinn Bjarnason said there is no written proof of that promise.

Bjarnason explained that the city had considered the painter and his work the property of the public after he gained fame and therefore taken hold of his possessions, including clothing, personal letters and presents from Kjarval’s grandchildren.

Bjarnason pointed out that the City had not spoken publicly about Kjarval’s alleged gift until three years after taking over his property and no explanation had been given to his family.

Further amongst the prosecution’s complaints were that the painter’s belongings were not put on display in Kjarvalsstadir Museum, dedicated to the painter, which, according to Bjarnason, should have been the natural procedure.

Bjarnason said that if the City of Reykjavík cannot provide written proof of the promise Kjarval allegedly made in 1968, he would assume the painter had asked the former mayor to take his possessions into storage.

Kristbjörg Stephensen, advocate to Reykjavík District Court and defendant of the City, said many incidents prove that Kjarval had actually handed his belongings overt to the City as a gift.

Stephensen explained that former mayor Hallgrímsson had described the promise Kjarval had allegedly made to him in 1968 in writing.

She further explained that his “gift” had been mentioned at the opening of Kjarvalsstadir Museum in 1973 while the painter’s heirs were present without them objecting to it.

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