Selárdalur Valley – Iceland - Atlas Obscura

Selárdalur Valley

A "simple-hearted artist" turned an isolated Icelandic valley into his own art museum. 


Farmer-turned-Folk artist Samúel Jónsson never managed to make much of a living as a painter, but after he retired the “simple-hearted artist” devoted his last years to churning out as much creativity as possible.

The untrained artist started in earnest in 1954 while in his 70’s, turning his isolated valley at Brautarholt in Selárdalur into a crude but impressive sculpture garden and self-made showcase. His concrete creations include animals of both land and sea, a replica of the Alhambra Lions Fountain, and a comic-like statue of Leifur Eiriksson. Apart from the large outdoors sculptures, Jónsson also constructed a chapel and his own museum to showcase his numerous works and paintings.

Much like the museum, the chapel was created to house an already existing peice of art—an altar made for a local church that turned down his generous gift. Undaunted by the church’s rejection, Jónsson just built his own chapel with a small tower on top, and the altar was officially home. 

In 1969, the passionate artisan died, and the harsh Icelandic weather wreaked havoc on his creations. In 1998 it was decided that his work should be restored, a project that went into effect in 2004. The association in charge of the restoration is hoping to finish the site with a visitor’s center, an artist complex complete with studios and apartments, and exposition facilities. 


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