Barbara Árnason

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Barbara Moray Williams Árnason (19 April 1911 – 1975) was an English-born Icelandic artist, known for book illustrations, engravings in wood, and watercolours.

Born in Petersfield, she was the twin sister of writer and illustrator Ursula Moray Williams.[1][2] She attended Winchester College of Art and the Royal College of Art.[3][4] Soon after graduating she was asked to illustrate Icelandic sagas, which resulted in her travelling to Iceland in 1936, where she met sculptor and painter Magnús Á. Árnason.[5] They married in 1937 and she moved to Iceland the same year.[5]

She was already known as a book illustrator before moving to Iceland, and also became known there for pioneering work in wood engraving and for watercolours of landscapes and children. She also worked with textiles, and in her final years with water-colour engraving.[2][3][5][6] In 1952, she painted a mural titled Children at Play in the assembly hall of the Melaskóli, a school in Reykjavík. She also created a large number of decorative plaques, some of which can still be seen near the school.[7] She illustrated and designed covers for many children's books, but also illustrated the Passion Hymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson, which took her seven years.[8]

The Gerðarsafn (is) art museum in Kópavogur, which holds a collection of her work, held a centennial exhibition for her in 2011, the opening presided over by the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.[5] Work by her was also included in the exhibition Perspectives - On the Borders of Art and Philosophy at the Reykjavík Art Museum the same year.[9]


  1. ^ Alan Moray Williams (19 November 1994). "Barbara Árnason á yngri árum sínum". Morgunblaðið (in Icelandic). Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Nicholas Tucker (7 November 2006). "Ursula Moray Williams". The Independent. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Ursula Moray Williams". The Telegraph. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Who's who in Art (17th ed.). Art Trade Press Ltd. 1974. p. 466. OCLC 59855570. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Overview Exhibition of Barbara Árnason's Art". Iceland Review. 25 April 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "Barbara Árnason: 1911 – 1975". Gerðasafn. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Myndir af verkum Barböru Árnason í Melaskóla" (in Icelandic). Melaskóli. Archived from the original on 20 July 2002. 
  8. ^ "Merki og kort: 1956 - Stallurinn Kristí" (in Icelandic). Thorvaldsensfélagið. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Perspectives - On the Borders of Art and Philosophy". Reykjavík Art Museum. 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Björn Th. Björnsson (1973). Íslensk myndlist á 19. og 20. öld: drög að sögulegu yfirliti (in Icelandic). 2. Helgafell. pp. 228–33. OCLC 185928128. 

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