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Sámal Joensen-Mikines
Sámal Elias Joensen
(1906-1979)

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Joensen-Mikines was an extraordinary figure, whom I have met in Copenhagen as a young school girl. He lived in an apartment house, where one of my school friends also lived, and one day he invited both of us young girls to visit him in his studio, where he gave each us a small canvas and let us play around with his colour tubes. It was a fascinating world for me, and he gave me very first lessons on colours, perspective, and visual imagination of what I wanted to do, both in painting, and with my life. I remember him as a vibrant character with a fiercely temper, but also as an extraordinary teacher of art and life and -- most of all -- a reliable friend whom I knew during his last 20 years. I cried the day I was told that he had passed away. 

The first professional painter, and also one of the most famous artists of the Faeroe Islands, Sámal Joensen-Mikines, was born in 1906 on one of the most isolated and inaccessible islands of the archipelago, the westernmost outpost Mykines, surrounded by the wild breakings of the waves of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Sámal Elias Joensen was forever so attached to this island, that he adapted its name as his own. 

Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Photograph. Faeroe Islands 1978. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Viw of the Island Mykines. Faeroe Islands 1996. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Map of the Faeroe Islands with Mykines encircled.

Joensen-Mikines tells that 

"Waves from the ocean break in on the small bay harbouring the landing place of the village.  Gigantic waves in the hues of greens and blues break up from the bluish-black ocean.  A composition of large, vivid movements. 

Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Painting "Breaking the Waves". 1952.

Faeroe Islands 1975. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. "Skalafjřrdur".

On these islands the colours break in a subtle way, influenced by the humidity of the air, which I have often noticed when the sky and the ocean melt together in shades of rose and grey and the shine of sea shells, or in cascading lights thrown out from a break in the dark clouds, giving life to the sea, the cliffs, the green pastures, and the black houses of the village.  It is a strong, but subtle light.  It is fascinating (Joensen-Mikines).  

The below paintings all give a good impression of the harsh life and conditions in which the islanders of this outpost live their daily life, in close connection with the ever-breaking ocean and the harsh nature.  A life consisting of funerals of those disappeared in the sea, and good-byes to those who go fishing, and may never return home.  The set was issued 1991 as a tribute to the artist and his depiction of everyday life on Mykines. 

Faeroe Islands 1991. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. The Funeral Procession. Faeroe Islands 1991. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. The Farewell. Faeroe Islands 1991. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Hardanagardur (a village). Faeroe Islands 1991. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Winter Morning.

Joensen-Mikines' skill in stringent portraits is displayed in the below paintings, issued on stamps in 1996, in honour of famous women.  Who else than the Faeroese women as such would be worthy of such a tribute?  It is disputed who the woman on the vertical portrait, painted 1934 (Scott 303) is:  some people say that the portrait shows the artist's wife, and it certainly does resemble her very precisely; others say that she is an anonymous woman from the village Sřrvag.  The horizontal painting shows a woman standing beside the sea coast, probably looking out for her husband to arrive home from the sea. Although this set is dedicated to "Famous Women", the women are anonymous, but represent the Faeroese Woman as such. 

Faeroe Islands 1996. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Europa Stamp #1. Famous Women.

Faeroe Islands 1996. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Europa Stamp #2. Famous Women.

Faeroe Islands 1996. Sámal Joensen-Mikines. Expressionism. Europa Stamps First Day Cover. Famous Women.

Joensen-Mikines was never in doubt that he would be an artist, and his first inclination was to be musician and play the violin.  But in the summer 1924 the Swedish bird painter William Gislander visited the Faeroe Islands for painting the enormous colonies of birds.  Gislander was not a great artist, but for the young Joensen-Mikines he was the idol, whose steps he followed from the very beginning, and who let him make his first brush strokes with the remainders of paint that could squeeze out of Gislander's tubes.  His paintings were inspired both by Edvard Munch and Eugene Delacroix, and his trend-setting art was decisive for the development of Faeroese art.  

Sources and links: 

Other Expressionist artists on this site: 
 

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Text and material contained in this page is shown with the explicit permission of the Faeroese Post Office, Mr. Knud Wacher, Philatelic Office, Tórshavn. 


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