Sölvi Helgason (1820-1895) was born 200 years ago on the farm of Fjall in Skagafjörður, north Iceland. To commemorate this anniversary the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum has set up an exhibition of his works. Sölvi Helgason, or Solon Islandus as he also called himself, was born into poverty, at a time when Icelandic law compelled those who had no land of their own to work on farms under annual contracts, and forbade unauthorised travels outside their local district. Sölvi disregarded these limitations, maintaining that his art entitled him to freedom of movement. Hence he became renowned all over Iceland for his roving, and for his dealings with the authorities, who repeatedly punished him with flogging and imprisonment. While wandering the countryside and dealing with authorities, Sölvi created unique artworks with tendrils and floral ornament, which are so typical of his art.
In addition Sölvi was always writing, and would often write reflections or statements on his pictures, and in many cases the reverse of the picture is covered with his minuscule writing. The artistic importance and merit of Sölvi Helgason’s works is indisputable, reflecting the admirably spontaneous, tenacious creativity of a penniless vagabond.