Einar Hákonarson: The Auschwitz Etchings
Over the course of a 40-year career, Einar Hákonarson (b. 1945) has become one of Iceland’s most distinguished artists, with 30 exhibitions in multiple countries. He was educated at the Iceland Academy of the Arts (Iceland’s national art school) and the Valand School of Fine Arts of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Primarily a painter, he has also won numerous awards for his work in printmaking, and he reignited interest in the medium of printmaking in Iceland. In 1965, as a student at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, he made a life- changing trip to Auschwitz. Reflecting on that experience, the artist stated that, “this visit [to Auschwitz] influenced me tremendously. I simply was not the same as before.”
While a large portion of his work since the Auschwitz visit has dealt with human suffering, Hákonarson made a series of six etchings between 1965 and 1967 that specifically referenced his reflections on Auschwitz. He dedicated the six etchings to the victims of the Holocaust as well as to all victims of hatred, bigotry, and injustice. Although intimate in scale, the etchings explore the spirit of the human person to persevere and triumph even in the midst of atrocities on such an epic scale. The etchings remain witnesses to humanity’s dark side, but they are also expressions of hope, that in the face of such evil, the vigilant human spirit can still triumph and prevail.
We invite you to spend time with these works, to read the artist’s own reflections on the themes in each of the prints, and to see that, in light of the many contemporary global trouble spots, the message of the Auschwitz Etchings is timelier than ever.