Countless new themes and motives have entered into Faroese art since then, international styles have had their influence, and today an impressive number of artists work with pictorial art, lively debates about art take place in all medias and on every street corner, new galleries and art venues pop up every year, and art plays an important role in everyday life.
Some things are still the same, though, and the landscape is still the dominant motive in Faroese art, just as the interplay between nature and mankind is still the most prevalent theme.
Faroese painters have through generations sought images that can portray the states of mind, the moods and the feelings that nature awakens in them, and they have sought forms in nature that can be used to explore and express their inward struggles. From the depth of the sea to the height of the sky, nature is being artistically investigated in every possible way. With psychological interpretations or ironic comments, poetic expressions or conceptual statements, or simply as an opportunity to carry out formal experiments. Nature is all around.
Faroese art is completely new and the exactly same, and maybe it is just this that makes it so fascinating and so alluring to foreigners. This ability to play both with the traditional and the contemporary, the local and the international, the unique and the general. Because in this constant alternation between originality and renewal and in the constant movement between the vernacular and the global endless nuances, contrasts, tensions and aesthetic possibilities are created, and together they form a rich, wonderful, inspiring pictorial art.
Faroese visual arts was practically unknown before the year 1900. There was one man, Díðrikur á Skarvanesi, who painted birds but little is known about him, though five of his paintings made of gouache are in the possesion of Listasavn Føroya (en. The National Gallery of the Faroes). Some foreign artists residing in the Faroes sparkled an interest for art among the locals that reached a climax with the national romantic movement around the year 1900 and several years forward with Niels Kruse, Kristin í Geil and Jógvan Waagstein being the pioneers and with the nature being the favoured motif.
The first academy trained artist was Bergithe Johannessen. She started as an oil painter and early in her career specialized in watercolor paintings. Bergithe Johannessen is best-known for her portrays of the moods in the Faroese landscape, especially from the villages and coasts.
Another academy trained artist was Samuel Joensen-Mikines, most famous for his paintings of death and of whale killing in the 1930’s to 50’s. He inspired many others to receive academic training, among these were important artists such as Janus Kamban, Ingálvur av Reyni, Ruth Smith, Elinborg Lützen and Jóannis Kristiansen. As the Second World War broke out, many of the students were isolated in the occupied Denmark and could not return home until after the war. While in Denmark, the students established Listafelag Føroya (en. The Faroese Art Society), a society whose aim was to collect Faroese art and arrange and support Faroese art exhibitions.
In 1970 the gallery Listaskálin was established by the art society near the park in Tórshavn, and it was extended in 1993. The society’s collection and Listaskálin merged in 1989 with Alment Føroyskt Listasavn (en. The Public Faroese Art Collection) into the National Gallery, which today houses the greatest collection of Faroese art. Among the gallery’s aims are the collection of Faroese art or art related to the Faroes, the arrangements of permanent exhibitions describing the history and themes of Faroese art and the arrangements of exhibitions with artists from the Faroes and abroad. As with the older generations of artists, nature is a major source of inspiration for many of todays leading artists – such as Zacharias Heinesen, Tróndur Patursson and Eyðun av Reyni – although there are many artists, especially from the younger generations – such as Edward Fuglø, Hansina Iversen and Beinta av Reyni – who have turned their thoughts to all kinds of international oriented art.