The Sarah Wiseman Gallery was all set to present a solo show by one of Iceland’s most acclaimed artists, Karólína Lárusdóttir, the first by the artist in nine years.

However, with just weeks to go before the exhibition launch, Karólína very sadly passed away, following a stroke.

“We and her family felt strongly that the exhibition should go ahead as a celebration of her life and a tribute to a remarkable artist,” gallery director Sarah Wiseman said.

“This particular show was two years in planning, and would have celebrated her 75th birthday. However, it will go ahead with the blessing of her family, as a celebration of her life and work.

“We’re deeply saddened by her passing earlier this month, but we have represented Karólína Lárusdóttir for the last 20 years, so it felt fitting to host her last exhibition here in Summertown.”

Born in Reykjavik in 1944, Karólína overcame considerable opposition from her family in order to apply to art school.

Her parents felt it an unsuitable career for a well-to-do young woman, and doubted her artistic ability.

Karólína was undeterred, signing up for a drawing course in her second year of college in Reykjavik, which brought her to London.

It was here she established firm roots in the UK – and would come call home for around 50 years.

Karólína has a strong connection to Oxford, initially through her training at the Ruskin school from where she graduated in 1967.

At that time, the art school was housed in the Ashmolean.

It is thus unsurprising that local galleries have frequently exhibited her work here - seen still at Oxford’s The Old Parsonage and Old Bank Hotel, owner Jeremy Mogford being a keen collector.

Sarah Wiseman explains: “The first commercial gallery I worked in as a graduate was the CCA galleries on the High Street, where I first came across Karólína’s work and just loved it. I was in awe of it.”

When the CCA Galleries closed, Sarah Wiseman opened her own gallery, Karólína remaining prominent in Sarah’s mind.

“I knew there was nobody representing Karólína’s work in Oxford, so I wrote to her – a good old-fashioned letter,” Sarah remembers.

“I asked if she would consider working with me in my new gallery.

“I didn’t get anywhere at first, being the new kid on the block, but after a couple of years of successfully running the gallery, she felt I was serious enough to represent her work.”

Karolina is best known for her surreal imagery inspired by her eccentric upbringing in Reykjavik. Her grandfather – a former circus strongman – founded Iceland’s first grand hotel, and it was here that Karolina spent much of her time as a girl, after school and in the holidays.

She was witness to an adult world of dinner-parties and fine-dining; of maids and chefs scurrying here and there; of deference and exacting standards.

Her work is a window into a lost world.

“Such a large collection of etchings by Karólína, exhibited together, has rarely happened in the past – some have scarcely been seen - and are the last in their edition.

“It’s a wonderful chance to discover this remarkable artist.”

Karólína Lárusdóttir:

‘Wondrous Happenings’

March 2-30

Sarah Wiseman Gallery