Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Reuniting Tiepolos in 2020

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

1 October 2020

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of international borders has caused major problems for the collaboration of museums worldwide. However, this situation which we all are experiencing, whether we are in Finland or in London, has encouraged museums to find new ways to connect and to work together with colleagues. Museums are also willing to make compromises on their usual procedures, for example with loans to institutions abroad. In a way, I would say that the difficulties have strengthened the will to co-operate and make things happen. This has certainly been the case with the exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, which opened at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in September. All of our partner museums were dedicated to making sure the loans that had been agreed reached their destination and they were ready to work very hard to realise our common goal. In the end, the pandemic has also had positive effects – paradoxically this widespread isolation has at the same strengthened the international museum community.

Another aspect of museum work that has gained new attention is the importance and value of museum collections. It might seem a cliché to say that the collection is the heart of a museum. Now collections and the research relating to them have been rediscovered. At the Sinebrychoff Art Museum we have focused on the research work concerning the jewels of our collection during recent years. Conducting research on old masters is time-consuming and is of course based on collaboration with various specialists in the field. The aim of our research is to lead to an exhibition project, which allows us to show our own artworks in their proper and meaningful context. Our Lucas Cranach exhibition in the autumn 2019 was our first of this kind.

‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ began as a research project concerning the provenance of two paintings in our museum’s collection. The paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambattista Tiepolo and the Greeks Sacking Troy, by his son Giandomenico Tiepolo, are both oil sketches, which are preparations for full-scale paintings. The National Gallery in London also has two more oil sketches belonging to the same series of the Trojan Horse, namely the Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy. We know that these three oil sketches were still together in the early 19th century, when they were sold in St Petersburg. Now, for the first time in 200 years, the three paintings are reunited in Helsinki. This marks one of the major highlights of the show.

In addition to paintings, an important part of the oeuvres of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo are their drawings and etchings, and these are also well represented in the exhibition. The Sinebrychoff Art Museum has recently acquired a rare, double-sided drawing by Giambattista. The sketch, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso) is related to the lost frescoes of the Palazzo Archinto in Milan. Scholars are aware of only a few of Giambattista’s early works in chalk and therefore these studies form an important point of reference. Special mention must be also made of a rare loan from the National Library of Finland, an album containing the complete production of etchings by the family members, published by Giandomenico after the death of his father. This album is a uniquely well-preserved example of a first edition hitherto unknown to Tiepolo scholars.

The preliminary idea for the exhibition concept in 2015 was to bring the Trojan Horse series together. However, we soon realised that the Tiepolo small-scale paintings and oil sketches in other Nordic countries, and in Russia, should be included too. Many of the paintings have an important and early provenance related to the royal houses both in Sweden and Russia. Some of these paintings had arrived in these countries already during the lifetime of Giambattista. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue focus on the story behind his far-reaching reputation and the diffusion of this art to the most northern parts of Europe. The show is the result of a longstanding collaboration between the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, international experts in the Tiepolo field and museum curators in St Petersburg, Stockholm, London and Venice.

Ira Westergård, the Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, has served as the project manager for this ambitious initiative, which comprises research on the provenance of our two Tiepolo paintings and the exhibition project. In this issue we publish an interview with Ira Westergård, by Gill Crabbe. The article reveals the fascinating world of provenance research.

The Ateneum Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art  Kiasma also share the same ambition and passion to promote the research concerning the Finnish National Gallery’s collection. Senior researcher Anu Utriainen presents Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) an artist who was virtually forgotten for many decades in post-war art history and only rediscovered quite recently. Elga Seseman – A Women Artist Rediscovered is a research project that will culminate in an exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in 2021. Meanwhile, in September the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma opened its exhibition on the sound artist and musician Mika Vainio (1966–2017). The three articles from the exhibition catalogue that we publish in this issue – by Kati Kivinen, Leevi Haapala and Rikke Lundgreen – delineate a portrait of this versatile sound artist and composer, who took part in many international group exhibitions, presenting his spatial sound installations.

This issue of FNG Research also includes a peer-reviewed article by Professor Juliet Simpson, who presents new research on the reception and Nachleben (afterlife) of the art of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) during the 19th century and especially during the latter part of it. The paper is entitled ‘Lucas Cranach’s Legacies – “Primitive” and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle.’

Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its fifth Call for Research Interns.

With warm wishes for the coming season.

Featured image: Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Giandomenico Tiepolo’s oil sketches from the Trojan Horse series: The Building of the Trojan Horse (1773–75) and The Procession of the Trojan Horse (1773–75) Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Tiepolos travelling North

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum brings together works by the 18th-century Venetian masters from across Northern Europe, Gill Crabbe meets Chief Curator Ira Westergård to discuss the research findings behind this groundbreaking exhibition   

Any art-historical research project that sets out to delve into the provenance of artworks, carries with it some risk. The risk that, after committing the valuable resources of time, professional expertise and funding, one might draw a blank. Unexpected and unwanted surprises, such as an unfavourable reattribution, misleading information, or a tainted provenance, are just some of the hazards. Add to that the pressure of linking a research project to an international exhibition that plans to present the research findings, and you have quite a task on your hands. Top that with the unforeseen consequences of a global pandemic at the eleventh hour of mounting an exhibition, and one is navigating truly unprecedented circumstances.

Sitting in the office of Dr Ira Westergård, Chief Curator of the Finnish National Gallery’s Sinebrychoff Art Museum, two days after the opening of its exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, I am struck by the indefatigable energy – the renowned Finnish sisu – the show’s mastermind exudes, as she apologises for the piles of books and papers spread across all available surfaces – ‘they are all part of other projects I have had to put on hold and are now waiting to be dealt with’. One can see how this dynamism has driven an ambitious project that has brought together paintings and works on paper by these Venetian masters, the Tiepolos father and son, that found their way north and now reside in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Finland. Not only that but, perhaps even more importantly, in gathering together key players in the international Tiepolo research community to contribute to the show’s accompanying catalogue, she has spearheaded a publication that is bound to impact the Tiepolo research community for some years to come. ‘This catalogue is as important as the exhibition,’ she says, gripping it with both hands, as she holds it up in front of her. As the many narratives and their twists and turns unfold during our interview, one begins to understand why.

Featured image: Giandomenico Tiepolo’s oil sketches from the Trojan Horse series (1773–75): The Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse , both on loan from the National Gallery, London, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museums’ The Greeks Sacking Troy. Installation view of the ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ exhibition at the Sinebrychoff art Museum, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Read more — Download ‘Tiepolos travelling North’, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF

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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Three Princesses of Saxony, Sibylla (1515–92), Emilia (1516–91) and Sidonia (1518–75), daughters of Duke Heinrich of Frommen, c. 1535, oil on panel, 62cm x 89cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Photo: Bridgeman Images

Peer-Reviewed Article: Lucas Cranach’s Legacies –‘Primitive’ and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle

Juliet Simpson, Professor and Chair of Art History and Cultural Memory, Research Director, Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Coventry University and Visiting Fellow, the Warburg Institute, University of London

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) has long been over-shadowed by his more famous contemporaries, Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein (the Younger). Yet, during the second half of the 19th century, Cranach’s art and that of his workshop became the focus of significant national and transnational interest. Not only would this transform Cranach’s visibility for modern art, it would bring the very meaning and identity of a German Renaissance and Reformation memory centre-stage, in particular in the German and Nordic world. It is the potency of Cranach’s unexplored ‘afterlife’, his Nachleben (to borrow Aby Warburg’s key concept[1]), which is pivotal for this discussion.

Taking as its focus the celebrated 1899 Cranach Exhibition in Dresden, curated by the Hamburg art historian Karl Woermann, which brought Cranach into a 20th-century spotlight, this article examines three pivotal, yet understudied areas of modern interest in Cranach’s art.[2] First, is a neglected revival and reception of Cranach as a torchbearer of Reformation art and its cultural legacies. In this, Cranach’s work acquires developed significance in the contexts of expanding Romantic and later 19th-century cultural discourses of nationhood, linked to the new-found appeal of the artist’s ‘popular’ so-called ‘primitive’ expressions of piety. Second, are key ways in which such revivals of Cranach’s work stimulate competing cultural narratives of nationhood, memory and artistic identity: tensions, urgent in the range and character of responses generated by the 1899 Dresden Cranach Exhibition and its catalogue.[3] Indeed, drawing on rarely-examined primary sources relating to the exhibition, its catalogue and contemporary critical responses, section three of this article sheds light on ways in which Cranach’s inspiration for redefined symbols of ‘nation’, ‘belonging’ and ‘primitiveness’ was to become determinant. And third is to consider how and to what ends Cranach’s fin-de-siècle reinventions suggestively develop his art’s negotiated legacies of Gothic, Renaissance and Reformation. A particular concern is to investigate Cranach’s appeal for a group of artists, spanning Victorian Britain to German and Nordic Europe, stimulated by a reawakened attraction to the legacies of a German Renaissance which these artists found in Cranach’s art. These reinventions entwine equally with uncanny artistic and cultural reverberations about what ‘Reformation’ is not (the allure of enchantment and of Cranach’s ‘Gothicism’), and with a fascination for what Cranach’s art may become: sensual, erotic; even disturbing and dark. Thus, my key concern is to shed new light on the substantial ‘ripple effect’ created by Cranach’s survival and presence on the late 19th-century European and international art map. It is to illuminate Cranach’s transformation from revivalist curiosity, symbol of ‘nationhood’, into an unexpected ‘other’ modern as a figure of difference, and Dresden into a potent Cranach-Capital (‘Cranach-Stadt’), pre-and post-1899.[4]

[1] In connection with Aby Warburg’s ‘Das Nachleben der Antike’ (in Fritz Saxl, ‘Das Nachleben der Antike: Zur  Einführung in die Bibliothek Warburg’, Hamburger Universitätszeitung, 11: 4, 1921, 245) – but a concept that opens particularly fruitful insights in navigating complex cultural temporalities, notably the ‘survival’ of pre-/early modern in modern cultures, or as Georges Didi-Huberman perceives in relation to his construct of ‘spectral time’, ‘to enter into a time other than habitual chronologies [and], eternal “influences”’, Georges Didi-Huberman. ‘The Surviving Image: Aby Warburg and Tylorian Anthropology’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 25: 1, 2002, (61–69), 61, 63.

[2] This article is the developed outcome of papers first given at the international conferences on ‘Protestant Images: Faith and Self-Image’ (Veste Coburg, Coburg: October 2017) and ‘European Revivals: Cultural Mythologies around 1900’ (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh: December 2017) – my thanks to the conference organisers for these opportunities. I would also like to thank the Warburg Institute (School of Advanced Studies, University of London), for the conferral of a Visiting Fellowship (2019–present), for the access to scholarly resources and also the many rich exchanges with Warburg colleagues and Fellows which have greatly advanced my thinking on Cranach’s afterlives, as has fruitful conversations with Prof Dr Gabriele Rippl (Bern), Dr Ralph Gleis (Berlin) and colleagues at the Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery (Helsinki), to whom I extend my gratitude. In preparing this article for publication, my thanks to Dr Tim Farrant (Oxford) and to the anonymous peer-reviewers of the final manuscript for their helpful comments and suggestions.

[3] On the extensive art-historiographical reception of the 1899 exhibition and Dresden’s subsequent reputation as a ‘Cranach Capital [of Art]’ (‘eine Cranach-Stadt’), see S. Heiser. Das Frühwerk Lucas Cranachs des Älteren: Wien um 1500 – Dresden um 1900. DVK: Berlin, 2002, see especially, 29–43.

[4] See Harald Marx. ‘Dresden – eine Cranach-Stadt?’, Dresdner Hefte, 52, 1997, 11–24.

Featured image: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Three Princesses of Saxony, Sibylla (1515–92), Emilia (1516–91) and Sidonia (1518–75), daughters of Duke Heinrich of Frommen, c. 1535, oil on panel, 62cm x 89cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Photo: Bridgeman Images

Read more — Download ‘Lucas Cranach’s Legacies –‘Primitive’ and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle’, by Juliet Simpson, as a PDF

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Mika Vainio performs at the opening of ‘Cities on the Move 7’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 1999 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

50 Hz: Mika Vainio the Sound Artist

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Transl. Silja Kudel

I don’t think that the actual sound, the change in air pressure, is the only thing we can call music. Music can also be visual and based on other things, physical things.
– Mika Vainio[1]

Musical background, background as a musician

Mika Vainio (b. 1963 Helsinki, Finland – d. 2017 Trouville-sur-Mer, France) was a composer, performer and DJ who achieved world renown in the field of experimental electronic music. Among his many professional accomplishments, he also carved out a notable career as a sound artist. From 1996 onwards he created more than 15 sound installations, most of them commissioned by biennials, museums and galleries in continental Europe. Many of his works were composed in collaboration with other artists, such as the band Pan Sonic’s Ilpo Väisänen and the Berlin-based artist, composer and label owner Carsten Nicolai. Vainio won admiration as the creator of highly distinctive soundscapes combining synthesizer music and carefully curated noise, achieving a recognisable minimalistic sound both in his recordings and live gigs. He left audiences spellbound by playing at frequencies that invoked a powerful, visceral experience. ‘The world is full of electronic music, but Mika Vainio’s signature style is easy to distinguish from all the rest who play with clicks, buzzes, silences, and low frequencies’, said Vainio’s friend, photographer Antti Viitala.[2] The titles he came up with, such as Onko (Is It?), Ilmanvaihto (Air-conditioning unit) and Hän Oli Ääni Joskus (He Was a Sound Sometimes), are laconically declarative, and he had a unique gift for using sound to evoke visual worlds and very specific moods.

[1] Michelle White. ‘Sähkö 20 Years Anniversary Special Interview with Mika Vainio & Tommi Grönlund’, cargocollective.com, 2014, https://cargocollective.com/mosaictheory/Sahko-20-Years-Anniversary-Special-Interview-with-Mika-Vainio-Tommi (accessed 15 May 2020).

[2] Antti Viitala quoted in Vainio’s obituary by Tuomas Karemo. A Quiet Life, Programme ‘Kulttuuricocktail’, Yle 16 December 2017, https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2017/12/18/mika-vainio-a-quiet-life (accessed 15 May 2020).

Featured image: Mika Vainio performs at the opening of ‘Cities on the Move 7’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 1999
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Read more — Download ’50 Hz: Mika Vainio the Sound Artist’, by Leevi Haapala, as a PDF

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Installation view of Mika Vainio’s sound installation 2 x 540 kHz, 2009, at ‘50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Found Voices and Meaningful Silences: ­Situating Mika Vainio’s Sound Installations and their Spatial Practices

Kati Kivinen, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Transl. Silja Kudel

Mika Vainio (1963–2017) is known in his homeland primarily for his minimalistic electronic music and he achieved international acclaim as a pioneering avant-garde composer. What is less well known to many Finns is that, in addition to carving out a notable musical career, Vainio also distinguished himself as an accomplished sound artist within the domain of contemporary art. In the late 1990s, he began exhibiting spatial sound installations in many group exhibitions, mainly in continental Europe and North America.

Sound art rose to prominence in contemporary art in the late 1990s through exhibition projects foregrounding sound in its various forms and meanings.[1] During this period, Vainio created a number of sound installations for exhibitions, both as solo projects and in collaboration with other musicians and artists, such as his fellow member of the band Pan Sonic, Ilpo Väisänen; the German artist and composer Carsten Nicolai; and the Italian-born artist Micol Assaëli. In addition to creating his own sound installations, Vainio collaborated actively with many artists and choreographers, composing soundscapes and music for their various works.[2]

[1] The sound art boom took off in earnest around the turn of the millennium. Among the exhibitions then featuring sound and aurality in contemporary art were ‘Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound’ at London’s Hayward Gallery (2000) and ‘Volume: Bed of Sound’ (2000) at New York’s MoMA PS1. Vainio took part in both exhibitions together with Ilpo Väisänen. A few years later Vainio was invited to take part in ‘Frequencies [Hz]: Audio-visual space’ (2002) at Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle. Sound and music in contemporary art were also highlighted in ‘Sons & Lumieres: A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century’ at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2004. More recent exhibitions dedicated to sound art have included ZKM’s ‘Sound Art. Sound as a Medium of Art’ (2012), MoMA’s ‘Soundings: A Contemporary Score’ (2013) and Fundació Joan Miró’s ‘Sound Art?’ (2019). Among the earliest sound art events was ‘Soundings’, an exhibition curated by art historian Suzanne Delehanty at Neuberger Museum SUNY Purchase, as early as 1981.

[2] Mika Vainio composed music for video works by artists including Mika Taanila, Saara Ekström and Anu Pennanen. He also composed music for dance performances, for example for the Belgian choreographer Cindy Van Acker. For further details, see Mika Taanila. ‘Soundtracks from a Distance’, in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 /2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery /Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 63–76.

Featured image: Installation view of Mika Vainio’s sound installation 2 x 540 kHz, 2009, at ‘50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Read more — Download ‘Found Voices and Meaningful Silences: ­Situating Mika Vainio’s Sound Installations and their Spatial Practices’, by Kati Kivinen, as a PDF

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Items from Mika Vainio’s studio in Oslo, selected by Rikke Lundgreen. ‘Mika Vainio: 50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Still Life: A Personal Archive

Rikke Lundgreen

Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. English proofreading for the book Arlyne Moi

In this text, I focus on the belongings of the composer and visual artist Mika Vainio. Mika had his studio at home and surrounded himself with all kinds of objects: books, musical compositions and notation, records, found objects and memorabilia. What defines a personal archive? Can we categorise his belongings as an archive? How do the possessions of this artist lead us to a fuller understanding of his works? Are we searching for things that confirm the view we already have of him, or for things that help us to tell the stories we would like to tell?

In Plato’s dialogue Theaetetus, Socrates talks about Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, in the following way:

I would have you imagine, then, that there exists in the mind of man a block of wax, which is of different sizes in different men; harder, moister, and having more or less of purity in one than another, and in some of an intermediate quality. […] Let us say that this table is a gift of Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses; and that when we wish to remember anything which we have seen, or heard, or thought in our own minds, we hold the wax to the perceptions and thoughts, and in that material receive the impression of them as from the seal of a ring; and that we remember and know what is imprinted as long as the image lasts; but when the image is effaced, or cannot be taken, then we forget and do not know.[1]

Mika’s studio contains items such as cigar boxes, old gramophone records, drawings by the artist Franz Graf, a bowling pin, a stone from William S. Burroughs’ porch, ticket stubs, notation for musical compositions, films, vinyl records and books. These are the gifts of Mnemosyne, and as well as using them in my reflections, I draw on conversations I had with Mika, as his partner, and on certain written and recorded sources. Mika and I shared a flat in Oslo, where he lived and worked. He preferred to work from home, in close proximity to his equipment. He could be selective about who he invited into his studio.

[1] Plato. ‘Theaetetus’, in The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 2, 191c-d. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892. New York: Random House, 1937.

Featured image: Items from Mika Vainio’s studio in Oslo, selected by Rikke Lundgreen. ‘Mika Vainio: 50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Read more — Download ‘Still Life: A Personal Archive’, by Rikke Lundgreen, as a PDF

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Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1945, oil on canvas, 73cm x 54cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

Elga Sesemann – A Woman Artist Rediscovered

Anu Utriainen, MA, Senior Researcher, Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery

Research project and exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum (1st floor, 13 Aug–14 Nov 2021)

Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) is one of the post-war women artists who made a remarkable debut in the mid-1940s, but then vanished from the Finnish art scene very soon after that. She has only recently been recognised once again and brought back to the attention of researchers and museum visitors.[1] The aim of the forthcoming exhibition and research project is to study the reasons for this development, as well as to show Sesemann’s original and independent artworks in the context of Finnish post-war modernism.

The role and significance of women in the Finnish art scene has been a subject of study in art history for many decades. As a result, numerous creditable publications, academic dissertations and exhibitions have been made about Finnish women artists, teachers and critics from the turn of the 20th century. Due to the pioneering work of professors Riitta Konttinen and Riitta Nikula from the 1980s on, women’s studies became an essential paradigm in art history. This development has made it possible for interdisciplinary researchers to re-evaluate and examine more critically the works of art and careers of women not only as individuals but also in terms of social class, gender and artistic style. In recent years, the research focus has moved on from the turn of the century to the inter- and post-war periods, as there is a growing interest in studying women artists of the first decades of the 20th century. In Finland this was the time of reshaping culture and art for the new independent nation within a modernistic ethos – with an arts scene that seems to have been astonishingly male-dominated.

[1] Sesemann’s works have been included in the exhibitions ‘Urban Encounters’ 2018–2019 and ‘Artists in Ruovesi’ 2019-2020 in the Ateneum Art Museum, ‘State of Mind – Helsinki 1939-45’, 2019-2020 at Helsinki Art Museum HAM and in ‘Täältä tullaan, naistaiteilijat modernin murroksessa’ in Tampere Art Museum 2017. See also corresponding exhibition catalogues.

Featured image: Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1945, oil on canvas, 73cm x 54cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

Read more — Download ‘Elga Sesemann – A Woman Artist Rediscovered’, by Anu Utriainen, as a PDF

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Call for Research Interns 2021

Finnish National Gallery
Call for Research Interns 2021

The Finnish National Gallery wishes to stimulate new interest in research topics based on its resources and collections and possible forthcoming exhibitions in its three museums. It also wishes to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene in reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge.

For this purpose the Finnish National Gallery organises a research internship programme for master’s-level art or cultural history students internationally.

The programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time it wishes to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data and develop their practical skills for utilising archival material in research.

In 2021 the Finnish National Gallery is prepared to receive three research interns.

The internship period is three months with the intern under contract to the Finnish National Gallery. The salary is equivalent to the salary of university trainees.

The intern chooses in advance the material of the Finnish National Gallery collections that he/she wishes to study, and agrees on studying it during the internship period. It is desirable that the material will form part of the intern’s thesis. The intern is required, during the period of their internship, to write a text in English, based on the material and the research done at the National Gallery. The text may be published in one of the sections of the FNG Research web magazine.

Each intern will have an in-house professional tutor at the Finnish National Gallery. The tutor and the intern will meet on average weekly.

The Finnish National Gallery is not responsible for the academic supervision of the intern’s master’s thesis. The role of the National Gallery is to support the intern’s skills in collections research practices.

Are you interested? If so, please send your application by e-mail to fngr@nationalgallery.fi or by post to FNG Research, Senior Researcher Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland.

Applications can be written in English, Finnish or Swedish.

The deadline for applications is 16 November 2020 and the appointments will be announced by 15 December 2020.

The interns are appointed by the FNG Research editorial board.

For more information about the application process and programme, please click on the link below:

How to apply for the research internship programme at the Finnish National Gallery for master’s-level art and cultural history students >>

Jean Fouquet, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, 1452–58

Conference: Emotional Objects – Northern Renaissance Afterlives in Object, Image and Word, 1890s–1920s

Call for papers

Call for papers deadline: 

30 Sep 2020

Institute:

The Warburg Institute

Conference Dates:

2223 April 2021, Warburg Institute, University of London

In 1920 Louis Gillet, the French art historian and internationalist, published a rousing article defending the repatriation of stolen fragments from the Van Eycks’ Ghent Altarpiece from Germany to Belgium as ‘un drapeau’. His ensign of a Northern patrimony pitched as an emotive call for a different cultural ‘belonging’ post-1918 was part of a pattern. Jean Fouquet’s Melun Diptych was vaunted as both a ‘jewel’, yet the opprobrium of France. At its most charged was the identification of Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece with extreme War trauma, bodily and mental distress during its 1918–19 Munich display. Yet these Northern Renaissance ‘Afterlives’ remain under-explored.

This symposium aims to develop new knowledge of how these and other responses to the Northern Renaissance (in the period spanning the early 1900s–1920s) become activated via objects, images and words in potently emotive contexts of reception, image transfer, and cultural memory-making to negotiate conflicts of the present.

Key areas of focus will be to consider the significance of new histories, narratives and emblems of Northern Renaissance visual, material and literary cultures, as well as Northern Renaissance cultural and religious legacies. In particular, the aim will be deeper investigation of their entwining with the cultural modernities of the early twentieth century.

Please send proposals of 300 words max, with a short biog. (150 words) to Professor Juliet Simpson, Principal Organiser (Coventry University / Warburg Institute), juliet.simpson@sas.ac.uk by 30 September 2020 (midnight BST). Applicants will be notified of outcomes in early October 2020. A publication based on the conference is planned.

>> To the conference website

>> Click here for the full conference programme

Featured image: Jean Fouquet, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, 1452–58, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy at left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932. Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Inspirational Artworks

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery

 

23 July 2020

 

The extraordinary situation we faced this spring with the Covid-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown prompted many interesting art-related phenomena on the web, among them the amusing challenge to the general public to restage famous artworks in their homes. People used their imaginations to set the scenes and role-play the figures in real-life artworks, then posted myriad images of the real artworks alongside their ‘art selfies’ on social media. This quarantine art challenge brings to mind, quite naturally, the tableaux vivants tradition that was flourishing in the 19th century and has survived to some extent up to today. As people around the world chose their favourites among the well-known – iconic – artworks, it would be interesting to know which ones inspired people most, both internationally and in Finland. What are the most iconic artworks today? I do hope somebody is already studying that.

Another kind of look to inspiration and iconic works is the Ateneum Art Museum’s current exhibition, which opened a couple of weeks after the museums in Finland were allowed to reopen at the beginning of June. ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classicspresents art that draws inspiration from iconic masterpieces, created by contemporary artists. These include internationally known artists, like Marina Abramović, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Nancy Fouts, Ola Kolehmainen, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Jeff Koons, Sara Masüger and Joseph Kosuth. The exhibition was first on show at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but only for a month because of the lockdown, and now it is on display with slightly modified contents at the Ateneum.

The canon of iconic masterpieces varies in different times, but there seem to be artists and artworks that have maintained this status for a long period, some of them since Giorgio Vasari published his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, in 1550. Italian Renaissance art still comes very high on the list, as does Dutch Golden Age art with Rembrandt at the top. Besides the contemporary artworks that are inspired by these masters, the exhibition at the Ateneum features works from the historical collection of copies at the Finnish National Gallery. These include copies of works by European masters, created, for example, by Magnus Enckell and Helene Schjerfbeck, which reveal to us what was appreciated at the turn of the 19th century.

At the Ateneum show, there are also 10 display cases highlighting the exhibition theme via the archive and library collections of the Finnish National Gallery. These were curated by an expert team working in the Archive and Library Unit at the FNG, and I had the pleasure of being a member of this team. I find this element an essential part of the exhibition (although, I admit, I may not be objective in this matter, having worked for a long time with the archive collections). The material goes back to the foundation in 1846 of the precursor to the FNG, the Finnish Art Society, and to the construction of the Ateneum building in the 1880s with its façade programme representing the iconic artists and architects. It covers themes like the role of copies both in art studies and in the collections, the importance of photographs documenting historical works for artists and art education before the time of the internet, the art history books promoting the iconic status of artworks and museums, and naturally iconic artists, too. There are handwritten documents, from letters to inventory lists, a wide range of photographic material, and art history books and picture portfolios on display. The archival material is indispensable for art history research, that is obvious, but our exhibition once again proves how this kind of material can widen the context of the subject for those who want to deepen their knowledge. The ‘Inspiration’ exhibition is a dialogue between history and contemporary art at its best.

In this issue of the FNG Research we take a look at the theme and research behind the ‘Inspiration exhibition’ from two angles. Gill Crabbe talks about them with one of the main curators of the exhibition, Susanna Pettersson, former Director of the Ateneum Art Museum and now Director General of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but also a researcher and museum historian herself. Besides that we republish two excellent articles from the exhibition catalogue. Michaela Giebelhausen, from Central St Martins, London, writes in her article ‘Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art’ about ‘how the history of art, embodied in art-historical canons, schools, periods, and aesthetic standards, has been conceptualised through writing, the organisation of collections, and the decoration of new museum buildings’. In his article ‘1842 – The Art History of Handbooks and Anachronic Icons’ Dan Karlholm, art history professor at Södertörn University, Stockholm, discusses two buildings that were commissioned to express the German spirit and Germanness – the Walhalla and Cologne Cathedral – and how they are actually both anachronic and contemporary, mixing different historical styles and elements.

In this issue FNG Research proudly continues its commitment to publish new research as peer-reviewed articles. In Dr Ari Tanhuanpää’s article, a totally different kind of approach to an artwork or its existence is offered, through discussing Jacques Derrida’s quasi-concept the reste and the neologism he derived from it, restance. The article consists of Tanhuanpää’s reading of an essay by Derrida entitled Athens, Still Remains (2010) (Demeure, Athènes, 2009), which the philosopher wrote to accompany photographs taken by Jean-François Bonhomme in Athens. In his article, Tanhuanpää’s starting point, however, is a tiny painting in the FNG collections at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, depicting a dancer, which has a great deal of its paint missing. Tanhuanpää suggests that the painting’s mode of being is not subsistence, but rather restance. When looking at the painting we are actually standing before the reste.

Let’s get back to the earlier and contemporary modes of making tableaux vivants: in the ‘Inspiration’ exhibition, in one of the showcases, there is a photograph from the FNG Collection of Archived Photo Prints featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association, taken probably in 1932. The artists are copying a very famous and iconic artwork – see the picture above this editorial.

With the current issue of FNG Research I wish you all a very inspirational summer.

Featured image: Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy on the left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932.
Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila.
Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery