Interior of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Fair 1900. The pavilion was designed by the young Finnish architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen. Works on display in the pavilion were commissioned from the most prominent Finnish artists. Today many of them belong to the Finnish National Gallery art collection. Paris was the meeting point for artists and revivalist ideas all over Europe. Photo: Archive Collections / Finnish National Gallery.

Editorial: Reaching Out

Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director, Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery

 

July 15, 2015

 

Welcome to the first issue of FNG Research web magazine!

Interest in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections and an awareness of their specific quality has been long established in the professional sphere of art history. Important loans from these collections, together with the Finnish National Gallery’s own progressive exhibitions policy, have enabled growing audiences in various parts of the world to explore its gems.

The research interests and activities that are shared between experts working in the Finnish National Gallery and their colleagues internationally, both in museums and academia, result in vivid curatorial collaborations, international conferences and seminars, as well as publications in several languages. By launching the FNG Research web magazine the Finnish National Gallery wishes to amplify the accessibility of its research practices, facilitate professional networking and encourage international exchange around the questions of art history, cultural history and museum studies, raised in the context of its rich Finnish and international collections.

Featured image: Interior of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Fair 1900. The pavilion was designed by the young Finnish architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen. Works on display in the pavilion were commissioned from the most prominent Finnish artists. Today many of them belong to the Finnish National Gallery art collection. Paris was the meeting point for artists and revivalist ideas all over Europe. Photo: Archive Collections / Finnish National Gallery

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Peer Reviewed Article: Crossing between Textual, Positioned and Biographic

Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director, Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery

First published in The Challenges of Biographical Research in Art History Today. Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia 46 – Konsthistoriska studier 46 (Studies in Art History). Edited by Renja Suominen-Kokkonen. Helsinki 2013: The Society of Art History in Finland, 151–159

The purpose of this paper is to reflect, from a researcher’s subjective standpoint, on some key points of the narrative of my doctoral thesis, which I defended in December 2010. The thesis discussed the writing and cultural positioning of Einari J. Vehmas (1902–1980), an influential Finnish art critic and art museum curator, over a period of 30 years from the 1930s to the 1960s.[1] Decisions taken in the course of the research and writing process reflect changing methodological stances, which ultimately ended up in a set of ambivalences, especially in relation to the question of biographic research. It is obvious that the theoretical challenges that arose during the research process and that also tended to lead to contradictory argumentations, reflect in a general way the multidisciplinary character of practising art history. With this retrospective and (self) critical meta-narrative I therefore wish to portray a fundamental fluidity and openness in our discipline’s premises over the past decades, both in Finland and internationally.

When my thesis finally saw the light of day in written form, its theoretical and methodological settings were somewhat inconsistent and it had proved a challenge not to let all the paths of survey lead to a fatal dissonance with the pragmatic aim of the work. Ultimately I had decided to take a risk in not introducing a clearly argued theoretical framework to support the discussion. In the formal academic procedure my opponent in her critical response posed one mainly coercive question, a question that outlines the problematic kernel at stake also in this paper. She wished to know whether the thesis was about researching texts or a person. [2] I was stunned by the question. Had I missed a point or had she missed mine, had my intellectual ambiguities blurred my sight, was it really mandatory to choose? I was unprepared and unwilling to take a stance, but shortly afterwards I was stimulated by the controversy which, in fact, should not have been so unexpected.

[1] Riitta Ojanperä, Kriitikko Einari J. Vehmas ja moderni taide, Valtion taidemuseo / Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto 20, Helsinki 2010.

[2] Some key points of PhD Tutta Palin’s statements were published in her critique on the published thesis: Tutta Palin, ‘Taidekirjoittajan muotokuva’, TAHITI Taidehistoria tieteenä. Konsthistoria som vetenskap, 1/2011. http://tahiti.fi/01-2011/vaitokset/taidekirjoittajan-muotokuva/ (8.7.2015.)

Featured image: The 1958 retrospective exhibition of the Finnish painter Tyko Sallinen at the Ateneum Art Museum. Director Aune Lindström (far left) and the show’s curator Deputy Director Einari J. Vehmas (far right) welcome the Finnish President Urho Kekkonen and his wife. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery. Photographer unknown

Read More — Download ‘Crossing between Textual, Positioned and Biographic’ by Riitta Ojanperä as a PDF

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Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Conferences: Contemporary Takes on Helene Schjerfbeck

Ateneum Art Museum Research Conference

21 April 2015

A professional seminar, held in the Ateneum Hall, took a deep dive into the research that is being conducted on Helene Schjerfbeck both in Finland and internationally.

The seminar was in English and open for all.

Conference Programme

Helene Schjerfbeck: The Brightest Pearl of the Ateneum’s Collection

Susanna Pettersson, PhD, Museum Director, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery

Published in Helene Schjerfbeck, Reflections. Edited by Naoki Sato. Tokyo: Kyuryodo Publishing, 2015, 202–205.

Helene Schjerfbeck is one of the most important artists in the Ateneum Art Museum’s collection. Today, her works arouse unreserved admiration the world over. Schjerfbeck is associated with vision, integrity and the notion of blazing one’s own trail. She saw what others were doing but did what she wanted to do – regardless of public response.

However, Schjerfbeck’s position in the European, Nordic or even Finnish art field was not always so self-evident. When she was born in 1862, Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia. The populace spoke Swedish, Finnish and Russian, while the intelligentsia who had travelled widely in Central Europe also spoke French fluently. Literature, theatre and music blossomed. Yet the situation was different when it came to art. There was not a single public art collection in the country, the number of private art collectors could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the few exhibitions that had been held were relatively modest.

This article focuses on the history of the acquisitions of Schjerfbeck’s works, primarily in regard to the collection of the Finnish Art Society, which formed the basis of the Ateneum Art Museum/Finnish National Gallery collection. One could assume that the acquisitions made for the collection reveal something essential about the expectations surrounding the artist, the artistic concepts of the day and how they changed. Schjerfbeck was recognised early on as a highly gifted artist – so we may well consider how this is reflected in the history of the collection.

Featured image: Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Read More — Download ‘Helene Schjerfbeck: The Brightest Pearl of the Ateneum’s Collection’ by Susanna Pettersson as a PDF

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Helene Schjerfbeck: Biography writes the Artist and her Art

Marja-Terttu Kivirinta, PhD, Art Historian, University of Helsinki

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

Helene Schjerfbeck and the Darkness in her Paintings: From The Door to Three Pears on a Plate

Lena Holger, Art Historian, Author, Stockholm

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

Self-Portraits as Anti-Portraits: The Universalism of Helene Schjerfbeck’s Art

Bettina Gockel, Professor of Art History, Chair, History of Fine Arts, University of Zürich

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

Me, Myself and Everyone: Perspectives on Helene Schjerfbeck’s (Self-)Portraits

Annika Landmann, PhD Candidate, Art Historian, University of Hamburg

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

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Mood, Masks, and Melancholy – On Emotion in the Art of Helene Schjerfbeck

Marie Christine Tams, PhD Candidate, University of the Arts, Berlin

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

Art and Fashion: Schjerfbeck’s Modern Women

Marja Lahelma, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Edinburgh

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Helene Schjerfbeck – Painting the Immaterial and Eternal

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum

Download Abstract as a PDF >>

Erkki Kurenniemi in 1960’s. Erkki Kurenniemi Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery.

Articles: Erkki Kurenniemi – A Man from the Future

Erkki Kurenniemi (born 1941 in Hämeenlinna, Finland) is an instrument builder and a pioneer of Finnish electronic music. He has been at the forefront of technological innovations since the 1960s, anticipating and discussing the great changes that computers have introduced into our lives, society and culture. In 2006, Erkki Kurenniemi’s archives were donated to the Finnish National Gallery (for more information, see http://www.lahteilla.fi/kurenniemi/en).

Erkki Kurenniemi – A Man from the Future is a collection of research articles about Kurenniemi published by the Finnish National Gallery. These articles explore Kurenniemi’s life, career and activities from diverse perspectives. The themes of the publication range from media archaeology, musicology and instrument construction to critical discussions of Kurenniemi’s visions and in-depth media analysis.

Featured image: Erkki Kurenniemi in the 1960s. Erkki Kurenniemi Archive. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Read More — Download Full Articles from ‘Erkki Kurenniemi – A Man from the Future’

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Magnus Enckell, Boy With Skull, 1893. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

Conferences: AAH Annual Conference 2015, Norwich

Finnish National Gallery’s Contribution

Grey Matters

Interview by Gill Crabbe

For many years, Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Chief Curator of the Ateneum Art Museum, has taken part in the Association of Art Historians’ conferences. Here, she discusses the paper she gave at this year’s conference in Norwich, in the session on Shades of Grey

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff is something of a pioneer in Finnish art-historical circles. Since 2007 she has been a keen participant in the conferences of the Association of Art Historians which are a platform for art historians to present their research to colleagues from all over the world. ‘I first took part when I was a postgraduate student, giving a paper on Finnish Mural Art at the turn of the 20th century. At some of the conferences, I was the only Finnish delegate’, she says.

Over the years she has been promoting these annual conferences to her Finnish colleagues and within the Finnish National Gallery. Now every year people from different departments at FNG are beating a path to it. The conferences, which take place in Britain, are usually attended by around 300 professionals worldwide, and offer several sessions on different themes, with four or five papers presented within each session. Von Bonsdorff’s enthusiasm for the benefits of taking part is palpable. ‘It’s an amazing chance to get a 20-minute glimpse of someone’s life’s work. Often the surprises come when you attend a session that is outside of your own field.’

At this year’s AAH conference in Norwich, Von Bonsdorff brought her own area of interest in the use of colour in late 19th-century Nordic and European art to the session on ‘Shades of Grey: Painting Without Colour’. Given the title of the session, why did she choose to title her paper ‘Picturing the Immaterial With Colour: Symbolist Ideal’? Was she making a point about how grey has been regarded as a non-colour?

Read More — Download ‘Grey Matters’, an interview of Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF

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Picturing the Immaterial with Colour – Symbolist Ideal?

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum

 

When I first read about this session, ‘Shades of Grey: Painting without Colour’ I was thrilled since there are very few sessions that are actually devoted to colour and its research.

I’m delighted to have this opportunity to introduce a concept, which formed a big part of my doctoral thesis, namely Colour Asceticism. With this colour concept I have studied colour and meaning in Finnish and international art from the 1860s to 1906.

In this paper I discuss how the turn towards colour – that is when ‘material’ became a part of the content – is one of the main signifiers of Modernism in European art. First, my focus is on the new adaptation of the more achromatic palette which was broadly used during late 19th century, not just in the Nordic countries, but also elsewhere in Europe. The use of a colour ascetic palette was especially popular within the Symbolist circles. At the time, this kind of ‘reduced palette’ carried certain connotations, such as spirituality, musicality, harmony, melancholy, stillness, intimacy, silence and immateriality, and these concepts were among the topics widely discussed in the art circles of the turn of the 20th century. Moreover, ‘abstract’ elements, such as musicality and spirituality, which were so highly valued in this period, were not introduced through form, composition or subject, first, but through the idea of colour harmonies.

Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Boy With Skull, 1893. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Read More — Download ‘Picturing the Immaterial with Colour – Symbolist Ideal?’ by Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff as a PDF

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Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lemminkäinen's Mother, 1897. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jouko Könönen, Pirje Mykkänen.

Research Projects: European Revivals

A Finnish National Gallery Research Project

The Finnish National Gallery established a research project titled ‘European Revivals’ in 2009. The reason behind the project is to stimulate debate and reflect upon the phenomena surrounding European national revivals by bringing together and analysing the multifarious connections and correspondences that have helped to shape the identities of modern European nations.

This ongoing project’s aims are fostered by encouraging scholarly networking between academia and museum professionals through organising or supporting affiliated seminars and conferences, all of which explore different aspects of these phenomena. Other initiatives that will take place under the auspices of the ‘European Revivals’ project include publications and international exhibitions culminating in 2018 in a scientific publication.

Towards the end of the 19th century, European artists began to express a new and profound interest in their unique local pasts and cultural inheritances. This was a discourse that was largely shaped by the desire within several countries for cultural and artistic, and ultimately social and economic, independence. Art-historical scholarship on the subject has been broadly established, but the ‘European Revivals’ project also strives to examine parallel phenomena from a wider-scale, international perspective.

As part of the project, a series of international conferences has already been organised, with the first taking place in 2009 in Helsinki. Each ‘European Revivals’ conference has its specific theme, title and organising team.

Here we give information on future conferences with links to the conference web sites. We also list here the previous conferences with their programmes.

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lemminkäinen’s Mother, 1897. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jouko Könönen, Pirje Mykkänen

Future ‘European Revivals’ Conferences

Details TBA

Previous ‘European Revivals’ Conferences

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