Masterpieces of Finnish Art at the Europeana Collections

Editorial: Learning by Doing – the Value of Research Internships

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


25 January 2018


Last year the Finnish National Gallery launched a research internship programme for master’s-level students in art history, cultural history and museology. The first round of applications resulted in employing three graduate students for a three-month period during the autumn of 2017.

As a museum organisation, the FNG feels deeply its responsibility to pass on to future museum professionals and researchers of art and cultural history the enthusiasm, commitment and practical skills to work with a variety of art-historical sources. The defined task of each intern was to engage in hands-on original research using a selected part of the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. The interns had two nominated mentors from the FNG senior curatorial staff with substantial research expertise to support their work.

The interns were expected to reflect their own research questions and interests in relation to the information and issues raised by working intensively and purposively in our research archives. They were also expected to produce a text related to their materials and working process.

In this issue of the FNG Research web magazine we are delighted to publish the results of the research carried out by two of our first three research interns. It turned out, that their readiness and assiduity in answering the challenge of writing a professional scientific article exceeded our expectations. The authors Aino Nurmesjärvi and Max Fritze are Finnish MA students, whose articles are based on the work carried out during their research internship periods.

FNG’s commitment, however, extends not only to future generations of researchers and museum professionals but also to the continuing development of its own staff, through its staff residency programme. While our first research interns were delving into our archives, one of the FNG’s senior professionals, Dr. Hanna-Leena Paloposki, was taking part in a work exchange programme at the Europeana Foundation office in The Hague, also during the autumn of 2017. Her target was to amplify FNG’s know-how regarding compiling and publishing digital collections’ data in a substantial international and pragmatic context. She explains how she got on in an interview in this issue.

Featured image: Screen capture of the front page of the image gallery ’Masterpieces of Finnish Art’ on the Europeana Collections website featuring art works from the Finnish National Gallery collections

An Ecstacy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882-1926. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page.

Tapping in to Europe’s Digital Cultural Heritage

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

We transform the world with culture’ is the motto of the Europeana Foundation, Europe’s largest digital platform for cultural heritage, where FNG’s Archive and Library Manager/Chief Curator Hanna-Leena Paloposki spent two months on a unique residency working at its headquarters in The Hague

As art experiences for the general public expand increasingly beyond the walls of art museums, online collections and online art exhibitions are offering a new kind of accessibility to artworks in the 21st century. Now, not only can you access a vast array of curated cultural material such as image galleries, podcasts and exhibition tasters through art museums’ own web pages, but international cultural organisations are also offering portals and platforms for important cultural material that are proving invaluable, not only for the art-loving public, but also for researchers and art professionals. One such organisation is the Europeana Foundation, and if you visit the Europeana Collections homepage, you will find an online exhibition, ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which explores the travels made by Finnish artists from 1882 to 1926 and how their journeys influenced their art. Thus visitors from across the world can discover, perhaps for the first time, Finland’s key artists of the period, such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who travelled in Africa, and Hugo Simberg, who journeyed to the Caucasus to visit his engineer brother.

The EU’s commitment to creating a digital European library to make Europe’s cultural heritage available to all, led to the creation of the Europeana Foundation and website in 2008, which in 2010 provided access to around 10 million digital objects – today that figure has risen to 51 million – through the contributions of more than 3,000 cultural institutions mostly from across Europe. Besides being a portal, it is a platform and publishes curated online exhibitions and thematic collections, as well as raising awareness of its content through active engagement with social media. The Finnish National Gallery joined Europeana many years ago, sharing a large part of its art collections online.

As part of its continuing commitment to international co-operation and networking, in 2016 the Finnish National Gallery launched a work exchange residency scheme for its employees to fund them for periods of up to two months to work in organisations abroad. So when Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Archives and Library Manager / Chief Curator at the Finnish National Gallery was awarded a residency, her manager Riitta Ojanperä, Director of FNG Collections Management, made an inspired suggestion that she apply to work at Europeana, because the development of the collections online is one of the main tasks of the department. Having successfully arranged a work exchange, Paloposki found herself last autumn working at Europeana’s headquarters in The Hague. The online exhibition ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which is part of Europeana’s dedicated online exhibitions platform, is just one result of the time she spent there.

Featured image: ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882–1926’. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page

Read more — Download the interview as a PDF

Download the Full Interview as a PDF >>

Mikko Carlstedt, Self-Portrait, 1913, oil on cardboard, 49.5cm x 42.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Asko Penna

Unstill Life – Mikko Carlstedt’s Correspondence and Art, 1911–1921

Max Fritze, MA student, University of Helsinki 

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Max Fritze studied material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery


When I applied for a position as a research intern at the Finnish National Gallery, I submitted a plan to research the November Group, a loosely described group of expressionist artists active from 1916 to 1924.[1] I wanted to approach the group through some of its lesser known members and affiliates, namely the artists Mikko Carlstedt (1892–1964) and Arvo Makkonen (1894–1956). The archive collections of both artists – comprising letters, notes, exhibition catalogues, photographs etc. – have been donated to the Finnish National Gallery. I was especially curious to see how Carlstedt saw his own position in the group as he was a member, whereas Makkonen exhibited with them as a guest artist. Were some inner workings of the November network detailed in Carlstedt’s notes or correspondence?

As I soon found out, the material I was working with did not contribute much to the discourse surrounding the November Group as such. However, the abundant archive material focused my attention on Carlstedt himself. Not much has been written about him – just some short biographical texts[2] and mentions of his name as a side note on the November Group in most broad treatises of Finnish art. In 1955, Onni Okkonen (1886–1962) wrote in his History of Finnish Art: ‘Around 1912 Mikko Carlstedt represented the new outlook on landscape painting, later on he has been known as a more conventional still-life painter.’[3] A seemingly innocuous statement, but ‘conventional’ could be easily read as a slight. All of the artist’s toil and trouble, a career spanning decades neatly compressed in a single word, effectively saying, ‘Nothing new here’. A quick image search, however, produces results that seem to mirror Okkonen’s statement; row after row of more or less classically painted still-lifes depicting colourful flowers in vases and vegetables on tables, most of them painted after the 1930s. Technically excellent and pleasing to the eye, but exactly the sort of imagery art historians rarely concern themselves with.

[1] In 1916 the core members had their first group exhibition. During their exhibition in November 1917 the group got its name and exhibited for the first time under the November Group title in 1918. It is a question of nomenclature whether one sees the group’s first exhibition taking place in 1916, 1917 or 1918.

[2] E.g. Kuuliala, Annamaija, 1992. Häkärlän haltiaväki. Hohteessa menneiden kauniiden kesien – taidetta ja taiteilijoita Sääksmäeltä. Sääksmäki: Sääksmäki-Seura, 83–94.

[3] ”V:n 1921 tienoilla esiintyi uuden maisemanäkemyksen edustajana myös Mikko Carlstedt (s.1892), myöhemmin tunnettu asetelmamaalarina sovinnaisempaan henkeen.” Okkonen, Onni, 1955. Suomen Taiteen Historia. Helsinki: WSOY, 709. All translations in this article are by the author.

Featured image: Mikko Carlstedt, Self-Portrait, 1913, oil on cardboard,
49.5cm x 42.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Asko Penna

Read more — Download ‘Unstill Life – Mikko Carlstedt’s Correspondence and Art, 1911–1921’ by Max Fritze as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Jenna Sutela, Gut-Machine Poetry, 2017. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Screen capture of the online artwork

Beyond Human Understanding: Creating New Language and Visuals on the Web. Commissioned Online Artworks by Jenna Sutela and Tuomo Rainio

Aino Nurmesjärvi, MA Student, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Aino Nurmesjärvi conducted interviews with two of the online artists from the ‘ARS17+’ exhibition organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Introduction: art on the internet

‘ARS17, a major exhibition of international contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, in Helsinki, is the ninth ARS exhibition to be held since they began in 1961. ARS exhibitions have always reflected the topical discussions of their time[1] and the 2017 exhibition comments on the changing relationship between digital technology and the arts. Given this theme of digital revolution and Kiasma’s role as an exhibitor and collector of contemporary art in all its forms, it was decided to extend the sphere of the exhibition to include online art,[2] which resulted in ‘ARS17+ Online Art, an exhibition and a collection[3] of online art[4]. The ‘ARS17+ website describes the internet, today, as ‘a natural environment for art to grow, prosper and evolve’.[5] Yet, it is also possible to say that the internet is not necessarily a natural environment for the museum. The online collection marks a notable change.

[1] ARS 50 vuotta, muistoja, historiaa, näkökulmia 19612011, 2010.

[2] Miller 2017, 174.

[3] Most of the works in ‘ARS17+ Online Art’ belong to the Kiasma and Finnish National Gallery collections.

[4]  As a research intern at the Finnish National Gallery, I was also able to talk with the curators and other members of the museum staff behind the ‘ARS17+ Online Art’ exhibition. In this article, I use the interviews with the artists as source material. However, all the discussions have influenced my research and writing process, even the ones not explicitly cited here.

[5] Kiasma 2017.

Featured image: Jenna Sutela, Gut-Machine Poetry, 2017. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Screen capture of the online artwork

Read more — Download ‘Beyond Human Understanding: Creating New Language and Visuals on the Web. Commissioned Online Artworks by Jenna Sutela and Tuomo Rainio’ by Aino Nurmesjärvi as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

More Research Interns Appointed at the Finnish National Gallery in 2018

The three research interns of the FNG research internship programme for 2018 have been appointed. The selections were made based on the applications and the following points were underlined:

  • The point of view of the archives and collections: priority was given to students whose applications were based on a concrete and defined part of the FNG collections and especially to previously unstudied and/or topical materials
  • Preparation of the working plan and the research questions related to the chosen collections material

The second applications round of this programme, which was launched in 2017, included proposals from seven different universities in Finland and in other countries.

The FNG research intern programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections, including art works, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s-level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

The research interns of the Finnish National Gallery for 2018 are:

Maija Grönqvist, University of Helsinki
New media art, the artworks in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma: issues in collections management and digital preservation

Sandra Lindblom, University of Helsinki
Artist Eva Cederström (1909–95): her works in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum and her archive and other archival material related to her at the National Gallery Archive Collections

Kersti Tainio, University of Helsinki
Old European art works in the collection of Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum brought to Finland following the Russian revolution and archival material related to them at the Finnish National Gallery

The internship period is three months. All of the interns will have their own in-house tutors to support them with studying their chosen material.

The call for research interns for 2019 will be launched in autumn 2018. We hope again to receive applications from art and cultural history students interested in our collections, who are from different universities in Finland, but also those from other countries.

More information: