Fanny Churberg, Winter Landscape, Sunset, c. 1878, oil on canvas, 26,00cm x 40,50cm Gift from Arvid Sourander. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Examining the Acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 1939–46: A Case Study of Arvid Sourander’s Donations

Eljas Suvanto, MA student, University of Helsinki

Introduction

During the first few years of the Second World War, the art collector Arvid Sourander[1], who was also a lawyer, made two major sets of donations to the collections of the Ateneum, which was a museum governed by the newly established Fine Arts Academy of Finland.[2] He had already gifted three works in the 1920s but the first major donation occurred in 1940, when Sourander donated 35 works by the Finnish artist Fanny Churberg (1845–1892); the second major gift took place in 1941, when he donated a selection of 23 works, mostly by Finnish artists from the turn of the 20th century. Then, almost a year after Sourander’s death in 1946, his widow Aina Sourander donated two artist self-portraits to her late husband’s collection, bringing the total number of works he gifted to the Academy to 63.[3]

The aim of this article is to dive deeper into the ideas behind the acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland during the Second World War, and to understand the formation of the collection through correlations and variations between purchases and donations. The aim is also to focus on the factor of a specific private donor, who has not yet been the subject of academic research and is mainly discussed in the memoirs written by his brother and daughter.[4]

[1] Arvid Sourander (2 January 1873–1 July 1945) was born in Vaasa but in 1887 moved to Helsinki, where he later made his career as a lawyer. Sourander’s art collection was considerable, containing over 300 works. See Ingwald Sourander, Arvid Sourander: Minnesteckning av Ingwald Sourander och Eva Horelli (S.l., 1947); Joensuu, ‘Lakimies kerää aarteita’, Suomen Kuvalehti 21/1938: 808. Times of birth and death, Uusi Suomi, 3 July 1945.

[2] The museum was sometimes referred to as the collections of the Ateneum and vice versa. The Fine Arts Academy of Finland is one of the predecessors of the current Finnish National Gallery, and the museum is nowadays called the Ateneum Art Museum.

[3] Sourander donated two paintings by Fanny Churberg in 1919, and one byKarl Emanuel Jansson in 1921 to the museum. The collection is called ‘Gift of Arvid Sourander’, ‘Arvid Souranderin lahja’ in Finnish, ’Arvid Souranders gåva’ in Swedish. The collection was exhibited at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in 1990, where 42 out of 63 works were shown. Exhibition ‘Arvid Souranderin lahja.’ Sinebrychoffin Taidemuseo 8–25 February 1990 ([Helsinki,1990]).

[4] See Sourander, Arvid Sourander; Camilla Hjelm, Modernismens förespråkare: Gösta Stenman och hans konstsalong (Helsingfors: Statens konstmuseum / Centralarkivet för bildkonst, 2009), 113, 170; Max Fritze, ‘Unstill Life – Mikko Carlstedt’s Correspondence and Art, 1911–21’, FNG Research no. 1 (2018): 20, https://fngresearch.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/fngr_2018-1_fritze_max_article1.pdf (accessed 2 May 2019).

Featured image: Fanny Churberg, Winter Landscape, Sunset, c. 1878, oil on canvas, 26cm x 40,50cm
Gift of Arvid Sourander. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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