The sculpture room at the Ateneum Art Museum, in 1959. The photograph includes a painting by Ilya Repin and sculptures by Marino Marini, Giacomo Manzù, Ben Renvall, Carl Wilhelms, Felix Nylund, and Wäinö Aaltonen. Photographer unknown. Negative collection. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Revisiting the Collection Display at the Ateneum Art Museum in 1959

Mariliis Rebane, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery

When the 1952 Olympic Games were organised in Helsinki, the city’s cultural institutions were also preparing themselves for a large number of visitors. The Ateneum Art Museum repainted some of its exhibition galleries, extended its opening hours, hired more staff and ordered new uniforms for the guards. However, the most significant changes were to do with the arrangement of the collection display.[1] Only a few months earlier, on 21 January 1952, Dr Aune Lindström (1901–84) had been appointed temporary Chief Curator – the position equivalent to the museum director’s post – after her predecessor Torsten Stjernschantz had retired.[2] The changes that Lindström initiated in the collection display before the Olympic Games were implemented in full during the following years. The updated display was eventually documented seven years later. The period 1952–59 consequently forms the timeframe of this article.

When looking at the 12 black-and-white photographs[3] by an unknown photographer documenting the Ateneum Art Museum in 1959, I was prompted to revisit the collection display carried out by Lindström. In this article I provide a descriptive overview of the display based on the mentioned images. I also outline the Chief Curator’s initial aspirations in changing the arrangement of the collection. By looking at the images, I aim to reveal whether Lindström’s ambitions were in accord with the eventual collection display. Using the photographic documentation as a source also sets this article apart from the previous studies on the history of the Ateneum Art Museum’s collection display.

[1] Minutes of the Foundation of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 8 February 1952 § 7, 16 September 1952 § 7. Minutes of the Board and the Representative Council 1952, Minutes of the Board and the Representative Council and School Division Grant Board 1952–1953 (STA / C 11). Archive of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland (AFAAF), Finnish National Gallery (FNG); ‘Ateneumin Taidekokoelmat vuonna 1952’, in Suomen Taideakatemian vuosijulkaisu 1951–1953 (Helsinki: Keskuskirjapaino, 1954), 66; ‘Ateneum valmistautuu olympialaisiin – huomattavia muutoksia kokoelmissa’, Helsingin Sanomat, 21 June 1952; ‘Ateneum olympiakunnossa’, Suomen Sosiaalidemokraatti, 8 July 1952.

[2] Aune Lindström (1901–84) started work at the Ateneum Art Museum in 1928 when she was hired as a part-time Curator to organise the library, archive, and later also the prints and drawings. Aside from being the Curator, Lindström had taught German and English since 1926 and wrote reviews and art introductions for the Press. Lindström  wrote her dissertation on the von Wright brothers, in 1932. Olli Valkonen, ‘Ateneumin taidemuseon intendentit 1869–1990’, in Tuula Arkio and Marjatta Levanto (eds.), Ateneum (Helsinki: Valtion taidemuseo, 1991), 72; Hanna-Leena Paloposki, ‘Lindström, Aune (1901–1984) Ateneumin taidemuseon intendentti, professori’, Kansallisbiografia, published 11 October 2005 (updated July 25, 2016), https://kansallisbiografia.fi/kansallisbiografia/henkilo/1375 (accessed 5 October 2019).

[3] The images belong to Finnish National Gallery’s Picture Collections.

Featured image: The sculpture room at the Ateneum Art Museum, in 1959. The photograph includes a painting by Ilya Repin and sculptures by Marino Marini, Giacomo Manzù, Ben Renvall, Carl Wilhelms, Felix Nylund, and Wäinö Aaltonen. Photographer unknown.
Negative Collection. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

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