Joseph Alanen, Lemminkäinen and the Cowherd, 1919–20, tempera on canvas, 50cm x 64cm. Collection Maine Wartiovaara née Alanen, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: European Revivals Ten Years On

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


20 January 2020


Dear Readers,

As we enter a new decade, the FNG Research magazine is proud to launch a special collection of art-historical articles under the title European Revivals. From Dreams of a Nation to Places of Transnational Exchange. Released to coincide with an international conference this month, this publication marks the culmination of the ‘European Revivals’ research project and its accompanying series of six international conferences inaugurated in Helsinki in 2009 with subsequent conferences held also in Oslo, Krakow and Edinburgh.

On this occasion the Finnish National Gallery extends its warmest thanks to all those individuals and organisations who have taken part in and committed to realising the vision for the ‘European Revivals’ project and its research publication. Working together with our colleagues and international collaborators on both an intellectual and a practical level has been most interesting and inspiring.

The reason behind the project was 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. In 2009, the question of national revivalist discourses in art and art-historical research was a topical subject at the Finnish National Gallery, which had just opened a comprehensive exhibition of Finnish art based on motifs from The Kalevala past and present.

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 growing sense of national identity prompted a major flowering of debate concerning the rapidly disappearing regional cultures throughout Europe. This was a debate that was largely shaped by the desire within several countries for cultural and artistic, and ultimately social and economic, independence. It resulted in creating new art that sought modern interpretations and links with local roots. It also resulted in art-historical and cultural historical narratives in which the uniqueness of the narratives of national or local histories were emphasised.

It was clear that art-historical scholarship on the subject had been broadly established, but the ‘European Revivals’ project aimed to examine parallel phenomena from a more wide-scale international perspective. Our key interest was to look at the similarities of these narratives, rather than their differences. In the course of the project, this approach turned out to raise lively interest among art historians in both museums and across academia.

From the outset, the project aimed to work towards producing a scientific publication which would cover the most interesting topics to have emerged over the ten years of its activities. We therefore invited several scholars who had participated in European Revivals conferences to submit articles for this publication. These peer-reviewed articles have been developed from the original papers given between 2009 and 2017.

As well as publishing research articles and other information concerning the Finnish National Gallery’s research activities, we are continuing to develop our research intern programme. Each year, we recruit for a period of three months up to three, master’s-level art history students to study a chosen topic arising from material in our research archives. The aim is to publish an article based on their research process, supported and tutored by our in-house professionals.

From the applications received last year, two research interns for 2020 have been selected. Karita Kivikoski, from the University of Helsinki, is studying the artist Leena Luostarinen and her artistic output during the 1980s–90s from the point of view of the reception of her works and discourse analysis. She will be researching press clippings, interviews and exhibition catalogues related to Luostarinen and her art works in the collection of the Finnish National Gallery. Olga Korka, from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, is studying Ilya Repin’s years in Finland and the Finnish-Russian cultural relations based on Repin-related archival material and Repin’s art works in the collections of the Finnish National Gallery.

The call for research interns for 2021 will be launched in autumn 2020. During this year, the FNG Research magazine will be published every second month, continuing its in-depth exploration of the research interests behind the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums’ exhibition programmes. We also invite scholars to submit articles that are linked with or relevant to our extensive collections.

Wishing you all a most inspiring new decade,

Dr Riitta Ojanperä

Featured image: Joseph Alanen, Lemminkäinen and the Cowherd, 1919–20, tempera on canvas, 50cm x 64cm. Collection Maine Wartiovaara née Alanen, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen