Ilya Repin, Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin, 1903, oil on canvas, 78.5cm x 130cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenny Nurminen

Editorial: Past, Present and Future

Marja Sakari, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum


31 May 2021


This edition of FNG Research is looking to the past, present and future. The future is opened up in two major research projects – ‘Gothic Modern’ and ‘Pioneering women artists’. The two initiators of the Gothic Modern project, Chief Curator, Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, from the Ateneum Art Museum and Dr Juliet Simpson, Professor of Art History at Coventry University, are spearheading an international endeavour to rethink the development of a specifically Nordic Modernism at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, having its inspiration in the northern Gothic and Renaissance. The project is concentrating on illuminating the Gothic as a core fascination for late 19th- and early 20th-century art that crossed cultural borders, transcended nationalism and straddled war and its aftermath. The sources of inspiration for artists of that time can be traced to some exhibitions and to specific artists, such as Lucas Cranach and Hans Holbein.

Influences were also a political issue, as shown by Dr Krista Kodres, who in her article sheds light on the Estonian historiographical undertones shaping the understanding of Gothic art and architecture in Estonia. In her article, which is an extended abstract of her lecture given at the Gothic Modern knowledge sharing workshop in March of this year, she is asking how in different periods art-historical writing has formulated the understanding of cultural heritage. The basic question she asks is whether the artistic results of medieval and Renaissance art were nationally unique, or were they just copying the ‘trend-setting centres’, located mainly in German cities. The aim of some local art historians in Estonia was to demonstrate that the Baltic-Nordic region created its own independent art forms, an idea that challenged the view that Hanseatic German art was the predominant influence in this region.

Dr Anne-Maria Pennonen presents the recently launched international research project concerning women artists in the mid-19th century from Finland, Nordic and Baltic countries and Germany. What were the routes of inspiration for these artists, where did they study and what kind of networks did they form during their years of study?

In this issue we also present the results of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery undertaken by MA student Emmi Halmesvirta, who examines a much more recent artist, namely Juhana Blomstedt (1937–2010). Halmesvirta took as her starting point the archive material and sketches in the Finnish National Gallery collection related to Juhana Blomstedt’s career in the period 1970–80. Blomstedt’s art-theoretical thinking during the 1970s seems to revolve around questions of form, content, expression, abstraction, subjectivity, truth and optics. In his art he was somehow distancing himself from the high modernist demand for purity, even if his art could be categorised as being part of the constructivist tradition.

The Director of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum Kirsi Eskelinen writes about the provenance of a painting by Jacopo Bassano (c. 1510–92), Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, which is housed in the museum’s collection. It is a republication of her article from 1992 but in connection with it, we are for the first time publishing images of the details on the back of the frame moulding. These give some important clues about the provenance of the artwork. The Museum has plans for a monographic exhibition on Jacopo Bassano in the near future, which makes it even more relevant to republish and expand on this article.

Two articles in this issue are focusing on the current exhibition of Ilya Repin at the Ateneum Art Museum: Chief Curator Timo Huusko’s essay on the Russian artist’s relationship to Finland, and an updated article by curator Helena Hätönen on the archival material related to Repin in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery, first published in the catalogue of the Kadriorg Art Museum’s Repin exhibition which took place in Tallinn in 2013.

The Ateneum Art Museum’s curators Hanne Selkokari and Anu Utriainen have been interviewed in connection with the exhibition ‘Among Forests and Lakes: Landscape Masterpieces from the Finnish National Gallery’, which is now on display at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle.

Dr Harri Kalha’s interview in this issue is connected with the exhibition of Magnus Enckell, which unfortunately had to be closed just a few weeks after its opening in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, this exhibition is continuing in the Tampere Art Museum in a slightly smaller version this autumn.

I hope you will enjoy these diverse articles from different sectors of art history.

Featured image: Ilya Repin, Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin, 1903, oil on canvas, 78.5cm x 130cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenny Nurminen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

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