Paul Sinebrychoff and Fanny Grahn, as an engaged couple, 1883. Photographer: Johannes Jaeger. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Celebrating the Milestones

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum


19 November 2021



The Finnish National Gallery recognises the importance of celebrating key moments in its cultural history. This year marks the centenary jubilee of the donation of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Art Collection to the Finnish State. And next spring the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma celebrates the 10th edition of one of the most important shows in its calendar, ARS22, marking 60 years of ARS exhibitions that take the temperature of the contemporary art world.

The Sinebrychoffs’ house museum was opened to the public for the first time on 27 November 1921. At the opening ceremony, the art collection was presented to the political leadership of the young republic. Those in attendance included the President of the Republic and his wife, all of the cabinet ministers, and civil servants from the church and education ministries. The donation was reported widely in the Press. In a newly independent Finland it was a unique and exceptionally grand collection of old European art. The leading art experts of the time praised its artistic level, particularly in terms of the artworks.

The Sinebrychoffs’ house on Bulevardi has seen many changes in the past century. The same can be said of the house museum that it became. The building was last renovated extensively at the end of the 1990s, including a restoration of the rooms on the Bulevardi side to their appearance at the time of the Sinebrychoffs. Black-and-white photographs of the rooms taken by Signe Brander in 1912 made this reconstruction possible. The photographs were used to place the furniture and artworks in the locations they had occupied during the Sinebrychoffs’ lifetimes. The house museum as we know it today opened its doors in early 2003.

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the donation with a jubilee publication, which throws light on the house museum as a whole. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff decorated the rooms on the Bulevardi side of the building in a range of styles. A great deal of Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence has been preserved regarding the purchases for the collection, which allows us to envision the planned, long-term process that shaped it. The Sinebrychoffs were very informed about the collection trends and interior decoration fashions of the time, which is visible in many ways in their collection.

The jubilee publication A Bulevardi Home – Art Collectors Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff, includes a collection of scholarly articles. Kari-Paavo Kokki’s essay places Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s house museum in a European context. He examines the possible influences on the rooms, which were decorated in a variety of styles, in relation to contemporary fashion and style trends, but above all, he focuses on individual artefacts and furniture and their details. FNG Research also publishes an interview with him in this issue. Here too we republish another essay from the book, by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, MA, a curator at the Finnish National Gallery, which approaches the collection through the couple’s travels in the 1880s and 1890s, based on Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence archive.

Also in the jubilee publication Professor Charlotta Wolff examines Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s collection and art collecting in the frame of reference of late 19th-century Finland. Prof. Wolff visualises the collection itself and its special traits as an expression of its time. Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum Ira Westergård, PhD, delves into the donation of the art collection, and particularly Fanny Sinebrychoff’s role in the donation process, as well as the history of the collection after the donation as far as the outbreak of the Winter War at the end of the 1930s.

The jubilee celebration also marks the inauguration of the renewed display of the permanent collection at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Many of the acquisitions made during the past seven years are on show, including recently acquired paintings by Jacopo Bassano, Giorgio Gandini del Grano, Abraham Bloemaert, Salvator Rosa and Henry Raeburn among others. The Friends of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum celebrate their 10th anniversary of activity and all 22 artworks that have been donated by them are on show for this occasion.

As part of the Finnish National Gallery’s international research and exhibition project ‘Gothic Modern’, this issue of FNG Research includes a presentation given earlier this year to the project’s first knowledge sharing workshop. Dr Jeremy Howard’s abstract highlights the influence of the Gothic on Russian art and culture through exploring the metaphor of the vault.

An article by Katariina Johde and Hanne Tikkala explores new approaches to conservation work that they have carried out at the Finnish National Gallery’s Conservation Unit. They highlight the value of research that combines extended observations using the naked eye together with the latest technology in assessing the condition of the much-loved painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake View (1901).

Also in this issue of FNG Research, Saara Hacklin, PhD, curator at Kiasma, follows the work of five printmakers, all alumnae of the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, to explore how the relationship to the human body is manifested in their artworks.

Feeling the pulse of the contemporary art world locally and internationally has been the remit of the ARS exhibitions, which every five years have presented an overview in their thematic shows. Ahead of the 10th edition, ARS22, opening in April at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Gill Crabbe interviews Museum Director Leevi Haapala and Chief Curator João Laia about the research and curation processes involved in creating this landmark exhibition.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to our annual call for research interns for 2022. Applications will be taken until 31 December 2021, and two interns selected by 21 January 2022. Details of how to apply are in this issue.

Featured image: Paul Sinebrychoff and Fanny Grahn, when they were engaged to be married, 1883. Photographer: Johannes Jaeger. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
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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