Anne-Maria Pennonen, PhD, Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Also published in Hanne Selkokari (ed.), Magnus Enckell 1870−1925. Ateneum Publications Vol. 141. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020. Transl. Wif Stenger
Finnish artists began to find visual themes for their works on the islands of the eastern Gulf of Finland in the 19th century. In particular, Suursaari (known as Hogland in Swedish and Gogland in Russian) attracted many artists and became a popular place to visit and paint each summer. The island was also referred to as Paratiisisaari (‘Paradise Island’) and ‘the pearl of the Gulf of Finland’.
Magnus Enckell visited Suursaari nearly every summer between 1901 and 1912. In his day, the island had not yet become the tourist destination it would be in the 1920s. Many artists depicted the island, which is now part of Russia, until the war years of the 1940s. It was handed over to the Soviet Union as part of the Moscow Armistice of 1944. Besides Suursaari, Enckell also visited another island that now belongs to Russia, Pitkäpaasi, as well as Kuorsalo, which is closer to the mainland and part of the Finnish city of Hamina. During his summers on these islands, Enckell created many works portraying the sea, as well as life on the islands and their inhabitants.
Enckell was attracted to maritime life and sailing, in particular from the early 20th century onwards, enjoying the fresh air during long boating jaunts with friends. In this period, health officials were propagating new information about the role of the sun and light, particularly in combatting infectious diseases. Artists too were interested in the fashionable trends of the day, such as naturism and neovitalism. According to naturist ideals, natural nudity without restrictive clothing or shoes, as well as sunbathing and swimming, helped the body to free itself from the shackles of civilisation. Neovitalist thought, on the other hand, saw the individual as part of a life force that governs nature. It aimed to improve a person’s wellbeing through physical culture, while at the same time warding off the ills brought on by modern urban life. These new movements were entwined with the popularity of Suursaari, where the rocky shore hid sheltered inlets with sandy beaches, which later became dotted with colourful changing huts and where the island’s summer residents swam and basked in the sun.
 Leena Räty. Paratiisisaari. Menetetty Suursaari taiteilijoiden kuvaamana. Lappeenranta: Etelä-Karjalan taidemuseo, 2002, 5.
 Riitta Ojanperä. ‘Vitality’, in Timo Huusko (ed.), Surface and Depth. Early Modernism in Finland 1890−1920. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2001, (94–112) 96–97; Riitta Ojanperä. ‘Keho, vauhti ja voima’, in Pinx. Maalaustaide Suomessa. Maalta kaupunkiin. Porvoo: Weilin & Göös, 2002, (252–55) 254–55; Riitta Ojanperä. Taidekriitikko Einari J. Vehmas ja moderni taide. Helsinki: Valtion taidemuseo / Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto, 2010, 233−36. See also Marja Lahelma. ‘Colour Revolution, Vitalism and the Ambivalence of Modern Arcadia’, in Hanne Selkokari (ed.), Magnus Enckell 1870−1925. Ateneum Publications Vol. 141. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020, 143–55; also published in FNG Research 6/2020.
 See J. W. Mattila and Jorma Mattila. Suursaari. Helsinki: WSOY, 1941.
Featured image: Magnus Enckell, From Suursaari Island, 1902, gouache and pencil on paper, 46.8cm x 66.4cm. Finnish National Gallery /
Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
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