Selections from the Finnish National Gallery archive collections are shown permanently in the collections exhibition The Stories of Finnish Art at the Ateneum Art Museum. A display case containing material related to Finnish artists in Italy at the end of the 19th century Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Looking for New Ways to Facilitate Research

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

 

January 25, 2017

 

The year 2017 marks the centenary of Finland’s independence. The Finnish National Gallery, together with other Finnish cultural organisations, has designed its programmes underlining the historic span of Finnish cultural history. The FNG, with its three museums, extends to the still unseen future at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, to the highlights of its 19th- and 20th-century collections and collecting at the Ateneum Art Museum, and to European 17th-century painting that relates to the art shown at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

This momentous occasion creates an opportunity to reminisce about the important resources for art- historic and cultural-historic research that form a part of the national collections maintained at the Finnish National Gallery. The first acquisitions for the archival collections, made at the end of the 19th century, were artists’ letters. They were put forward by the Finnish Art Society founded in 1846, an organization that was vital in promoting Finnish art and laying the foundation for our collections.

From there on, the resources have increased significantly and keeping them available for the special interest group of researchers has been an important part of the Finnish National Gallery’s policy.

This year we are remodelling our ways of facilitating research. Our special focus is a new programme for collaborating with the future generation of art history scholars and art museum professionals.

Our wish is to raise new interest in research topics based on our resources. We also wish to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene with whom we deeply share the mission of reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge. For this purpose we will also be launching later this spring a call for master’s-level art history or cultural history students to work with us as research apprentices for a couple of months.

For more information on research topics and material please open at the top of the Home page a new section of this publication titled ‘FNG Resources’. The call for research apprentices will be added there later.

Featured image: Selections from the Finnish National Gallery archive collections are shown permanently in the collections exhibition The Stories of Finnish Art at the Ateneum Art Museum. A display case containing material related to Finnish artists in Italy at the end of the 19th century
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Wäinö Aaltonen, Jean Sibelius, 1935, marble, ht. 70 cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

From a Young Genius to a Monument

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

First published in Hanna-Leena Paloposki (ed.), Sibelius and the World of Art. Ateneum Publications Vol. 70. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2014, 13─61.

We all know what the composer Jean Sibelius looks like. He is elderly, with penetrating eyes, his mouth closed in a stern line. He is bald and – if we can see more than his face – he sits in an armchair and smokes a cigar. The image is very much a cliché. It is also quite possible that this is no longer the figure many Finns see in their minds – the prevalence of such images is very much bound to culture and generation. It is nevertheless quite likely that such an image of Sibelius is shared by those of us who were born before the 1970s, who received a school education founded on early 20th-century unified culture – our minds imprinted not only with the image of the stern national composer, but also with the Finlandia Hymn and the Song of the Athenians – and who in primary school groped for the notes of Andante Festivo in the ranks of the school orchestra.

The assumption of a widely held visual image requires at least that we know who Sibelius is. The composer has been on the list of the most famous Finns for decades, although the basis of his recognition is undoubtedly different in Finland than elsewhere. In Finland, Sibelius’s peers have comprised both the most prominent statesmen and the most prestigious representatives of art and culture. The Finnish adage ‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu’ carries the name of Sibelius everywhere that the deepest perceived values and everyday experiences of Finnishness are discussed.[1]

The popular recognition of Sibelius shows no sign of declining. In 2013, the Finnish Cultural Foundation conducted an extensive Gallup poll on the kind of art Finns find appealing.[2] The result shows that the appreciation of Sibelius is virtually unrivalled, insofar as age, education and domicile in Finland made hardly any difference in the overall positive result.[3] The survey suggests that while traditional cultural heavyweights remain strong, the top four – Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna and Juice Leskinen – encompass a wide spectrum of artforms and artist’s ages.[4]

[1] ‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu’ is used as an idiomatic compound. Its reference is to the cultural determination of Finnish identity, sometimes used ironically. Examples: in popular culture, the chart hit of the Kivikasvot ensemble entitled Made in Finland (Tankeros love) 1975; in an academic context, the title of a seminar ‘Sibelius, sauna ja sisu! Suomen maakuvan historiaa’ (‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu! History of the Finnish national image’), University of Helsinki 16 April 2009, or the title of a thesis Sauna, sisu ja Sibelius. Jean Sibeliuksen konstruoidun säveltäjäkuvan muodostuminen musiikkikirjallisuudessa (‘Sauna, sisu and Sibelius. The formation of the constructed image of Jean Sibelius in music literature’), Lantto 2013.

[2] Study commissioned by the Finnish Cultural Foundation Suomalaisten näkemykset kulttuurista. Vaikuttuneisuus taiteilijoista ja tyylisuunnista (‘Finnish Views on and Engagement in Culture and the Arts’). The survey questions related to 32 pre-selected artists.

[3] Suomalaisten näkemykset kulttuurista. Vaikuttuneisuus taiteilijoista ja tyylisuunnista, 35.

[4] Press release of the Finnish Cultural Foundation 2013: ‘Tutkimus: Tunnetuimmat taiteilijamme ovat Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna ja Juice Leskinen’ (‘Study shows our most famous artists are Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna and Juice Leskinen’).

Featured image: Wäinö Aaltonen, Jean Sibelius, 1935, marble, ht. 70cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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Editorial: For the Record

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

 

May 26, 2016

 

Since the coming of Foucault and his contemporary poststructuralist theorists, the epistemological conception of knowledge has not been the same. The cultural positions of categories and subjects of knowledge and the formation of historical narratives have made institutions like museums more aware of their historiographic status. A significant interest in archives both as physical entities and as metaphors of understanding or controlling the world has manifested in contemporary artworks, as well as providing a focus for art-historical research questions.

The Finnish National Gallery’s archival collections have offered research material for art and art history discourse since the late 19th century, when the collecting and preserving of artists’ letters, among other archival objects, first began.

In March 2016 the Ateneum Art Museum of the Finnish National Gallery opened a new collections display, ‘Stories of Finnish Art’, which, together with the artworks, showcases the richness of archival materials from the collections. The display reveals the archives’ multifaceted nature as sources for art history, as historical reminiscences and as aesthetic inspiration for exhibition design.

A praiseworthy amount of labour and confidence in providing future generations with the ingredients of knowledge has been invested in indexing press clippings since the early 1890s. We are now happy to share, in digital form, the information content and nostalgic beauty of hand-written index cards in our archives, containing data on press articles or news items on more than 24,000 artists.

Featured image: An index card of archival material relating to Akseli Gallén-Kallela now available in digital format.

To view the archival index cards, visit:

http://taiteilijaviitekortit.kansallisgalleria.fi/en/

You are welcome to read the current issue of FNG Research and to take part in narrating the stories of Finnish art and its international contexts.

Interior of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Fair 1900. The pavilion was designed by the young Finnish architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen. Works on display in the pavilion were commissioned from the most prominent Finnish artists. Today many of them belong to the Finnish National Gallery art collection. Paris was the meeting point for artists and revivalist ideas all over Europe. Photo: Archive Collections / Finnish National Gallery.

Editorial: Reaching Out

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

 

July 15, 2015

 

Welcome to the first issue of FNG Research web magazine!

Interest in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections and an awareness of their specific quality has been long established in the professional sphere of art history. Important loans from these collections, together with the Finnish National Gallery’s own progressive exhibitions policy, have enabled growing audiences in various parts of the world to explore its gems.

The research interests and activities that are shared between experts working in the Finnish National Gallery and their colleagues internationally, both in museums and academia, result in vivid curatorial collaborations, international conferences and seminars, as well as publications in several languages. By launching the FNG Research web magazine the Finnish National Gallery wishes to amplify the accessibility of its research practices, facilitate professional networking and encourage international exchange around the questions of art history, cultural history and museum studies, raised in the context of its rich Finnish and international collections.

Featured image: Interior of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Fair 1900. The pavilion was designed by the young Finnish architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen. Works on display in the pavilion were commissioned from the most prominent Finnish artists. Today many of them belong to the Finnish National Gallery art collection. Paris was the meeting point for artists and revivalist ideas all over Europe. Photo: Archive Collections / Finnish National Gallery

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Peer Reviewed Article: Crossing between Textual, Positioned and Biographic

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

First published in The Challenges of Biographical Research in Art History Today. Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia 46 – Konsthistoriska studier 46 (Studies in Art History). Edited by Renja Suominen-Kokkonen. Helsinki 2013: The Society of Art History in Finland, 151–159

The purpose of this paper is to reflect, from a researcher’s subjective standpoint, on some key points of the narrative of my doctoral thesis, which I defended in December 2010. The thesis discussed the writing and cultural positioning of Einari J. Vehmas (1902–1980), an influential Finnish art critic and art museum curator, over a period of 30 years from the 1930s to the 1960s.[1] Decisions taken in the course of the research and writing process reflect changing methodological stances, which ultimately ended up in a set of ambivalences, especially in relation to the question of biographic research. It is obvious that the theoretical challenges that arose during the research process and that also tended to lead to contradictory argumentations, reflect in a general way the multidisciplinary character of practising art history. With this retrospective and (self) critical meta-narrative I therefore wish to portray a fundamental fluidity and openness in our discipline’s premises over the past decades, both in Finland and internationally.

When my thesis finally saw the light of day in written form, its theoretical and methodological settings were somewhat inconsistent and it had proved a challenge not to let all the paths of survey lead to a fatal dissonance with the pragmatic aim of the work. Ultimately I had decided to take a risk in not introducing a clearly argued theoretical framework to support the discussion. In the formal academic procedure my opponent in her critical response posed one mainly coercive question, a question that outlines the problematic kernel at stake also in this paper. She wished to know whether the thesis was about researching texts or a person. [2] I was stunned by the question. Had I missed a point or had she missed mine, had my intellectual ambiguities blurred my sight, was it really mandatory to choose? I was unprepared and unwilling to take a stance, but shortly afterwards I was stimulated by the controversy which, in fact, should not have been so unexpected.

[1] Riitta Ojanperä, Kriitikko Einari J. Vehmas ja moderni taide, Valtion taidemuseo / Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto 20, Helsinki 2010.

[2] Some key points of PhD Tutta Palin’s statements were published in her critique on the published thesis: Tutta Palin, ‘Taidekirjoittajan muotokuva’, TAHITI Taidehistoria tieteenä. Konsthistoria som vetenskap, 1/2011. http://tahiti.fi/01-2011/vaitokset/taidekirjoittajan-muotokuva/ (8.7.2015.)

Featured image: The 1958 retrospective exhibition of the Finnish painter Tyko Sallinen at the Ateneum Art Museum. Director Aune Lindström (far left) and the show’s curator Deputy Director Einari J. Vehmas (far right) welcome the Finnish President Urho Kekkonen and his wife. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery. Photographer unknown

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