Featured image: Aarre Heinonen, Railway Square, 1945, oil on canvas, 81cm x 60cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Search and Search Again

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

 

24 January 2019

 

Last November (29–30.11.2018), the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki, along with the Art History Department of Helsinki University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, got together to organise a two-day conference, ‘Connoisseurship in Contemporary Art Research’, which had as its theme the importance of the archival approach in research into contemporary art. One of the highlights was Katharina Günther’s presentation, which was based on the results of her year-long residency at the City Gallery in Dublin. Her research project was concentrating on the material from Francis Bacon’s London studio, which had been transported from London to Dublin in 1998 in the exact same condition as it had been left when Bacon died. She worked with the original material in the studio with a variety of items, from photographs to all kinds of ephemera. Seemingly worthless material transformed, in the hands of the researcher, into authentic evidence. With that material, she was able to prove that despite Bacon’s own observations that art has nothing to do with illustration, most of his artworks were based on everyday media images. The composition, details and figures were often borrowed almost identically from images published in printed media.

For a researcher, material that has previously gone unnoticed, has been abandoned or considered as apparently unimportant might become the very core of the research and a source of new knowledge.

In this first issue of FNG Research in 2019, two researchers are presenting their new findings. Both articles are good examples that show how important it is to study profoundly different archives and to experience original material. For these researchers, archival material and the rereading of the material in connection to previous research, is of utmost importance.

Both Sandra Lindblom – whose article is dealing with the early career of the painter Eva Cederström – and Antonella Perna – who has as her topic the friendship, mutual respect and influence of two scholars of Asian art and culture – base their research on letters, diaries and other archival materials.

Lindblom, whose article is resulting from the research internship at the FNG, writes in her preface: ‘The study reassesses and gives new information about the narrative on Cederström’s early career, using previously unstudied archive material, drawings and paintings.’ In her article she is able to show that Cederström eschewed the label of being a woman artist, but at the same time she was the victim of conventions prevailing pre- and post- Second World War. Despite her talent and passion for art she was obliged take on office work because of lack of money. With the archival material Lindblom shows the contradictions in the start of Cederström’s career. Her early years as an artist contained ‘failures, successes, institutional support and economic problems’. The article points out that despite her being appreciated as a promising artist at an early phase, she couldn’t advance as an artist in the way she would have wanted. Being a woman was significant, it seems.

Antonella Perna writes in her peer-reviewed article how her attention was drawn to the relationship and position of Osvald Sirén in Italian studies of Asian culture by a single letter in the Sirén Archive in Stockholm. According to that letter, Sirén was appointed Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Rome La Sapienza. To Perna this single letter was not sufficient to explain why this happened and she started to look for other evidence to find out why he was honoured this way. Perna found the evidence in the correspondence of Sirén with the Italian scholar of Asian studies, Giuseppe Tucci. Perna is revealing new knowledge of this relationship. She writes: ‘since there are no previous studies on the relationship with Tucci, I would like to present a first analysis of unpublished letters and other archival material that can throw some light on this aspect of Sirén’s professional life: his particular role in the development of Oriental scholarship in Italy.’

***

I started to write this editorial for the FNG Research issue just when the annually organised Days for Science were about to start. In the main Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, there was an interview with three academics, namely the former rector and chancellor of the University of Helsinki Risto Ihamuotila, Professor of Cosmology Kari Enqvist and researcher of political history, Johanna Vuorelma. They all defended the significance of the sciences, the meaning of knowledge based on facts and profound research, at a time of the increasing dominance of social media, when it is possible to spread all kinds of knowledge just with one keystroke.

According to them, in science it is important to understand that knowledge is constantly changing and that it is always important to recheck already existing information: what we know and what can be known (Helsingin Sanomat 9 January 2019). In undertaking this kind of rechecking, the role of archives and the development and deeper understanding of their content is extremely important.

Featured image: Aarre Heinonen, Railway Square, 1945, oil on canvas, 81cm x 60cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Bodhisattva, Qi Dynasty, 6th century, donated by Osvald Sirén to the National Museum of Oriental Art in Rome. Museo di Arte Orientale di Roma Photo: Museo di Arte Orientale di Roma

Peer-Reviewed Article: ‘A Satisfaction to the Heart and to the Intellect’

A Note on Osvald Sirén’s Connections with Italy through his Epistolary

Antonella Perna, PhD Candidate, University of Turku

A few years ago, I was visiting the Sirén Archive in Stockholm (Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities) researching the letters Osvald Sirén (1879–1966) had written to the Italian art historian Lionello Venturi (1885–1961).[1] Sirén was a Finnish-born art historian who lived for most of his life in Sweden. However, he worked for some time as the art advisor to the Finnish entrepreneur and collector Paul Sinebrychoff (1859–1917). His expertise covered 18th-century Swedish art and Old Masters and thus he could secure some extremely fine examples that found their way into the Finnish collection. Today the works are part of the Finnish National Gallery Collection and can be visited at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki.[2] With this article I aim to shed new light on Sirén’s international career and the impact of his professional networking on the Italian art history scene.

Sirén and Venturi had shared an interest in Italian art history, and in particular the Italian Primitives. Among the letters I read, there was one that caught my attention, although it was not especially pertinent to my primary interest. It was addressed by Sirén to his Italian colleague.[3] In it a rather moved Sirén wrote to Venturi, both an old friend[4] and the spokesman of the Faculty, expressing his gratitude for the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa he had received from the University of Rome La Sapienza.[5] Sirén explained to Venturi that he was glad that his ‘contributions in the fields of Oriental and Italian art’ had been acknowledged as important. He also added he especially appreciated such recognition because of his personal ‘intellectual connection and artistic devotion to Italy’.[6] The official motivation for awarding the honorary degree, granted by the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy[7], emerges in another letter sent by the dean Angelo Monteverde: it was granted for the ‘high merits reached in the field of art-historical research’.[8] These facts alone, however, do not explain the reasons and the events leading to the award. I thus became interested in understanding the circumstances surrounding such recognition in a country where Sirén had neither maintained any institutional position nor any official role.

[1] The research was connected to my doctoral thesis which deals with the relationship between Sirén and Venturi in the 1920s and will be examined in 2019.

[2] The collection was donated and belongs to the Finnish State.

[3] Copy of the letter from Osvald Sirén to Lionello Venturi, 26 February 1959. Collection of Sirén’s letters. Sirén Archive. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm.

[4] The circumstance of their first encounter is uncertain. However, the two scholars were part of the same network of intellectuals involved with Italian Primitive Art, including Bernard Berenson and Adolfo Venturi. Antonella Perna, ‘Osvald Sirénin matka Italian taidehistoriaan.’ In Teppo Jokinen & Hanne Selkokari (eds.), Italiassa ja Saksanmaalla. Taiteilijoiden ja taiteentuntijoiden matkassa 18401930. (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2011), 267–75.

[5] Copy of the letter from Osvald Sirén to Lionello Venturi, 26 February 1959. Collection of Sirén’s letters. Sirén Archive. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm.

[6] Copy of the letter from Osvald Sirén to Lionello Venturi, 26 February 1959. Collection of Sirén’s letters. Sirén Archive. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm.

[7] Both the departments of Art history and Eastern studies are still part of the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at the University of Rome La Sapienza. While it had been possible to study art history from 1896 onwards, the curriculum of Eastern studies (Eastern Religions and philosophies) was inaugurated only in 1932. More specifically teaching on Eastern art history was available starting from 1953. https://web.uniroma1.it/diso/chi-siamo (accessed 4 September 2017).

[8] Letter from Angelo Monteverdi to Sirén, 20 March1959. Collection of Sirén’s letters. Sirén Archive. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm.

Featured image: Bodhisattva, Qi Dynasty, 6th century, donated by Osvald Sirén to the National Museum of Oriental Art in Rome. Museo di Arte Orientale di Roma
Photo: Museo di Arte Orientale di Roma

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Eva Cederström, Self-portrait, 1937, oil on canvas, 65.5cm x 51cm. Lappeenranta Art Museum Photo: Lappeenranta Art Museum / Tuomas Nokelainen

‘I could give up everything to live only for painting’

Eva Cederström’s Career and Artist Identity 1927–39

Sandra Lindblom, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery [1]

Introduction

And now, comes praise for the female painters! Ill be damned if we men also in this regard are beaten by the fairer sex! […] Eva Cederströms paintings in the southern hall sing out high. No. 39, June Morning in the Atelier, is a piece of true painting. She is no nervous man, Eva. She is not weighed down by complexes, she paints straight from the heart. The result is fresh, powerful and beautiful paintings.[2]

It was in this manner that the art critic Hjalmar Hagelstam (1899–1941) praised the work that Eva Cederström (1909–95) had brought to the ‘Finnish Artists’ Exhibition’ in Helsinki Kunsthalle in the spring of 1939. Instead of simply giving recognition to Cederström’s work, he constantly refers to her gender and the competition between the sexes in the art field. In general, the 1930s texts on art have a tendency to emphasise the gender of female artists.[3] Gender affected the expectations placed on artists, and there were certain prejudices among critics and art institutions against female artists.[4] Women were artists and studied art,[5] but they did not have the same starting point for their careers as their male colleagues. Only a few women had influential positions in Finland.[6]

My original interest in Eva Cederström’s early career was caught by a desire to understand how it was to start a career as a female artist in a time like this. As I familiarised myself with earlier research and previously unstudied archive material, it became increasingly clear that it was hard to answer this question since the details on Cederström’s early career were so vague. Unlike the art critics, Cederström herself seemed to perceive gender as a minor part of her identity as an artist. Examining Cederström’s career development only from a gendered perspective seemed problematic, as it was affected by several factors. Conducting further biographical research therefore became the principal focus of this article. Then, based on this research, I also draw conclusions as to how gender played its part.

[1] Quotation in the title of the article: ‘Voisin antaa kaikki saadakseni yksin maalaukselle elää.’ Eva Cederström’s diary 29 March 1938. Eva Cederström Archive (ECA). Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery (FNG), Helsinki.

[2] ‘Och nu, på ny kula fram för en hyllning av målarinnorna! är det inte som tusan, att vi karlar också i denna sak få på tafsen av det täcka könet! […] [H]ögt smälla nu Eva Cederströms målningar i södra salen. N:r 39 ‘Junimorgon i ateljén’ är ett stycke verkligt måleri. Hon är ingen rädder karl, hon Eva. Hon samlar ej på komplex av bundhet, hon målar på rätt ut ur hjärtat. Och resultaten äro friska starka och vackra målningar.’ Hjalmar Hagelstam, ‘Finska konstnärerernas XLVII årsutställning’, Svenska Pressen 13 April 1939. All translations in this article are by the author.

[3] There is an ongoing discussion on the use of terminology concerning female artists in the field of art history. Researchers such as Griselda Pollock advocate the use of the term ‘artist woman’ as the term ‘female artist’ also holds historical, negative connotations. Using the term ‘female artist’ also unfairly puts a focus on the gender of female artists, whereas gender is seldom emphasised in the case of male artists. The term ‘female artists’ also implicitly states that women are not included in the term ‘artist’. In my study I will use the term ‘female artist’ as an operative term, as my study also investigates the ways of perceiving what it means to be a female artist in the 1930s and 1940s.

[4] Rakel Kallio has written about the prejudice of the art historians Onni Okkonen and Edvard Richter towards young female artists. Rakel Kallio, ‘Taidekritiikki ja sukupuoli-ideologia’ in Riitta Nikula (ed.), Nainen, taide, historia, Taidehistorian esitutkimus 1985–1986 (Helsinki: Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia 10, 1987), 240.

[5] The percentages of female art students in 1923–35 was approximately 40.5 per cent. The Finnish Art Society’s annual reports 1923–35. Helsinki: Suomen Taideyhdistys 1924–36.

[6] There were some women holding influential positions in the art field, such as museum curator Aune Lindström and art critics Sigrid Schauman and Signe Tandefelt. Kristina Linnovaara, Makt, konst, elit – konstfältets positioner, relationer och resurser i 1940- och 1950-talens Helsingfors (Helsingfors: Statens konstmuseum, 2008), 120–24.

Featured image: Eva Cederström, Self-portrait, 1937, oil on canvas, 65.5cm x 51cm. Lappeenranta Art Museum
Photo: Lappeenranta Art Museum / Tuomas Nokelainen

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Telegram dated 26 March 1909 from Paul Sinebrychoff in Helsinki to Professor Osvald Sirén in Stockholm about an acquisition of a painting assumed to be by Rubens. Paul Sinebrychoff’s Letters 1900–1909. The Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

Editorial: New Angles for Researchers and the Public Alike

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

 

28 November 2018

 

This year important steps have been taken to make the FNG collection – its artworks, archive material and objects – more available to everyone. We have written about them in FNG Research, too. In the July issue we discussed collections metadata. A huge amount of work has been – and continues to be – undertaken to improve the available metadata now that we have migrated the collections into the new collections management system. The metadata work is now inextricably linked with presenting the collections online. We have also opened up the images of our copyright-free artworks online into the public domain with the CC0 license. We will have better information to offer and images available in a more convenient way when the new website is launched in 2019.

One example of this metadata work is the cataloguing into our new system of correspondence on the art acquisitions of the businessman and brewery owner Paul Sinebrychoff. Although some of this material has already been available online via the Sinebychoff Art Museum website, it will soon be accessible via the same webpage as the artworks belonging to the Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Art Collection which nowadays forms part of the FNG / Sinebrychoff Art Museum collection. Our curator, who has a long-standing and extensive knowledge of the collection, is linking the letters to the Old Masters mentioned that are now in the FNG collection, together with facsimiles of the letters and transcriptions of their content.

To give another example, the media art at the FNG / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is being assigned more precise and versatile metadata as works of this kind are being recatalogued. Collections research is thus being carried out within the Finnish National Gallery every day and it is for the benefit for all the users, either in-house or in the wider world.

Many of the exhibitions of the three FNG museums and their publications shed light on the research being carried out into the collections. In this issue we reproduce two articles from the catalogue Urban Encounters. Finnish Art in the Twentieth Century accompanying the current exhibition at the Ateneum. Both the book and the exhibition scrutinise the art collection from new angles, offering a chance to get acquainted with works the public might not have been able to see before. Also in this issue of FNG Research, an interview with Dr. Marja Lahelma, author of the new book on Akseli Gallen-Kallela in the series Artists of the Ateneum, tells us how you can find a different interpretation of a very well-known and much studied artist in Finland, who is also well represented in the FNG collection.

I hope you enjoy reading our latest issue of FNG Research.

Featured image: Telegram dated 26 March 1909 from Paul Sinebrychoff in Helsinki to Professor Osvald Sirén in Stockholm about an acquisition of a painting assumed to be by Rubens. Paul Sinebrychoff’s Letters 1900–1909. The Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

Gösta Diehl, Bombed Village, 1950, oil on canvas, 190cm x 260cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

Encounters between Art, Humanity and the Modern

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

Also published in Anu Utriainen (ed.), Urban Encounters. Finnish Art in the Twentieth Century. Ateneum Publications Vol. 105. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2018, 10–30. Transl. Mike Garner

Without the concepts of modernity, modernism and modernisation, it would be hard to talk about the arts of the 20th century and about their relationship with the reality of their own time. Modernisation, as a societal and social phenomenon from the first decades of the 19th century onwards, meant rapid technological development, industrialisation and urbanisation. As the means of livelihood and the norms regulating communities changed, individual people’s lives and living environments changed, too. Art also changed and particularly rapidly in the early years of the 20th century, when the old societal structures of western countries with monarchies were creaking at the seams.[1]

From the 19th century onwards one of the major ideological and political shifts in European modernisation was the strengthening of the ideal of the nation and the founding of nation states. Technological development went hand in hand with innovations in the sciences and created the potential for unprecedented economic growth. The spiritual and practical ascendancy of ecclesiastical institutions was called into question and rational information offered itself as a basis for modern world views. Individuals appeared to have a new potential to shape their own lives and surroundings through education and new channels of social influence. The option of calling into question and breaking down trade, class and gender boundaries that predetermined people’s lives, if and when they were experienced as a threat to self-determination, has contributed to the modern conception of what it is to be human.

[1] See Hobsbawm, Eric. Äärimmäisyyksien aika. Lyhyt 1900-luku (19141991). Tampere: Osuuskunta Vastapaino 1999 [original English The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991, 1994]. In his brief history of the 20th century Hobsbawm ties the modern and especially the history of avant-garde art into being a fixed part of the century’s historical development.

Featured image: Gösta Diehl, Bombed Village, 1950, oil on canvas, 190cm x 260cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

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Helena Pylkkänen, Masculine / Recumbent Torso, 1986–87, bronze, 68cm x 42cm x 36cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

The Nude Stripped of Dignity

Anu Utriainen, MA, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

Also published in Anu Utriainen (ed.), Urban Encounters. Finnish Art in the Twentieth Century. Ateneum Publications Vol. 105. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2018, 138–66. Transl. Don McCracken

The nude body has appeared in visual art and culture in myriad ways and styles; it has been interpreted from different starting points throughout history and imbued with various meanings. The nude has reflected transitions, both within the arts and in broader historical, political and social contexts, and it reveals changes in the concepts of beauty, morality, and attitudes towards gender. As an art object, the nude exposes the model’s surface and depth: especially in the modern age, the nude is an image of both the human form and the psyche.

It is worth asking why and for whom the nude image has been created, and in what context it should be viewed and interpreted. The classic male nude is presented in Western art as a heroic, universal subject, or a mythological deity.[1] The body of a naked man has also been perceived as a sensuous object, but it is not automatically regarded as an object of sexual desire, despite its virility and masculinity. A traditional male nude was portrayed as self-motivated, actively shaping his own world, while women found themselves subject to a demeaning erotic gaze, stripped not only of clothing, but also of their power and autonomy. Masculinity symbolises both vitality and a well-developed mental and intellectual capacity. In contrast to his female counterpart, the male nude embodies a potent mix of power, control and agency, and the gaze appears to be directed outwards from the work of art towards the spectator, rather than the other way around.[2]

[1] See Natter, Tobias G. & Leopold, Elisabeth (eds). Nude Men: From 1800 to the Present Day. Exhibition catalogue, Leopold Museum, Vienna 19.10.201228.1.2013. Munich: Hirmer 2012.

[2] E.g. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation. London: Thames & Hudson 1997, 33–35. In Finland, Marja-Terttu Kivirinta has addressed Modernism and modernisation in her dissertation, e.g. through the concept of biopower, cf. Kivirinta. Vieraita vaikutteita karsimassa. Helene Schjerfbeck ja Juho Rissanen. Sukupuoli, luokka ja Suomen taiteen rakentuminen 1910–20-luvulla. Helsinki: University of Helsinki 2014.

Featured image: Helena Pylkkänen, Masculine / Recumbent Torso, 1986–87, bronze, 68cm x 42cm x 36cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lemminkäinen's Mother, 1897, tempera on canvas, 85.5cm x 108.5 cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Beyond a National Icon

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As a new book on Akseli Gallen-Kallela is published, its author Dr. Marja Lahelma, describes the challenges of finding fresh interpretations of an artist who earned his reputation as a national hero in his home country

When Marja Lahelma’s book on Hugo Simberg was published last year as part of the Artists of the Ateneum series, it enjoyed such a positive reception that she was asked by the then Director of Ateneum Art Museum Susanna Petterson to write another book – this time on the great national hero of Finland’s Golden Age painters, Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This series of books initiated by the Finnish National Gallery aims to shed new light on the classics of Finnish art. For Lahelma, researching this second book presented different kinds of challenges to the one she wrote on Simberg.

The first challenge was a practical one: whereas with Simberg she had been able to comb through almost all of the material available relating to him during her research period, with Gallen-Kallela there was an overwhelming wealth of source material, and she had just eight months to produce her manuscript. This time frame meant that Lahelma would need to be selective with the materials she used and that selection process would need to be driven by a strong thematic approach.

The second challenge – and by far the greater of the two – was for Lahelma to find a way to look beyond the prevailing views and interpretations of an artist who, in terms of Finnish culture, achieved an iconic status, not only within Finnish art history but within Finnish society as a whole. Here was a man, credited as a national hero, whose art was a touchstone of Finland’s quest for its independent nationhood through the depiction of a national landscape and through an exploration of the mythic dimension of Finnishness in his narrative paintings of the epic poem The Kalevala. A man whose funeral in 1931 was attended by the great and the good of the country, and where ‘vast crowds lined the streets of Helsinki to pay their respects to an artist whose work had become the shared heritage of the entire Finnish nation’.[1]

[1] Susanna Pettersson, ‘Vision, Curiosity, and Thirst for Adventure (Introduction).’ In Artists of the Ateneum: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, by Marja Lahelma. Ateneum Publications Vol. 110. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2018, 6.

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lemminkäinen’s Mother, 1897, tempera on canvas, 85.5cm x 108.5 cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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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