Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Editorial – Stimulating Research through Collections’ Metadata

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

 

19 July 2018

 

Multiculturalism and opening up to the changes and challenges of today’s world are topics that are often discussed when museum professionals get together in meetings and conferences. It is about being relevant to the societies around us.

Collections are traditionally considered the core of museums and the kernel of museums’ role as providers of reliable knowledge about culture and its history. Therefore a significant interest in the histories of collections – that is for whom, in what historical period and for what reasons the collections were formed – has been shown within the museums themselves, as well as in the academic field.

Metadata is a key concept when talking about making collections and collections’ data relevant. Metadata creates patterns of knowledge that are connected with each single object in the collection. The data are gathered in museums’ databases and, ideally, shared via digital platforms, thus serving as an important primary source for academic research, as well as other interests.

The ways in which we organise, enrich and share the metadata that is formatting the knowledge do matter. This part of professional practice has the potential to reflect a museum’s and its collection’s relevance and also offers the possibility to participate in current discourses within academic research fields. Collections as sets of chosen objects are relatively static, but the metadata connected to them, and the procedures for constituting knowledge, need not be.

The Finnish National Gallery has very recently accomplished the task of migrating its collections’ data to a new database system and we are planning to share the data on a new website next year. We are also looking forward to experimenting with crowdsourcing keywords.

While doing this, we will be happy to hear about our colleagues’ experiences and to share with others what we are learning.

Wishing you all a nice summer!

Featured image: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

On the Finnish National Gallery’s website the basic information given about this painting is: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, Keywords: kesä, maisema, heinäpelto, figuuri, yö, nainen, allegoria. In future we wish to share the keywords with you also in English: summer, landscape, hayfield, figure, night, woman, allegory.

Information about the FNG collection is also available on these data platforms:

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Nineteenth and 20thcentury plaster portraits from the Finnish National Gallery Collections displayed in the exhibition ‘I am not I – Famous and Forgotten Portraits’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, in 2017 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Riitta Ojanperä Issue No. 4/2018

Connecting Museum Collections with the Rest of the World

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As the Finnish National Gallery prepares to launch a new integrated website for its collections, artworks, objects and archival material, Gill Crabbe asks the key people behind the project about the implications for researchers and other users

The days when an art historian’s first port of call in accessing an art museum’s materials would be to walk through its doors and spend hours leafing through indexes, letters and artefacts, are fast disappearing. In today’s globalised, digitised world, the research community expects rapid accessibility, through interactive channels, both online and via social media. In fact one might even posit the question to the art research community, does an object exist if it is not available online? For institutions like art museums these issues present a huge challenge, simply because the vast volume of objects and related material they hold in their archives and collections means that a gargantuan effort is involved in transforming even a selected part of it into digital material.

The Finnish National Gallery’s recent release of more than 12,000 images of copyright-free artworks into the public domain as open-data has not only opened up the dissemination of its art collections internationally but also goes hand in hand with a much larger development of its entire collections management system that will see all of the collections – artworks, objects and archive collections – brought into a single database for the first time. This new updated database will feed into the FNG’s new collections online web pages to be launched next year. At present there are several ways to access various parts of the FNG collections and improving their online availability is a pivotal way to enhance research related to them.

Featured image: Artworks need metadata to support research into them. Nineteenth and 20th-century plaster portraits from the Finnish National Gallery Collections displayed in the exhibition ‘I am not I – Famous and Forgotten Portraits’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, in 2017
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Riitta Ojanperä

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Magnus von Wright, Crack Willows on the Waterfront, from Samling af Etuder för Landskaps, Djur och Blomstertecknare, 1839–40, lithograph, 25cm x 32cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Tero Suvilammi

The von Wright Brothers as Lithographic Artists

Erkki Anttonen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

Also published in Erkki Anttonen & Anne-Maria Pennonen (eds.), The von Wright Brothers – Art, Science and Life. Ateneum Publications Vol. 99. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2017, 73–91. Transl. Wif Stenger

The beginning of the history of Finnish lithographic art can be traced back to an entry by artist Magnus von Wright (1805–1868) in his diary from 8 March 1827, where he discusses trying his hand at drawing on stone for the first time while in Stockholm: ‘For the first time I drew on stone. – It was a pencil drawing.’[1]

At the time, lithography was still a new and revolutionary technique. It spread rapidly in the early 19th century, being employed widely for graphic work that required mass production, such as advertising posters, labels, postcards, maps, scientific illustrations, information communication, and in printing. The technique was an instant success in fine art printmaking too. The method had been developed between 1796 and 1798 by Alois Senefelder (1771–1834), an actor and playwright who was born in Prague but who worked in the early years of his career in Bavaria, mostly in Munich.

Lithography is a planographic printing method in which a design is drawn on the smooth surface of a stone block with a greasy crayon, or a sharp pen, or by applying an oily ink wash. Because oil and water repel each other, areas drawn with a greasy medium accept an oil-based printing ink, while the bare, wet surface repels it. The heyday of lithography was the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Lithographic print shops were established all over the world, largely by publishers. It was not until the Second World War that the faster and more efficient offset method put an end to the last of the lithographic print houses in Finland.[2]

[1] Wright, Magnus von, 1996, Dagbok 1824–1834. Eds. Anto Leikola, Juhani Lokki, Torsten Stjernberg & Johan Ulfvens. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, nr 600:1. Konstnärsbröderna von Wrights dagböcker 1. Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 8 March 1827 (58). The first lithographs of Finland were published 1823–24, when 15 large landscape washes depicting views from southern Finland by Carl von Kügelgen (1772–1832), an artist working in Russia, were printed as lithographs and published by Peter Friedrich Helmersen in St. Petersburg.

[2] For more on the subject, see, e.g., Johannesson, Lena, 1978. Den massproducerade bilden. Ur bildindustrialismens historia. Stockholm: AWE/Geber, 18–24.

Featured image: Magnus von Wright, Crack Willows on the Waterfront, from Samling af Etuder för Landskaps, Djur och Blomstertecknare, 1839–40, lithograph, 25cm x 32cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Tero Suvilammi

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Ferdinand von Wright to Elise Heintzie, Haminalahti on 225 Jan, no year. Collection of Artists’ Letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Ferdinand von Wright, Letter-writer

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Chief curator, Archive and Library Manager, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

Also published in Erkki Anttonen & Anne-Maria Pennonen (eds.), The von Wright Brothers – Art, Science and Life. Ateneum Publications Vol. 99. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2017, 159–65. Transl. Wif Stenger

The Finnish National Gallery’s archive collections include correspondence and other documents from artists Magnus, Wilhelm and Ferdinand von Wright. They are part of the collection of artists’ letters that is made up of artists’ documents both bought for and donated to the Finnish Art Society. The first batch of the brothers’ letters was acquired for the collections in 1890–91.

In this article I focus on letters written by the youngest of the brothers, Ferdinand (1822–1906), of which there are 104 in the collection. They provide a background to his art and help contemporary readers to approach him as both an artist and as a person. For von Wright, who lived far from the Finnish capital, letter-writing was the most important method of maintaining contacts. Letters have always been important source materials for historians. The chronological distance from the writing of the texts imposes an interpretational challenge, but, on the other hand, letters are generally written in order to overcome and withstand chronological and geographical gaps.[1] Source material is almost always a random selection, as not all documents are generally preserved.[2]

[1] Hyttinen, Elsi & Kivilaakso, Katri, 2010. Johdanto. Lukemattomat sivut. Kirjallisuuden arkistot käytössä. Eds. Elsa Hyttinen ja Katri Kivilaakso. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 930. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 9.

[2] Researchers choose details of correspondence that are relevant to their own fields, leaving behind information that is irrelevant to their research and which no-one may ever make use of, or which may remain uninterpreted because of inadequate information. An example of this kind of irrelevant detail is that Ferdinand von Wright did not care for women wearing hairstyles with fringes, considering them a form of vanity. This was revealed when B. O. Schauman sent him photographs of well-known women, including an image of the internationally-successful Finnish opera singer Alma Fohrström (fan photos of the day). See Ferdinand von Wright to B. O. Schauman, Haminalahti 19 May 1887 and 14 June 1887. Collection of artists’ letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery (= CAL, FNG). Why did Schauman send these pictures? Was it two elderly bachelors sharing their distant admiration for women?

Featured image: A letter from Ferdinand von Wright to Elise Heintzie, Haminalahti, dated 25 January, year not given, page 1. Collection of Artists’ Letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

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Ferdinand von Wright, An Eagle Owl Seizes a Hare, 1860 oil on canvas, 105cm x 119cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Eagle Owls on the Hunt – Technical Analysis of Two Paintings by Ferdinand von Wright

Kirsi Hiltunen, Katariina Johde, Hanne Mannerheimo and Seppo Hornytzkyj
Finnish National Gallery conservation and material research team, Helsinki

Also published in Erkki Anttonen & Anne-Maria Pennonen (eds.), The von Wright Brothers – Art, Science and Life. Ateneum Publications Vol. 99. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2017, 149–56. Transl. Wif Stenger

Rarely does one have the chance to study two almost identical paintings. Ferdinand von Wright’s pair of paintings An Eagle Owl Seizes a Hare (Finnish National Gallery, inventory No. A I 58) and Eagle Owl Attacking a Hare (Lahti Art Museum, inventory No. LTM D 45) offer an opportunity to compare the works using technical analysis of the materials. Both works were painted in 1860. We know that the work belonging to the Finnish National Gallery (FNG) was bought directly from the artist for the Finnish Art Society collection in 1864. Lahti Art Museum’s painting originally passed from a private owner to the Viipuri-säätiö (Vyborg Foundation) and then on to the Lahti Art Museum. We also know that one of the paintings was taken to Germany, apparently with the aim of selling it, soon after its completion.[1]

The pictures are like those in a children’s puzzle where the viewer has to spot 10 mistakes. Close inspection reveals minor differences: a missing blade of grass, or grass bent in different ways, or some variation in the form of the rocky outcrop. The FNG’s eagle owl painting is slightly larger, with a more spacious feeling. The painting style in the Lahti work has more sharp contrasts, and rougher details. Was it a draft for the FNG’s painting or a later repetition? Was it painted more quickly? Why were two such similar works painted? Is it possible to use technical art-historical methods to obtain more information about the sequence in which they were painted?

[1] Magnus von Wright’s journal entry 16 June 1860: ‘B. A. Thunberg and family undertook their trip abroad tonight. – Took with them Ferdinand’s eagle owl and hare.’ Wright, Magnus von, 2001. Dagbok 1850–1862. Eds. Anto Leikola, Juhani Lokki, Torsten Stjernberg & Johan Ulfvens. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, nr 600:4. Konstnärsbröderna von Wrights dagböcker 4. Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 16 June 1860 (401). It is assumed that Thunberg took one eagle owl work to Germany, but it is unclear which one. Information from Jukka Ervamaa, 9 Dec. 2016.

Featured image: Ferdinand von Wright, An Eagle Owl Seizes a Hare, 1860, oil on canvas, 105cm x 119cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial – Seppo Fränti Donates his Art Collection to Kiasma

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

25 May, 2018

 

The Finnish art collector and philanthropist Seppo Fränti has decided to donate his entire contemporary art collection, comprising more than 700 works, to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki. The collection represents more than 100 artists, and about half of the artists are already included in Kiasma’s collections with their later works.

The profile of the Fränti collection is unique: it is very personal, brave, and up to date and it has two different focuses – the tradition of expressionistic painting, and works based on hard-edge painting and post-conceptual art. Classical two-dimensional mediums are predominant: most of the collection comprises paintings or paper-based works, including drawings, photographs, and graphic art, along with some sculptures and objects. The Kiasma collection also shares the same key focus on very recent contemporary art by living artists.

Fränti’s name became well known in 2000 when he was taken hostage by Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines on the remote jungle island of Jolo. After 140 days of what he described as ‘living hell’, kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, Fränti was released along with four other westerners. Fränti has explained that drawing helped him through his depressive period following his experiences on Jolo. ‘I was very down. I drew and this helped me very much,’ he said. His life changed after that drastically, and collecting art, as well as drawing, became an important tool in his personal survival kit.

Fränti had already started collecting art at the turn of the 1970s and 80s. After his time being held hostage, it became a more serious pursuit, and he also found his focus – collecting contemporary art by emerging Finnish artists. The collection also includes some more established artists, such as Olli Marttila, Outi Heiskanen, Henry Wuorila-Stenberg, Jukka Korkeila and Heikki Marila. Many of them have been teachers and professors for younger-generation artists such as Janne Räisänen, Olli Piippo, Liisa Lounila, Jyrki Riekki, Robin Lindqvist and Reima Nevalainen. Fränti is often seen as a welcome guest at opening receptions in galleries and art museums and he also visits artists’ studios regularly, as well as art students before they have even participated in their final exhibition ‘Kuvan Kevät’ at the Academy of Fine Arts, (University of Arts, Helsinki).

Seppo Fränti’s collection was shown in 2016 as a selected exhibition entitled ‘Wound’ at Lapinlahti, a cultural centre located in an old psychiatric hospital in Helsinki. Fränti himself curated the show and installed it with the kind help of a group of artists who are represented in the collection. The collection’s artists have become true friends of Fränti. The exhibition venue, the old Medical Director’s residence at the disused Lapinlahti hospital, also resonated with the role of the collection as a meaningful way to handle the core issues of humanity. The works reflect how to overcome situations when an individual is in the most fragile position, and how to live a full life in a time of joys and sorrows. Fränti’s collection is also a perfect example of showing different audiences how the art around you can help to communicate very personal experiences, and also demonstrates the particular role that visual arts have in today’s society.

Now it is our turn to initiate our part of the deal. Earlier this week the first 20 larger-scale paintings were packed and moved from Fränti’s apartment to Kiasma. Over the next two years the collection will undergo collection management and handling. Conservators will make their comments and reports on the condition of each work, and following that they will be photographed, catalogued and stored by the Finnish National Gallery’s professional collection team. The collection will be exhibited in the summer of 2020 as a large collection display with a salon-style hang. Along with the exhibition a research-based publication, including photographs from Seppo Fränti’s home, will be published. Like the collector said at a recent press conference, his children now have a new family and a new home at Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery.

New interns with a special research interest in this collection, are most welcome to apply to the next round of internships at the Finnish National Gallery in the autumn of 2018.

Featured image: The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment, photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Louis Lagrenée the Elder, Pygmalion and His Statue, 1777, oil on canvas, 104cm x 86cm Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

A Show of Emotion

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum prepares to stage an exhibition on painting and the theatre, Gill Crabbe meets the show’s curator Laura Gutman, to discuss the research she carried out in order to bring this topic to life

Meeting the independent curator Laura Gutman is like meeting a detective. As curator of several shows in Finland, where she moved from Paris 17 years ago, including the recent acclaimed ‘Air de Paris’ exhibition at Helsinki Art Museum (HAM), she has used her research skills and background studying art history under Guy Cogeval at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris in the 1990s to impressive effect in Finland. Not only has she been making intriguing connections between Finnish artists and their European counterparts, but also deepening understanding of European artworks in Finnish collections. It is a busy year for Gutman as she is now in the final stages of preparing a show on theatre and painting from the 17th to early 20th centuries titled ‘Moved to Tears: Staging Emotions’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki.

The museum is an appropriate setting for such a subject as it is the house of the collector Paul Sinebrychoff, whose wife Fanny Grahn was herself an actress, and their rooms on the first floor are laid out almost as a series of theatrical sets, each reflecting a period from his collection. The theme of the Sinebrychoff exhibition which is held in the galleries on the ground floor, is also a subject close to Gutman’s heart, since at the Ecole du Louvre she studied the theoretical and philosophical background to painting and theatre ‘from David to Degas’. After having attended a performance in Helsinki with Finnish singer Minna Nyberg, she has developed a particular interest in the use of Baroque gesture in the fine arts.

Featured image: Louis Lagrenée the Elder, Pygmalion and his Statue, 1777, oil on canvas, 104cm x 86cm, Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

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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‘Moved to Tears: Staging Emotions’, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, 13 September 2018 – 3 March 2019