Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, MA, Curator, Archives and Library Unit, Finnish National Gallery
This is a revised version of the article published in Salla Heino (ed.), Koti Bulevardilla – Keräilijät Paul ja Fanny Sinebrychoff / Ett hem på Bulevarden – Konstsamlarna Paul och Fanny Sinebrychoff / A Bulevardi Home – Art Collectors Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff. Sinebrychoff Art Museum Publications. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2021. Transl. Mike Garner
Paul Sinebrychoff the Younger (1859–1917) was only 29 years old in 1886 when, with the support of his mother, he took charge of the family-owned brewery. When he had married the actress Fanny Grahn (1862‒1921) three years earlier, he did not yet have responsibility for the family business and the young couple were able to travel abroad and explore art treasures. Thus began a lifelong passion for culture and the Sinebrychoffs started collecting art in the late 1890s and, as a result of nearly thirty years of collecting, in 1921 Fanny Sinebrychoff donated the collection of approximately 900 works to the Finnish State at the joint request of the couple.
During those decades Paul Sinebrychoff used to write letters in the evenings concerning art acquisitions to various specialists, mainly in Sweden, but later in other parts of Europe. The Archives of the Finnish Art Society at the Finnish National Gallery’s Archive Collections contain approximately 1,300 letters and responses to and from Sinebrychoff between 1891 and 1914. My essay explores the way that Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s art collection was formed as a consequence of their journeys to Sweden. The information about those journeys and art acquisitions comes from this research into Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence.
An appreciation of the context surrounding these now-digitised letters is of paramount importance in gaining an overview. For example, in analysing Henryk Bukowski’s 19th-century auction catalogues, I was aided by a knowledge of, for instance, Swedish art collectors, their collections, and the sales of individual works of art. My research also covers the Sinebrychoffs’ personal relationships with art historians, antiques dealers, and especially with art collectors. For example, the Sinebrychoffs made their first purchases of artworks directly from artists, collectors and antiques dealers.
Featured image: David Beck (1621−56), studio, Christina, Queen of Sweden, oil on canvas, 68cm x 56cm. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola
Read more — Download ‘Art and Travel: The First Steps in the Formation of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s Collection in 1883–99’, by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, as a PDF