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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Three Research Interns Appointed at the Finnish National Gallery for 2019

The three research interns of the FNG research internship programme for 2019 have been appointed. The selections were made based on the applications and the following points were underlined:

  • The point of view of the archives and collections: priority was given to students whose applications were based on a concrete and defined part of the FNG collections and especially to previously unstudied and/or topical materials
  • Preparation of the working plan and the research questions related to the chosen collections material

The FNG research intern programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections, including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s-level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

The research interns of the Finnish National Gallery for 2019 are:

Emma Lilja, University of Helsinki

Artworks by Sami artists in the collection of the Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and archival material related to them, including interviews

Mariliis Rebane, University of Helsinki

Exhibitions at the Ateneum: changes in exhibition design (the shift from salon hanging to the white cube); photographs of exhibitions from 1890s onwards, Archive of the Finnish Art Society (minutes, exhibition lists), press cuttings collection and other related archival material

Eljas Suvanto, University of Helsinki

The donation of artworks made by the art collector and Master of Law with court training Arvid Sourander to the Fine Arts Academy of Finland (now the Finnish National Gallery), with a focus on the donation of over 30 artworks by the Finnish painter Fanny Churberg (1845–1892) in 1940: art collection of the Finnish National Gallery, Archives of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland and Professor Aune Lindström, press cuttings collection

The internship period is for three months. All of the interns will have their own in-house tutors to support them with studying their chosen material.

The call for research interns for 2020 will be launched in autumn 2019. We hope again to receive applications from art and cultural history students interested in our collections, who are from different universities in Finland, but also those from other countries.

For more information about the FNG’s research internship programme: fngr@nationalgallery.fi

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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Reija Meriläinen, Survivor, 2017, videogame Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Screen capture of the online artwork

Data Salvage – Preserving Software-based Artworks in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Maija Grönqvist, MA student, University of Helsinki

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

How to preserve process, context, and instability? Software-based art requires a certain amount of institutional rethinking in terms of collecting and preservation. Museums, entrusted with the task of preserving and re-exhibiting their collected artworks even in the most distant future, are battling with a new set of problems related to software-based art. The underlying challenge is that the artworks – often manifested as everything but objects – are created on technologically evolving platforms. As a result, theoretical models and practical strategies linked to software-based artworks are inevitably bound to change.[1]

Preserving software-based artworks is challenging yet vital, as they not only represent the artists’ ideas and concepts, but also the technological possibilities and the complex communication landscape of our time.[2] Long before the official recognition of the digital revolution, artists were already experimenting with the novel possibilities of new media. The first wave of digital art was exhibited mainly at technology conferences or digital media festivals. Towards the end of the last century, however, new media art, the art form that used to be considered ‘peripheral to the mainstream art world’[3], became an established genre and finally a welcome addition to galleries and museums. This expansion occurred globally in the 1990s, following the unforeseen affordability and user-friendliness of projectors and personal computers.[4]

[1] Paul 2015, 87; Fino-Radin 2011, 6.

[2] LIMA 2016.

[3] Paul 2003, 7.

[4] Paul 2003, 7; London 2014, xviii; Lialina 2010, 38–39.

Featured image: Reija Meriläinen, Survivor, 2017, video game
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Screen capture of the online artwork

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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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