FNG Research is the online magazine of the Finnish National Gallery. This online publication aims to promote the research activities of the Gallery, research being a part of its core functions. The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums – the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum – and the Department for Collections Management. FNG Research is a magazine for art-museum and art-history professionals internationally. The site is updated bi-monthly with new developments and content.
As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum brings together works by the 18th-century Venetian masters from across Northern Europe, Gill Crabbe meets Chief Curator Ira Westergård to discuss the research findings behind this groundbreaking exhibition
Any art-historical research project that sets out to delve into the provenance of artworks, carries with it some risk. The risk that, after committing the valuable resources of time, professional expertise and funding, one might draw a blank. Unexpected and unwanted surprises, such as an unfavourable reattribution, misleading information, or a tainted provenance, are just some of the hazards. Add to that the pressure of linking a research project to an international exhibition that plans to present the research findings, and you have quite a task on your hands. Top that with the unforeseen consequences of a global pandemic at the eleventh hour of mounting an exhibition, and one is navigating truly unprecedented circumstances.
Sitting in the office of Dr Ira Westergård, Chief Curator of the Finnish National Gallery’s Sinebrychoff Art Museum, two days after the opening of its exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, I am struck by the indefatigable energy – the renowned Finnish sisu – the show’s mastermind exudes, as she apologises for the piles of books and papers spread across all available surfaces – ‘they are all part of other projects I have had to put on hold and are now waiting to be dealt with’. One can see how this dynamism has driven an ambitious project that has brought together paintings and works on paper by these Venetian masters, the Tiepolos father and son, that found their way north and now reside in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Finland. Not only that but, perhaps even more importantly, in gathering together key players in the international Tiepolo research community to contribute to the show’s accompanying catalogue, she has spearheaded a publication that is bound to impact the Tiepolo research community for some years to come. ‘This catalogue is as important as the exhibition,’ she says, gripping it with both hands, as she holds it up in front of her. As the many narratives and their twists and turns unfold during our interview, one begins to understand why.
Featured image: Giandomenico Tiepolo’s oil sketches from the Trojan Horse series (1773–75): The Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse , both on loan from the National Gallery, London, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museums’ The Greeks Sacking Troy. Installation view of the ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ exhibition at the Sinebrychoff art Museum, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Read more — Download ‘Tiepolos travelling North’, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF
Juliet Simpson, Professor and Chair of Art History and Cultural Memory, Research Director, Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Coventry University and Visiting Fellow, the Warburg Institute, University of London
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) has long been over-shadowed by his more famous contemporaries, Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein (the Younger). Yet, during the second half of the 19th century, Cranach’s art and that of his workshop became the focus of significant national and transnational interest. Not only would this transform Cranach’s visibility for modern art, it would bring the very meaning and identity of a German Renaissance and Reformation memory centre-stage, in particular in the German and Nordic world. It is the potency of Cranach’s unexplored ‘afterlife’, his Nachleben (to borrow Aby Warburg’s key concept), which is pivotal for this discussion.
Taking as its focus the celebrated 1899 Cranach Exhibition in Dresden, curated by the Hamburg art historian Karl Woermann, which brought Cranach into a 20th-century spotlight, this article examines three pivotal, yet understudied areas of modern interest in Cranach’s art. First, is a neglected revival and reception of Cranach as a torchbearer of Reformation art and its cultural legacies. In this, Cranach’s work acquires developed significance in the contexts of expanding Romantic and later 19th-century cultural discourses of nationhood, linked to the new-found appeal of the artist’s ‘popular’ so-called ‘primitive’ expressions of piety. Second, are key ways in which such revivals of Cranach’s work stimulate competing cultural narratives of nationhood, memory and artistic identity: tensions, urgent in the range and character of responses generated by the 1899 Dresden Cranach Exhibition and its catalogue. Indeed, drawing on rarely-examined primary sources relating to the exhibition, its catalogue and contemporary critical responses, section three of this article sheds light on ways in which Cranach’s inspiration for redefined symbols of ‘nation’, ‘belonging’ and ‘primitiveness’ was to become determinant. And third is to consider how and to what ends Cranach’s fin-de-siècle reinventions suggestively develop his art’s negotiated legacies of Gothic, Renaissance and Reformation. A particular concern is to investigate Cranach’s appeal for a group of artists, spanning Victorian Britain to German and Nordic Europe, stimulated by a reawakened attraction to the legacies of a German Renaissance which these artists found in Cranach’s art. These reinventions entwine equally with uncanny artistic and cultural reverberations about what ‘Reformation’ is not (the allure of enchantment and of Cranach’s ‘Gothicism’), and with a fascination for what Cranach’s art may become: sensual, erotic; even disturbing and dark. Thus, my key concern is to shed new light on the substantial ‘ripple effect’ created by Cranach’s survival and presence on the late 19th-century European and international art map. It is to illuminate Cranach’s transformation from revivalist curiosity, symbol of ‘nationhood’, into an unexpected ‘other’ modern as a figure of difference, and Dresden into a potent Cranach-Capital (‘Cranach-Stadt’), pre-and post-1899.
 In connection with Aby Warburg’s ‘Das Nachleben der Antike’ (in Fritz Saxl, ‘Das Nachleben der Antike: Zur Einführung in die Bibliothek Warburg’, Hamburger Universitätszeitung, 11: 4, 1921, 245) – but a concept that opens particularly fruitful insights in navigating complex cultural temporalities, notably the ‘survival’ of pre-/early modern in modern cultures, or as Georges Didi-Huberman perceives in relation to his construct of ‘spectral time’, ‘to enter into a time other than habitual chronologies [and], eternal “influences”’, Georges Didi-Huberman. ‘The Surviving Image: Aby Warburg and Tylorian Anthropology’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 25: 1, 2002, (61–69), 61, 63.
 This article is the developed outcome of papers first given at the international conferences on ‘Protestant Images: Faith and Self-Image’ (Veste Coburg, Coburg: October 2017) and ‘European Revivals: Cultural Mythologies around 1900’ (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh: December 2017) – my thanks to the conference organisers for these opportunities. I would also like to thank the Warburg Institute (School of Advanced Studies, University of London), for the conferral of a Visiting Fellowship (2019–present), for the access to scholarly resources and also the many rich exchanges with Warburg colleagues and Fellows which have greatly advanced my thinking on Cranach’s afterlives, as has fruitful conversations with Prof Dr Gabriele Rippl (Bern), Dr Ralph Gleis (Berlin) and colleagues at the Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery (Helsinki), to whom I extend my gratitude. In preparing this article for publication, my thanks to Dr Tim Farrant (Oxford) and to the anonymous peer-reviewers of the final manuscript for their helpful comments and suggestions.
 On the extensive art-historiographical reception of the 1899 exhibition and Dresden’s subsequent reputation as a ‘Cranach Capital [of Art]’ (‘eine Cranach-Stadt’), see S. Heiser. Das Frühwerk Lucas Cranachs des Älteren: Wien um 1500 – Dresden um 1900. DVK: Berlin, 2002, see especially, 29–43.
 See Harald Marx. ‘Dresden – eine Cranach-Stadt?’, Dresdner Hefte, 52, 1997, 11–24.
Featured image: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Three Princesses of Saxony, Sibylla (1515–92), Emilia (1516–91) and Sidonia (1518–75), daughters of Duke Heinrich of Frommen, c. 1535, oil on panel, 62cm x 89cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Photo: Bridgeman Images …
Read more — Download ‘Lucas Cranach’s Legacies –‘Primitive’ and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle’, by Juliet Simpson, as a PDF
Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Transl. Silja Kudel
I don’t think that the actual sound, the change in air pressure, is the only thing we can call music. Music can also be visual and based on other things, physical things.
– Mika Vainio
Musical background, background as a musician
Mika Vainio (b. 1963 Helsinki, Finland – d. 2017 Trouville-sur-Mer, France) was a composer, performer and DJ who achieved world renown in the field of experimental electronic music. Among his many professional accomplishments, he also carved out a notable career as a sound artist. From 1996 onwards he created more than 15 sound installations, most of them commissioned by biennials, museums and galleries in continental Europe. Many of his works were composed in collaboration with other artists, such as the band Pan Sonic’s Ilpo Väisänen and the Berlin-based artist, composer and label owner Carsten Nicolai. Vainio won admiration as the creator of highly distinctive soundscapes combining synthesizer music and carefully curated noise, achieving a recognisable minimalistic sound both in his recordings and live gigs. He left audiences spellbound by playing at frequencies that invoked a powerful, visceral experience. ‘The world is full of electronic music, but Mika Vainio’s signature style is easy to distinguish from all the rest who play with clicks, buzzes, silences, and low frequencies’, said Vainio’s friend, photographer Antti Viitala. The titles he came up with, such as Onko (Is It?), Ilmanvaihto (Air-conditioning unit) and Hän Oli Ääni Joskus (He Was a Sound Sometimes), are laconically declarative, and he had a unique gift for using sound to evoke visual worlds and very specific moods.
Kati Kivinen, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Transl. Silja Kudel
Mika Vainio (1963–2017) is known in his homeland primarily for his minimalistic electronic music and he achieved international acclaim as a pioneering avant-garde composer. What is less well known to many Finns is that, in addition to carving out a notable musical career, Vainio also distinguished himself as an accomplished sound artist within the domain of contemporary art. In the late 1990s, he began exhibiting spatial sound installations in many group exhibitions, mainly in continental Europe and North America.
Sound art rose to prominence in contemporary art in the late 1990s through exhibition projects foregrounding sound in its various forms and meanings. During this period, Vainio created a number of sound installations for exhibitions, both as solo projects and in collaboration with other musicians and artists, such as his fellow member of the band Pan Sonic, Ilpo Väisänen; the German artist and composer Carsten Nicolai; and the Italian-born artist Micol Assaëli. In addition to creating his own sound installations, Vainio collaborated actively with many artists and choreographers, composing soundscapes and music for their various works.
 The sound art boom took off in earnest around the turn of the millennium. Among the exhibitions then featuring sound and aurality in contemporary art were ‘Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound’ at London’s Hayward Gallery (2000) and ‘Volume: Bed of Sound’ (2000) at New York’s MoMA PS1. Vainio took part in both exhibitions together with Ilpo Väisänen. A few years later Vainio was invited to take part in ‘Frequencies [Hz]: Audio-visual space’ (2002) at Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle. Sound and music in contemporary art were also highlighted in ‘Sons & Lumieres: A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century’ at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2004. More recent exhibitions dedicated to sound art have included ZKM’s ‘Sound Art. Sound as a Medium of Art’ (2012), MoMA’s ‘Soundings: A Contemporary Score’ (2013) and Fundació Joan Miró’s ‘Sound Art?’ (2019). Among the earliest sound art events was ‘Soundings’, an exhibition curated by art historian Suzanne Delehanty at Neuberger Museum SUNY Purchase, as early as 1981.
 Mika Vainio composed music for video works by artists including Mika Taanila, Saara Ekström and Anu Pennanen. He also composed music for dance performances, for example for the Belgian choreographer Cindy Van Acker. For further details, see Mika Taanila. ‘Soundtracks from a Distance’, in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 /2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery /Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 63–76.
Featured image: Installation view of Mika Vainio’s sound installation 2 x 540 kHz, 2009, at ‘50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen …
Read more — Download ‘Found Voices and Meaningful Silences: Situating Mika Vainio’s Sound Installations and their Spatial Practices’, by Kati Kivinen, as a PDF
Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. English proofreading for the book Arlyne Moi
In this text, I focus on the belongings of the composer and visual artist Mika Vainio. Mika had his studio at home and surrounded himself with all kinds of objects: books, musical compositions and notation, records, found objects and memorabilia. What defines a personal archive? Can we categorise his belongings as an archive? How do the possessions of this artist lead us to a fuller understanding of his works? Are we searching for things that confirm the view we already have of him, or for things that help us to tell the stories we would like to tell?
In Plato’s dialogue Theaetetus, Socrates talks about Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, in the following way:
I would have you imagine, then, that there exists in the mind of man a block of wax, which is of different sizes in different men; harder, moister, and having more or less of purity in one than another, and in some of an intermediate quality. […] Let us say that this table is a gift of Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses; and that when we wish to remember anything which we have seen, or heard, or thought in our own minds, we hold the wax to the perceptions and thoughts, and in that material receive the impression of them as from the seal of a ring; and that we remember and know what is imprinted as long as the image lasts; but when the image is effaced, or cannot be taken, then we forget and do not know.
Mika’s studio contains items such as cigar boxes, old gramophone records, drawings by the artist Franz Graf, a bowling pin, a stone from William S. Burroughs’ porch, ticket stubs, notation for musical compositions, films, vinyl records and books. These are the gifts of Mnemosyne, and as well as using them in my reflections, I draw on conversations I had with Mika, as his partner, and on certain written and recorded sources. Mika and I shared a flat in Oslo, where he lived and worked. He preferred to work from home, in close proximity to his equipment. He could be selective about who he invited into his studio.
 Plato. ‘Theaetetus’, in The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 2, 191c-d. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892. New York: Random House, 1937.
Featured image: Items from Mika Vainio’s studio in Oslo, selected by Rikke Lundgreen. ‘Mika Vainio: 50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen
Read more — Download ‘Still Life: A Personal Archive’, by Rikke Lundgreen, as a PDF
Anu Utriainen, MA, Senior Researcher, Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery
Research project and exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum (1st floor, 13 Aug–14 Nov 2021)
Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) is one of the post-war women artists who made a remarkable debut in the mid-1940s, but then vanished from the Finnish art scene very soon after that. She has only recently been recognised once again and brought back to the attention of researchers and museum visitors. The aim of the forthcoming exhibition and research project is to study the reasons for this development, as well as to show Sesemann’s original and independent artworks in the context of Finnish post-war modernism.
The role and significance of women in the Finnish art scene has been a subject of study in art history for many decades. As a result, numerous creditable publications, academic dissertations and exhibitions have been made about Finnish women artists, teachers and critics from the turn of the 20th century. Due to the pioneering work of professors Riitta Konttinen and Riitta Nikula from the 1980s on, women’s studies became an essential paradigm in art history. This development has made it possible for interdisciplinary researchers to re-evaluate and examine more critically the works of art and careers of women not only as individuals but also in terms of social class, gender and artistic style. In recent years, the research focus has moved on from the turn of the century to the inter- and post-war periods, as there is a growing interest in studying women artists of the first decades of the 20th century. In Finland this was the time of reshaping culture and art for the new independent nation within a modernistic ethos – with an arts scene that seems to have been astonishingly male-dominated.
 Sesemann’s works have been included in the exhibitions ‘Urban Encounters’ 2018–2019 and ‘Artists in Ruovesi’ 2019-2020 in the Ateneum Art Museum, ‘State of Mind – Helsinki 1939-45’, 2019-2020 at Helsinki Art Museum HAM and in ‘Täältä tullaan, naistaiteilijat modernin murroksessa’ in Tampere Art Museum 2017. See also corresponding exhibition catalogues.
Featured image: Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1945, oil on canvas, 73cm x 54cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen …
Read more — Download ‘Elga Sesemann – A Woman Artist Rediscovered’, by Anu Utriainen, as a PDF
Reimagining iconic artworks from the past has been a continuous thread in creating the story of art. Director General of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Susanna Pettersson, discusses with Gill Crabbe the vision for the exhibition on iconic artworks she has curated, which travels from Stockholm to Helsinki this summer, and how this wide-ranging thematic show was put together
What turns an artwork into an iconic artwork? Who defines a work as iconic, and how does such status evolve, endure or dissolve over time? These are questions that have distilled in the mind of Susanna Pettersson since she started out as a doctoral student in the 1990s studying the history of museums and their collections; questions that matured over the decades as her career path took her from curator to Director General of the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, and now Director-general of Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, to bear fruit in the exhibition ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics’.
Nowadays it is acknowledged that these are questions that can only be partly answered, through offering perspectives made conscious in a given place and time. But when the era of establishing museums began in Europe in the 19th century the (his)story of art was instilled with definite parameters, parameters that determined the art-historical canon and persisted in such a way that it is only relatively recently that they are being challenged, reinterpreted, and augmented.
‘It really started all those years ago in London when I sat in National Art Library of the V&A, reading old publications describing what was appreciated in early 19th-century art, with their clear detailed recommendations as what to keep in mind when travelling in Dresden, Berlin, Munich etc. So this research laid the ground for the conception of this exhibition,’ says Pettersson.
In putting together an exhibition on such a vast theme, the task facing the curators of presenting material that can be approached on many levels by a diverse audience, from the interested ‘general public’ to the artistic and academic community, was a complex one. ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics’ achieves this in a number of ways: through mapping the key museums emerging in Europe in the 19th century, analysing their collections and the criteria for acquisitions, and tracing their influences on other museums, such as the Ateneum Art Museum itself; through pairing iconic art-historical works with contemporary artists’ reinterpretations of their themes; and through commissioning new works by contemporary artists to underline key ideas in the exhibition. An accompanying catalogue broadens out the contextual research, with essays by a range of international experts, and focus interviews spotlight specific contemporary artists in the show.
Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Angel (detail copy after Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Annunciation), 1895, oil on canvas, 100cm x 100cm. State Copy Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen
Read more — Download ‘Making Art’s Milestones’, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF
Michaela Giebelhausen, PhD, Course Leader, BA Culture, Criticism and Curation, Central St Martins, University of the Arts, London
Also published in Susanna Pettersson (ed.), Inspiration – Iconic Works. Ateneum Publications Vol. 132. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020, 31–45
In 1909, the Italian poet and founder of the Futurist movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti famously declared, ‘[w]e will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind’. He compared museums to cemeteries, ‘[i]dentical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another… where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings’. This comparison of the museum with the cemetery has often been cited as an indication of the Futurists’ radical rejection of traditional institutions. It certainly made these institutions look dead. With habitual hyperbole Marinetti claimed: ‘We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back […]? Time and Space died yesterday.’ The brutal breathlessness of Futurist thinking rejected all notions of a history of art.
This essay considers how the history of art, embodied in art-historical canons, schools, periods, and aesthetic standards, has been conceptualised through writing, the organisation of collections, and the decoration of new museum buildings. It examines some of the moments in which the page, the canvas and the wall offer seminal and selective visualisations of the history of art and deploy notions of time and space that are complex and contradictory, and far from dead.
 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. ‘Manifesto of Futurism’, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory: 1900–1990. Oxford UK and Cambridge US: Blackwell Publishers, 1992, 145–47.
Featured image: Christian von Mechel, The Electoral Picture Gallery at Düsseldorf: Paintings on One of the Walls in the First Gallery, 1775, engraving, 21.3cm x 25.8cm. Wellcome Library, London
Photo: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0
Read more — Download ‘Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art’, by Michaela Giebelhausen, as a PDF
Dan Karlholm, Professor of Art History, Södertörn University, Stockholm
Also published in Susanna Pettersson (ed.), Inspiration – Iconic Works. Ateneum Publications Vol. 132. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020. Transl. Bettina Schultz, 87–96
On 18 October 1842 the Greek temple high above the Bavarian river bed was completed. Floating by on the Danube you can lift your gaze and see what looks like a sparkling white version of the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens. The aim of Ludwig I of Bavaria in having it built was to create a worthy space for the German spirit, founded on the German-speaking countries’ linguistic community in the wake of the humiliating war against France. Its architect Leo von Klenze (1784–1864), who also designed the Glyptothek and Alte Pinakothek in Munich, wanted to let the outer grandeur of this monument, this Walhalla outside Regensburg, mirror its inner, spiritual greatness – Doric temple on the outside, the home of the Old Norse gods by name, and on the inside a memorial dedicated to German intellectuals. Initially, around 170 neoclassical marble busts lined the walls but the number has increased over time and continues to increase. A monument, memorial, heathen temple, as well as a kind of deifying museum for dead white Germans. The reason why this ‘hall of fame’ was received with mixed feelings was probably above all aesthetic. Something felt wrong with this pastiche, even for many of those who believed that the Germanic spirit was based on the Greek. Its topicality can, however, be described as ‘historical’, which the painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach sometime later described as the only ‘contemporary’. For the budding art historians, however, the monument was a challenge to the newly established explanatory model that proclaimed that art is a symbiosis between content and form, time and place, spirit and materiality.
 Leo von Klenze. Walhalla in artistischer und technischer Beziehung. München: Literarisch-artistische Anstalt, 1842.
 Adrian von Buttlar. Leo von Klenze: Leben – Werk – Vision. München: Beck, 1999, 140–64.
 See Dan Karlholm. Art of Illusion: The Representation of Art History in Nineteenth-Century Germany and Beyond. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004, chap. 4.
Anne-Maria Pennonen, PhD, Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Also published in Anne-Maria Pennonen and Hanne Selkokari (eds.), Silent Beauty – Nordic and East Asian Interaction. Ateneum Publications Vol. 117. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Transl. Don McCracken
Western art and the applied arts underwent great changes in the early decades of the 20th century. The post-First World War period was characterised by idealism, from culture to politics and the economy. Efforts were made to break established norms, find new means of expression and test the boundaries of art. In art this change manifested in abstract art, while in the applied-arts field there was a rejection of traditional ornamental styles, and a simplification of shapes and materials. The aim was to create a democratic world, and the material environment played a central role in this endeavour.
In the spirit of the age, the art field idealised machines and mass production and strove to combine spirituality with social idealism. At the same time, various avant-garde movements connected with Modernism began to take over. Conversely, the opposite values were also highlighted in the applied arts, where the goal was to get rid of mass production. Already in the late 19th century, encouraged by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, artists and craftsmen were urged to integrate their work with that of artisans, returning to their immediate connection to their material. The importance of hand-made objects and the use of natural materials were also emphasised.
Following international trends, Finnish artists began to use new methods in the spirit of Modernism. The truth-to-life academic style of painting and using materials was abandoned in favour of simplification and a sense of materiality, which were all emphasised in both the visual and applied arts. Eastern artists and aesthetics played a significant role in this development. This article discusses how the materiality and asceticism of Finnish artists’ paintings can be viewed alongside ceramics and textile art. How does a sense of materiality, and on the other hand minimalism, appear in these works? Which methods have been used, which features have been emphasised, and how does this trend relate to oriental aesthetics?
Featured image: Ahti Lavonen, Untitled, 1961, oil on canvas, 54cm x 65.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis
Read more — Download ‘A Sense of Materiality, Simplification and Ascetic Minimalism’, by Anne-Maria Pennonen, as a PDF