The first touring exhibition organised by the Fine Arts Academy of Finland, ‘From Edelfelt to Sallinen – The Masterpieces of Finnish Art’, here shown mounted in Kajaani in 1951. Photographer: M. Hynninen. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

High Quality Art for Wide Audiences – The Touring Exhibitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland

Tarja Hartman, MA, Museum Guard, Finnish National Gallery

The Fine Arts Academy of Finland Foundation was established in 1939 and took over from the Finnish Art Society the responsibility for running the two museums, the Ateneum Art Museum and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The Exhibition and Education Department was founded in the 1950s. This Department organised national touring exhibitions and took care of archiving, publishing and research operations. The touring exhibitions were organised to enable people across Finland to see high quality art.

The first exhibition started its tour in 1950 and the last one in 1990. During these years 85 exhibitions went on display. They ranged from paintings, sculptures and graphic arts, and covered old classics as well as contemporary art. In 1990 the Fine Arts Academy of Finland was placed under government administration as the Finnish National Gallery. In the new organisation the Exhibition and Education Department no longer existed. The touring exhibitions programme ended, and the Central Art Archives was to take care of the archive collections. In 2014 the Finnish National Gallery was reorganised into the public foundation that exists today.

The aim of this article is to map out the objectives that were set for the touring exhibitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland and to assess the means with which the objectives were reached and how well they performed. The article is based on my Master’s thesis that gives an overview how the effectiveness of the touring exhibitions can be evaluated.[1] At present the Finnish National Gallery aims to invest in the effectiveness of the exhibition and research activities, as well as extending its national and international networks. Developing and expanding touring exhibitions operations is part of that. My goal is to provide information about the important elements of the touring exhibitions of the Fine Arts Academy in order to provide background information for the touring exhibitions of today.

[1] Hartman, Tarja, 2017. Laadukasta taidetta laajalle yleisölle. Suomen taideakatemian säätiön kiertonäyttelytoiminnan vaikuttavuuden arviointia (High quality art for wide audiences. Effectiveness evaluation of the touring exhibitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland). Master’s thesis. The Degree Programme in Cultural Production and Landscape Studies, Cultural Heritage Studies, School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku.

Featured image: The first touring exhibition organised by the Fine Arts Academy of Finland, ‘From Edelfelt to Sallinen – The Masterpieces of Finnish Art’, here shown mounted in Kajaani in 1951.
Photographer: M. Hynninen. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

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First page of Helene Schjerfbeck’s letter to Martha Neiglick-Platonoff, Saltsjöbaden, Sweden 20 August 1944. Helene Schjerfbeck’s letters to Martha Neiglick-Platonoff. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

New Donation of Helene Schjerfbeck Letters to the Finnish National Gallery

Helena Hätönen, MA, Curator, Archives and Library, Finnish National Gallery

The Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery received an interesting addition to its collection of artists’ letters recently, when a private individual donated eight letters written by painter Helene (Elli) Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) that had been in the possession of the donor’s family. The letters relate to the last years of Schjerfbeck’s life, when she was in Sweden, from the summer of 1944 to the summer of 1945. Schjerfbeck was staying in Saltsjöbaden’s spa hotel where she still painted whenever her health permitted.

The recipient of the donated letters was her second cousin, artist Martha Neiglick-Platonoff (1889–1964). Schjerfbeck’s mother and Neiglick’s maternal grandmother were sisters. The War Censors had opened and examined half of the letters. The recipient’s Russian surname probably affected the matter. The censorship practice was obviously known to the author as well. The contents of the letters are summarised and restrained, and many things are alluded to rather than made explicit.

Martha Neiglick had studied, like Helene Schjerfbeck, at the Finnish Art Society’s Drawing School and later abroad. She had remained a widow following the death of her spouse, the Russian naval captain, Lieutenant Igor Platonoff (1887–1921). To Helene Schjerfbeck, Martha Platonoff was both a relative and an artist colleague.

The donated letters date from the time of the Continuation War’s intensification in the summer 1944, and it is because of this that Schjerfbeck had moved to a more secure residence in Sweden. Martha Platonoff was staying in the Finnish countryside to escape the Russian bombardments. Her only offspring, Lieutenant Stephan Platonoff (1917–44) – who was also a Master of Arts – had crashed at the Finnish front line in the Battle of Ihantala on the Karelian Isthmus at the end of June that year. The event is never mentioned in the letters, but it is made apparent through the themes of fear, mourning and loss contained in them.

The letters will be made available to researchers after they have received due conservation. One of the letters, written on 20 August 1944, is now published in digital format in FNG Research. To access it, click the link below.

Featured image: First page of Helene Schjerfbeck’s letter to Martha Neiglick-Platonoff, Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, 20 August 1944. Helene Schjerfbeck’s letters to Martha Neiglick-Platonoff. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

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Featured image: Jorma Puranen, From the Series ‘Shadows, Reflections and All of That Kind’, 1997–2002, chromogenic colour print. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

Care for the Image – Meaning, Sense, Materiality

Ari Tanhuanpää, PhD Candidate, Senior Conservator, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum

This is a summary of the doctoral dissertation in art history defended at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, on 10 June, 2017. Its theoretical starting point is a phenomenologically-based view of the being of the image, in which Georges Didi-Huberman´s work plays a central role. One of the central aims of this research is the critical assessment of prevailing premises in conservation-restoration and technical art history. This study attempts to show that physical art objects, instead of being puzzles to be solved, are paradoxical in nature. Edmund Husserl has shown that image consciousness requires a specific kind of intentionality, similarly, consciousness of the Materiality of the Image presupposes a consciousness of a materiality that is ontologically distinct to the Image.

The study begins with a discussion on the Heideggerian concept of ʿcareʾ (Sorge). For Martin Heidegger, care was the ontological mode of Dasein. It meant mindful lingering, Besinnung, on the beings which are ready-to-hand (zuhanden) and present-to-hand (vorhanden) and have a fundamental ontological significance. It meant care for the sense (Sinn) of Being. Georges Didi-Huberman also discusses the concept of ʿcareʾ. His concept (souci) denotes care for images and imagination, for meaningful, affective encounters with images, and involves solicitation that makes images oscillate. Images do not submit to being regarded as subsistent (vorhanden) intentional correlates of the constituting ego in the sense of Gegenstand. Instead, they become constellations comparable to cloud formations or gas eruptions, which are in a state of continuous, endless motion, pulling us towards their swaying motion. Such constellations can provide only negative certainty, certainty without an object, connaissance sans objet, in Jean-Luc Marion´s terms. The only certainty we are able to glean from an artwork belongs to the region of its beingness, to its physical artefactuality. However, that which makes an artwork has nothing ontic, nothing thinglike in it. With the term ʿImageʾ, I refer to a concept that does not fall within the sphere of traditional art-history discourse. It is my conviction that an image is never alone. Images are always contaminated by numerous other images from various eras. In the words of Jean-Luc Nancy, an image is singular plural. Yet it is all too often approached only in its impoverished form, in Marion´s terms as a poor (pauvre) phenomenon.

We can have knowledge only of objects, not of images. The sensuous manifoldness of images has been reduced to match our finite cognitive faculties. Here, I am not referring to images as signs or symbols as they are understood in iconography, iconology, visual culture studies, semiotics or Bildwissenschaft, and I will not try to give a definition of the concept of ʿimageʾ. Neither am I talking about popular imagery. The Image I am talking about is not a single entity – it is a relation, and it is for this reason that I have chosen to write it with a capital I. The capital initial also underlines the fact that the Image is ontologically distinct (le distinct). When the word ʿimageʾ is spoken, there is no way of knowing about the capital letter – any more than you can hear the distinction between différence or différance. Therefore, I must show this Image to you – just like Derrida had to write down his différance in order to make it known. Thus writing comes before speech – the material sign that is the original mimēsis before any representative function. The Image I am referring to does not represent anything – any thing – that precedes it. It does not represent anything exterior but performs its being of the Image by being an image, a relation.

Featured image: Jorma Puranen, chromogenic colour print from the series ‘Shadows, Reflections and All of That Kind’, 1997–2002, . Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

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Eila Hiltunen working on the Sibelius Monument, 1966. Photographer: Otso Pietinen. Eila Hiltunen Picture Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Dissertation in Progress: A Topography of Art Research, including Eila Hiltunen’s Files at the Finnish National Gallery Archive Collections

Gloria  Lauterbach, PhD Student, Contemporary Art, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki

A short chronology of my research

In my doctoral research I study large-scale metal sculptures and the way the material and the female sculptor’s body affect each other in the creative process. In order to understand this interrelationship – also expressible as material exchange in the field of New Materialism where I anchor this research – my case studies are two Finnish sculptors, Eila Hiltunen (1922–2003) and Laila Pullinen[1] (1933–2015) and the metal works they created in the period 1961–1969. As a visual artist I complement my study by hand-folding a large-scale copper relief to investigate the theoretical considerations of my dissertation topic in practice.

I started my research with a review of selected works and working methods of Hiltunen and Pullinen from a neo-materialistic viewpoint. I have alternated the study phases within the archive collections of the Finnish National Gallery with my training in the traditional crafts technique of the standing seam – a technique derived from traditional roof making – under the supervision of a professional smith and roof maker. The standing seam technique is the main technique that I use for creating the work of art within my doctoral study. In a last part of my study, I will compare and analyse the findings collected by creating the large-scale copper relief with the data collected from the case studies on one hand and my theoretical frameworks on the other hand.

[1] Laila Pullinen’s archive material is located in a private collection and is currently being studied for this dissertation.

Featured image: Eila Hiltunen working on the Sibelius Monument, 1966. Photographer: Otso Pietinen.
Eila Hiltunen Picture Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

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Paul Gauguin, printer Pola Gauguin, Te po (Night Eternal), 1893–94 (printed 1921) woodcut, 20.5 x 25.5cm Ahlström collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Artek – a Bridge to the International Art World

Susanna Pettersson, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum

 Also published in Sointu Fritze (ed.), Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form. Ateneum Publications Vol. 93. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2017, 48–69. Transl. Wif Stenger

The exhibitions organised by the Artek gallery enjoy an almost iconic status in the field of Finnish art. These exhibitions were bold and ambitious. The idea behind them was to bring together modern art, industry, interior design and ‘propaganda’, by which was meant publishing activity. The exhibitions also left a lasting mark on Finnish art and on the Ateneum art collection.

‘Europe – its symbol could be […] an airplane above a cathedral. America – its symbol is an airplane above a skyscraper. In the latter picture, there is perfect harmony. In the first there is not. The former represents the present day. The latter, the future.’ [1]

It was with these words that the writer Olavi Paavolainen, in his book Nykyaikaa etsimässä (In Search of Modern Time), published in 1929, expressed his generation’s desire to see the world through new eyes. Finnish artists were accustomed to finding inspiration broadly in European countries, primarily in France, Germany and Italy. Paavolainen had, in his dreams, travelled further afield, as far as New York and Chicago.

Paavolainen’s book tackled three themes: the modern European lifestyle, new trends in art and the new image of humanity. Paavolainen wrote with great passion on behalf of modernity and against conservatism. He emphasised that in ‘developing a modern view of life’ one should pay attention to all the arts, meaning literature, the visual arts, theatre and music. He considered architecture an applied art, regarding Le Corbusier as one of the boldest theorists in his field.[2] Paavolainen sought out the avant-garde spirit in those around him, mentioning by name many Finnish and foreign contemporary artists, writers and architects. However, in his view, in Finland there was only one interesting architect – Alvar Aalto. Paavolainen described him as ‘a practical man with a bold approach and a daring theorist’.[3] And besides, Aalto – unlike many others – travelled by airplane.[4]

[1] Olavi Paavolainen, Nykyaikaa etsimässä (Helsinki: Otava, 1929), 145. Quoted in Finnish as: ‘Eurooppa – sen tunnuskuvana voisi olla […] katedraalin yllä liitelevä lentokone. Amerikka – sen tunnuskuvana on lentokone pilvenpiirtäjän yllä. Viimemainitussa näyssä on täydellinen harmonia. Ensin mainitussa ei. Edellinen esittää nykyisyyttä. Jälkimmäinen tulevaisuutta.

[2] Paavolainen 1929, 29 and 32.

[3] Paavolainen 1929, 51.

[4] Paavolainen 1929, 148.

Featured image: Paul Gauguin, printer Pola Gauguin, Te po (Night Eternal), 1893–94 (printed 1921), woodcut, 20.5 x 25.5cm, Ahlström collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

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Alongside the exhibition ‘Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form,’ two conferences are being held at the Ateneum Art Museum: Alvar Aalto – Art and the Modern Form (in English and Finnish), 24 August; Aino Marsio-Aalto as a Designer (in Finnish), 9 September. For full details and programme visit http://www.ateneum.fi/nayttelyt/alvar-aalto/?lang=en

Ilona Harima, Buddha and Two Bodhisattvas, 1947 gouache, 24.5 x 20.5cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Ilona Harima – On the Road to Enlightenment

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

First published as a summary of Erkki Anttonen’s article in Hätönen, Helena and Ojanperä, Riitta (eds.), Ilona Harima. Valaistumisen tiellä. Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto (Central Art Archives) 23. Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives, 2011. Transl. Diane Tullberg

In 2011, the Finnish National Gallery published a book on the Finnish artist Ilona Harima, whose distinctive art was strongly influenced by Theosophy, Esotericism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. A small exhibition was mounted at the Ateneum Art Museum then, too. Due to the international interest in the history of Theosophy and its relationship to the visual arts FNG Research is republishing an English summary on Harima and her art, which was first published in the above mentioned book

The art produced in Finland during the inter-war period has not yet been fully studied. In particular, the women artists of the period have been given little attention, and some who worked on the fringes of the art world may even have been forgotten. One such is Ilona Harima, who produced highly personal work diverging greatly from the dominant trends of the time.

Ilona Harima (married name Rautiala as of 1939) was born in 1911 in Vaasa on Finland’s west coast. Her parents Samuli and Anna originally had the surname Hohenthal, but changed this to Harima in 1936. Samuli Harima (1879–1962) was a successful Ostrobothnian businessman, influential in economic circles, and the wealth he accumulated allowed his daughter Ilona to pursue a career as a professional artist. In early 1918 her father’s work prompted a family move to Helsinki, and it was here that Ilona went to school, gaining her middle-school leaving certificate in 1927. The following year she began to study art in the graphics department of the Central School of Applied Arts, though she stayed there for only a couple of years at most.

Featured image: Ilona Harima, Buddha and Two Bodhisattvas, 1947. Gouache, 24.5 x 20.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Landscape with sheep (1884, oil on canvas, 22cm x 34.5cm) is one of the paintings to be included in Hanne Mannerheimo’s research – she is especially interested in its green and blue areas. Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

Dissertation in Progress: Analytical Pigment Studies as a Tool for Art Research

Hanne Mannerheimo, PhD. Student, Museology, University of Jyväskylä / Research Assistant, Materials Research Laboratory, Finnish National Gallery 

This is a brief introduction to my dissertation that concentrates on Finland’s tangible cultural heritage, or more precisely, on the investigation of the materials used to create it. In January 2017, I received a one-year research grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation to make an analytical investigation of pigments used in the work of the most well-known Finnish artists of the 19th century. My aim for the first working year is to concentrate on the pigment palette of Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931). All material analyses will be conducted in co-operation with and under the supervision of the Finnish National Gallery’s Senior Conservation Scientist Seppo Hornytzkyj. The material for this research consists of artworks by Gallen-Kallela that are in the possession of the Finnish National Gallery and also the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Tarvaspää, Espoo. I will also analyse pigments and other artists’ materials that belonged to the Gallen-Kallela family and which are now in the collection of the Gallen-Kallela Museum.

Up to now the palette and chronology of pigments used by the great Finnish artists are known only in a few cases. With the help of the grant, Gallen-Kallela’s palette will be thoroughly researched. The data will be of indispensable help in dating and attribution studies, in answering and solving conservation and restoration-related questions and problems, as well as in revealing forgeries. Akseli Gallen-Kallela is one of the most valued Finnish artists and also one whose works have been extensively copied and imitated by art forgers in Finland. The results of the analyses will be published in FNG Research as one or two scientific, peer-reviewed articles, which will be included in my article-based dissertation.

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Landscape with sheep (1884, oil on canvas, 22 x 34.5cm) is one of the paintings to be included in Hanne Mannerheimo’s research – she is especially interested in its green and blue areas.
Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

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