Conferences: Gothic Modernisms

29–30 June, 2017

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Coventry University; the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, and Radboud University, Nijmegen.

‘Gothic Modernisms’ will focus on the (global) legacies, histories and contested identities of Northern European Gothic/early-modern visual cultures in modernity and, in particular, on identities of modernism, including avant-gardes. It builds on two preceding, related conferences on ‘Primitive Renaissances’ (National Gallery, London, 2014) and ‘Visions of the North’ (Compton Verney Museum, Warks, UK, 2016), which have opened new scholarship on 19th- and early 20th-century responses to Northern Renaissance and early Germanic art. ‘Gothic Modernisms’ will expand this field of enquiry and its temporal scope. It explores the pivotal, yet still understudied, reception, construction and invention of Northern Gothic art and reception in the period spanning the 1880s to the 1950s, extending interest in Latin and Germanic Gothic to the ‘Nordic’ world. We term these artistic and cultural reinventions ‘gothic modernisms’.

To view more information on the Gothic Modernisms conference, registration and programme, please visit

Conferences: Alice Neel and Portraits in Art

24 September 2016

This conference organised by the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery focuses specifically on paintings by Alice Neel, a masterful portrayer of people, while also discussing portraits and self-portraits in art in general. The venue of the conference will be the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

To view the programme of the upcoming conference, please visit

Picture This!

Conferences: Picture This!

24–25 November 2016

This upcoming two-day international conference organised by the Finnish Museums Association, the Finnish National Gallery, and the Finnish Museum of Photography discusses the position and challenges of museums in the world of growing and changing streams of images.  The venues of the conference will be the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

To view the programme of the conference, please visit

Fanny Churberg, Burnt Clearing, Landscape from Uusimaa, 1872, oil on canvas, 54cm x 85,5cm, Ahlström Collection, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Conferences: Association of Art Historians (AAH) Annual Conference 2016, Edinburgh

7–9 April 2016

Here we publish the Finnish National Gallery’s contribution to the 2016 AAH Conference comprising extended conference abstracts from the three Finnish National Gallery delegates

Featured image: Fanny Churberg, Burnt Clearing, Landscape from Uusimaa, 1872, oil on canvas, 54cm x 85,5cm, Ahlström Collection, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

From Puffy Cumulus Clouds to the Lapping Waves of a Lake

Anne-Maria Pennonen, Curator, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery // PhD student, University of Helsinki

Session: Air and the Visual

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

Kullervo’s Story: Mythology, National Aspiration and the Construction of a Nordic Cultural Identity and ‘Artisthood’ 

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

Session: The Idea of North: Myth-making and Identities

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

To Lend or not to Lend? Finnish Art Exhibitions Abroad in the 1930s and the Fine Arts Academy’s Loans Policy

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

Session: The Physical Circulation of Artworks and its Consequences for Art History

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

Conferences: NORDIK 2015, Reykjavik

NORDIK Becomes a Full Association

Riitta Ojanperä, Director of Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery, has been a Finnish member of the NORDIK board since 2012. Here she explains the exciting new developments that are placing NORDIK more firmly on the art-historical map

The NORDIK Committee For Art History, which has been active since 1983, has been a great example of the potential of professional networking and collaboration. The organisation of 11 triennial conferences has been based on a scholarly urge to meet the intellectual challenges of art history.

The art history departments of several universities in the Nordic countries, as well as many museum organisations, have been committed to fostering NORDIK’s goals. The network’s continuity has been assured by a functioning board with members representing both the academia and museum fields in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Nevertheless, the need to build the Committee’s future on a more solid institutional ground had been stated several years ago. This goal was accomplished when the Committee’s General Assembly met in May this year in Reykjavik, in the context of the 11th NORDIK conference, the first to have been arranged in Iceland.

At the meeting, the General Assembly accepted new regulations for the association named NORDIK (The Nordic Association of Art Historians). One basic advantage of the change from a network to a legal body in the form of an association is the opening of new practical ways for potential fundraising in the future.

The Association’s purpose and its aims, though, have not changed. It still exists to promote co-operation in the Nordic countries, to provide information, and to strengthen contacts between the Nordic and international art history communities. To fulfil its purpose it arranges the NORDIK conference. In addition to this, the new regulations state that the Association can help to arrange other conferences and symposiums, produce publications, and take initiatives that promote research and the education of scholars.

According to NORDIK’s long-established schedule, the next international conference will take place in three years time, in Copenhagen in 2018. The present chair of the Association is Dr Hlynur Helgason, from Iceland, and the chair of the next conference’s organising group is Dr. Henrik Holm from Denmark.

Featured image: Lars-Gunnar Nordström, Composition, 1952, serigraphy, 26,7cm x 44,8cm, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jouko Könönen

For more information, please visit the NORDIK webpage or contact the Association’s Facebook group



NORDIK Conferences 1984–2015

Nordic Art around the Turn of the Century
Helsinki, Finland

Nordic Sponsors of the Arts
Gothenburg, Sweden

Influence and Exchange
Ry, Denmark

The Identity of Art History
Geilo, Norway

Art After 1945
Turku, Finland

The History of Art History
Uppsala, Sweden

Aarhus, Denmark

Tradition and Visual Culture
Bergen, Norway

Mind and Matter
Jyväskylä, Finland

Presentation/Representation/Repression, The Critical Production of Display and Interpretation in Art History
Stockholm, Sweden

Mapping Uncharted Territories
Reykjavik, Iceland



Professional Match-making

Interview by Gill Crabbe

The Ateneum Art Museum Director Susanna Pettersson has a close relationship with the Nordic Committee for Art History. Here she explains the vital role played by this innovative organisation

The Director of Helsinki’s Ateneum Art Museum, Susanna Pettersson, has been a guiding influence in the recent history of the Nordic Committee for Art History (NORDIK). When the Committee was first set up in Helsinki in 1984 to promote research networks between Nordic art historians, it identified its main task as organising a triennial NORDIK conference. Nine conferences and almost 30 years on, that task was entrusted to Pettersson when, as chair of the Board from 2010–12, she presided over the organisation of the 10th NORDIK conference, which took place in Stockholm in 2012.

One of the key features of NORDIK is its commitment to bring together scholars from both university and museum contexts, as historically these have been separate organisational strands in the field of art history. As Pettersson explains: ‘If you take the example of the history of the Ateneum, the key people who were Board members of the Finnish Art Society – one of the predecessors of the FNG – were art historians working at the university, so at that time they had feet in both camps. That was the situation until the Second World War.

‘However, after the War people working in the museums formed one team and those at the universities formed another, and they didn’t really communicate too much. This situation continued until the early 1980s – it was very much the case in Finland but it was also the case in other European countries, so setting up the Nordic Committee for Art History as a network brought together people from both camps.

Pettersson firmly believes that the NORDIK conference is a game-changer in bringing art historians together in this way. Among the many benefits of the conference, she identifies three key advantages.

Read More

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>



Conference Abstracts from four Finnish delegates


Ålandian Landscape – There’s Always a Meaning in a Seemingly Meaningless Landscape
Anna-Maria Wiljanen, PhD, Executive Director, UPM-Kymmene Cultural Foundation

Download the Abstract as a PDF >>

From the Blade of Grass to Musical Landscapes – Japonisme and Musicality in Nordic Art
Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Senior Curator, Ateneum Art Museum

Download the Abstract as a PDF >>

Tyko Sallinen and the Marginalisation of the Russian Avant-garde in his Art
Timo Huusko, PhDLic., Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery

Download the Abstract as a PDF >>

Technological Utopia versus Cultural Dystopia – Discussing Peripheral Modernisms and Modern Cultural Identities in Finland after the Second World War
Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director, Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery

Download the Abstract as a PDF >>

Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Conferences: Contemporary Takes on Helene Schjerfbeck

Ateneum Art Museum Research Conference

21 April 2015

A professional seminar, held in the Ateneum Hall, took a deep dive into the research that is being conducted on Helene Schjerfbeck both in Finland and internationally.

The seminar was in English and open for all.

Conference Programme

Helene Schjerfbeck: The Brightest Pearl of the Ateneum’s Collection

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

Published in Helene Schjerfbeck, Reflections. Edited by Naoki Sato. Tokyo: Kyuryodo Publishing, 2015, 202–205.

Helene Schjerfbeck is one of the most important artists in the Ateneum Art Museum’s collection. Today, her works arouse unreserved admiration the world over. Schjerfbeck is associated with vision, integrity and the notion of blazing one’s own trail. She saw what others were doing but did what she wanted to do – regardless of public response.

However, Schjerfbeck’s position in the European, Nordic or even Finnish art field was not always so self-evident. When she was born in 1862, Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia. The populace spoke Swedish, Finnish and Russian, while the intelligentsia who had travelled widely in Central Europe also spoke French fluently. Literature, theatre and music blossomed. Yet the situation was different when it came to art. There was not a single public art collection in the country, the number of private art collectors could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the few exhibitions that had been held were relatively modest.

This article focuses on the history of the acquisitions of Schjerfbeck’s works, primarily in regard to the collection of the Finnish Art Society, which formed the basis of the Ateneum Art Museum/Finnish National Gallery collection. One could assume that the acquisitions made for the collection reveal something essential about the expectations surrounding the artist, the artistic concepts of the day and how they changed. Schjerfbeck was recognised early on as a highly gifted artist – so we may well consider how this is reflected in the history of the collection.

Featured image: Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1915. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Read More — Download ‘Helene Schjerfbeck: The Brightest Pearl of the Ateneum’s Collection’ by Susanna Pettersson as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Helene Schjerfbeck: Biography writes the Artist and her Art

Marja-Terttu Kivirinta, PhD, Art Historian, University of Helsinki

Helene Schjerfbeck and the Darkness in her Paintings: From The Door to Three Pears on a Plate

Lena Holger, Art Historian, Author, Stockholm

Self-Portraits as Anti-Portraits: The Universalism of Helene Schjerfbeck’s Art

Bettina Gockel, Professor of Art History, Chair, History of Fine Arts, University of Zürich

Me, Myself and Everyone: Perspectives on Helene Schjerfbeck’s (Self-)Portraits

Annika Landmann, PhD Candidate, Art Historian, University of Hamburg

Mood, Masks, and Melancholy – On Emotion in the Art of Helene Schjerfbeck

Marie Christine Tams, PhD Candidate, University of the Arts, Berlin

Art and Fashion: Schjerfbeck’s Modern Women

Marja Lahelma, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Edinburgh

Helene Schjerfbeck – Painting the Immaterial and Eternal

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum

Read More and Download the Conference Abstracts as PDFs >>

Magnus Enckell, Boy With Skull, 1893. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

Conferences: AAH Annual Conference 2015, Norwich

Finnish National Gallery’s Contribution

Grey Matters

Interview by Gill Crabbe

For many years, Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Chief Curator of the Ateneum Art Museum, has taken part in the Association of Art Historians’ conferences. Here, she discusses the paper she gave at this year’s conference in Norwich, in the session on Shades of Grey

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff is something of a pioneer in Finnish art-historical circles. Since 2007 she has been a keen participant in the conferences of the Association of Art Historians which are a platform for art historians to present their research to colleagues from all over the world. ‘I first took part when I was a postgraduate student, giving a paper on Finnish Mural Art at the turn of the 20th century. At some of the conferences, I was the only Finnish delegate’, she says.

Over the years she has been promoting these annual conferences to her Finnish colleagues and within the Finnish National Gallery. Now every year people from different departments at FNG are beating a path to it. The conferences, which take place in Britain, are usually attended by around 300 professionals worldwide, and offer several sessions on different themes, with four or five papers presented within each session. Von Bonsdorff’s enthusiasm for the benefits of taking part is palpable. ‘It’s an amazing chance to get a 20-minute glimpse of someone’s life’s work. Often the surprises come when you attend a session that is outside of your own field.’

At this year’s AAH conference in Norwich, Von Bonsdorff brought her own area of interest in the use of colour in late 19th-century Nordic and European art to the session on ‘Shades of Grey: Painting Without Colour’. Given the title of the session, why did she choose to title her paper ‘Picturing the Immaterial With Colour: Symbolist Ideal’? Was she making a point about how grey has been regarded as a non-colour?

Read More — Download ‘Grey Matters’, an interview of Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>



Picturing the Immaterial with Colour – Symbolist Ideal?

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum


When I first read about this session, ‘Shades of Grey: Painting without Colour’ I was thrilled since there are very few sessions that are actually devoted to colour and its research.

I’m delighted to have this opportunity to introduce a concept, which formed a big part of my doctoral thesis, namely Colour Asceticism. With this colour concept I have studied colour and meaning in Finnish and international art from the 1860s to 1906.

In this paper I discuss how the turn towards colour – that is when ‘material’ became a part of the content – is one of the main signifiers of Modernism in European art. First, my focus is on the new adaptation of the more achromatic palette which was broadly used during late 19th century, not just in the Nordic countries, but also elsewhere in Europe. The use of a colour ascetic palette was especially popular within the Symbolist circles. At the time, this kind of ‘reduced palette’ carried certain connotations, such as spirituality, musicality, harmony, melancholy, stillness, intimacy, silence and immateriality, and these concepts were among the topics widely discussed in the art circles of the turn of the 20th century. Moreover, ‘abstract’ elements, such as musicality and spirituality, which were so highly valued in this period, were not introduced through form, composition or subject, first, but through the idea of colour harmonies.

Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Boy With Skull, 1893. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Read More — Download ‘Picturing the Immaterial with Colour – Symbolist Ideal?’ by Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>