Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Reuniting Tiepolos in 2020

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum

 

1 October 2020

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of international borders has caused major problems for the collaboration of museums worldwide. However, this situation which we all are experiencing, whether we are in Finland or in London, has encouraged museums to find new ways to connect and to work together with colleagues. Museums are also willing to make compromises on their usual procedures, for example with loans to institutions abroad. In a way, I would say that the difficulties have strengthened the will to co-operate and make things happen. This has certainly been the case with the exhibition ‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’, which opened at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in September. All of our partner museums were dedicated to making sure the loans that had been agreed reached their destination and they were ready to work very hard to realise our common goal. In the end, the pandemic has also had positive effects – paradoxically this widespread isolation has at the same strengthened the international museum community.

Another aspect of museum work that has gained new attention is the importance and value of museum collections. It might seem a cliché to say that the collection is the heart of a museum. Now collections and the research relating to them have been rediscovered. At the Sinebrychoff Art Museum we have focused on the research work concerning the jewels of our collection during recent years. Conducting research on old masters is time-consuming and is of course based on collaboration with various specialists in the field. The aim of our research is to lead to an exhibition project, which allows us to show our own artworks in their proper and meaningful context. Our Lucas Cranach exhibition in the autumn 2019 was our first of this kind.

‘Tiepolo – Venice in the North’ began as a research project concerning the provenance of two paintings in our museum’s collection. The paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambattista Tiepolo and the Greeks Sacking Troy, by his son Giandomenico Tiepolo, are both oil sketches, which are preparations for full-scale paintings. The National Gallery in London also has two more oil sketches belonging to the same series of the Trojan Horse, namely the Building of the Trojan Horse and The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy. We know that these three oil sketches were still together in the early 19th century, when they were sold in St Petersburg. Now, for the first time in 200 years, the three paintings are reunited in Helsinki. This marks one of the major highlights of the show.

In addition to paintings, an important part of the oeuvres of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo are their drawings and etchings, and these are also well represented in the exhibition. The Sinebrychoff Art Museum has recently acquired a rare, double-sided drawing by Giambattista. The sketch, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso) is related to the lost frescoes of the Palazzo Archinto in Milan. Scholars are aware of only a few of Giambattista’s early works in chalk and therefore these studies form an important point of reference. Special mention must be also made of a rare loan from the National Library of Finland, an album containing the complete production of etchings by the family members, published by Giandomenico after the death of his father. This album is a uniquely well-preserved example of a first edition hitherto unknown to Tiepolo scholars.

The preliminary idea for the exhibition concept in 2015 was to bring the Trojan Horse series together. However, we soon realised that the Tiepolo small-scale paintings and oil sketches in other Nordic countries, and in Russia, should be included too. Many of the paintings have an important and early provenance related to the royal houses both in Sweden and Russia. Some of these paintings had arrived in these countries already during the lifetime of Giambattista. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue focus on the story behind his far-reaching reputation and the diffusion of this art to the most northern parts of Europe. The show is the result of a longstanding collaboration between the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, international experts in the Tiepolo field and museum curators in St Petersburg, Stockholm, London and Venice.

Ira Westergård, the Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, has served as the project manager for this ambitious initiative, which comprises research on the provenance of our two Tiepolo paintings and the exhibition project. In this issue we publish an interview with Ira Westergård, by Gill Crabbe. The article reveals the fascinating world of provenance research.

The Ateneum Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art  Kiasma also share the same ambition and passion to promote the research concerning the Finnish National Gallery’s collection. Senior researcher Anu Utriainen presents Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) an artist who was virtually forgotten for many decades in post-war art history and only rediscovered quite recently. Elga Seseman – A Women Artist Rediscovered is a research project that will culminate in an exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in 2021. Meanwhile, in September the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma opened its exhibition on the sound artist and musician Mika Vainio (1966–2017). The three articles from the exhibition catalogue that we publish in this issue – by Kati Kivinen, Leevi Haapala and Rikke Lundgreen – delineate a portrait of this versatile sound artist and composer, who took part in many international group exhibitions, presenting his spatial sound installations.

This issue of FNG Research also includes a peer-reviewed article by Professor Juliet Simpson, who presents new research on the reception and Nachleben (afterlife) of the art of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) during the 19th century and especially during the latter part of it. The paper is entitled ‘Lucas Cranach’s Legacies – “Primitive” and Rooted identities of Art and Nation at the European Fin de Siècle.’

Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its fifth Call for Research Interns.

With warm wishes for the coming season.

Featured image: Giambattista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto) and Study of a Male Head (verso), c. 1730–31, white and black chalk on paper, 28.5cm x 21cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy at left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932. Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Inspirational Artworks

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery

 

23 July 2020

 

The extraordinary situation we faced this spring with the Covid-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown prompted many interesting art-related phenomena on the web, among them the amusing challenge to the general public to restage famous artworks in their homes. People used their imaginations to set the scenes and role-play the figures in real-life artworks, then posted myriad images of the real artworks alongside their ‘art selfies’ on social media. This quarantine art challenge brings to mind, quite naturally, the tableaux vivants tradition that was flourishing in the 19th century and has survived to some extent up to today. As people around the world chose their favourites among the well-known – iconic – artworks, it would be interesting to know which ones inspired people most, both internationally and in Finland. What are the most iconic artworks today? I do hope somebody is already studying that.

Another kind of look to inspiration and iconic works is the Ateneum Art Museum’s current exhibition, which opened a couple of weeks after the museums in Finland were allowed to reopen at the beginning of June. ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classicspresents art that draws inspiration from iconic masterpieces, created by contemporary artists. These include internationally known artists, like Marina Abramović, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Nancy Fouts, Ola Kolehmainen, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Jeff Koons, Sara Masüger and Joseph Kosuth. The exhibition was first on show at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but only for a month because of the lockdown, and now it is on display with slightly modified contents at the Ateneum.

The canon of iconic masterpieces varies in different times, but there seem to be artists and artworks that have maintained this status for a long period, some of them since Giorgio Vasari published his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, in 1550. Italian Renaissance art still comes very high on the list, as does Dutch Golden Age art with Rembrandt at the top. Besides the contemporary artworks that are inspired by these masters, the exhibition at the Ateneum features works from the historical collection of copies at the Finnish National Gallery. These include copies of works by European masters, created, for example, by Magnus Enckell and Helene Schjerfbeck, which reveal to us what was appreciated at the turn of the 19th century.

At the Ateneum show, there are also 10 display cases highlighting the exhibition theme via the archive and library collections of the Finnish National Gallery. These were curated by an expert team working in the Archive and Library Unit at the FNG, and I had the pleasure of being a member of this team. I find this element an essential part of the exhibition (although, I admit, I may not be objective in this matter, having worked for a long time with the archive collections). The material goes back to the foundation in 1846 of the precursor to the FNG, the Finnish Art Society, and to the construction of the Ateneum building in the 1880s with its façade programme representing the iconic artists and architects. It covers themes like the role of copies both in art studies and in the collections, the importance of photographs documenting historical works for artists and art education before the time of the internet, the art history books promoting the iconic status of artworks and museums, and naturally iconic artists, too. There are handwritten documents, from letters to inventory lists, a wide range of photographic material, and art history books and picture portfolios on display. The archival material is indispensable for art history research, that is obvious, but our exhibition once again proves how this kind of material can widen the context of the subject for those who want to deepen their knowledge. The ‘Inspiration’ exhibition is a dialogue between history and contemporary art at its best.

In this issue of the FNG Research we take a look at the theme and research behind the ‘Inspiration exhibition’ from two angles. Gill Crabbe talks about them with one of the main curators of the exhibition, Susanna Pettersson, former Director of the Ateneum Art Museum and now Director General of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but also a researcher and museum historian herself. Besides that we republish two excellent articles from the exhibition catalogue. Michaela Giebelhausen, from Central St Martins, London, writes in her article ‘Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art’ about ‘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’. In his article ‘1842 – The Art History of Handbooks and Anachronic Icons’ Dan Karlholm, art history professor at Södertörn University, Stockholm, discusses two buildings that were commissioned to express the German spirit and Germanness – the Walhalla and Cologne Cathedral – and how they are actually both anachronic and contemporary, mixing different historical styles and elements.

In this issue FNG Research proudly continues its commitment to publish new research as peer-reviewed articles. In Dr Ari Tanhuanpää’s article, a totally different kind of approach to an artwork or its existence is offered, through discussing Jacques Derrida’s quasi-concept the reste and the neologism he derived from it, restance. The article consists of Tanhuanpää’s reading of an essay by Derrida entitled Athens, Still Remains (2010) (Demeure, Athènes, 2009), which the philosopher wrote to accompany photographs taken by Jean-François Bonhomme in Athens. In his article, Tanhuanpää’s starting point, however, is a tiny painting in the FNG collections at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, depicting a dancer, which has a great deal of its paint missing. Tanhuanpää suggests that the painting’s mode of being is not subsistence, but rather restance. When looking at the painting we are actually standing before the reste.

Let’s get back to the earlier and contemporary modes of making tableaux vivants: in the ‘Inspiration’ exhibition, in one of the showcases, there is a photograph from the FNG Collection of Archived Photo Prints featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association, taken probably in 1932. The artists are copying a very famous and iconic artwork – see the picture above this editorial.

With the current issue of FNG Research I wish you all a very inspirational summer.

Featured image: Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy on the left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932.
Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila.
Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Editorial: Living in the Material World

Marja Sakari, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

 

25 March 2020

 

As I sit down to write this Editorial, the museums in Finland have been closed for more than two months. In this challenging situation, continuity also offers some consolation, the fact that everything continues despite the Covid-19 virus. At this time there is also light at the end of the tunnel, and the museums are scheduled to reopen at the beginning of June, following the decree of the Finnish government.

There is a basic need in people to see beautiful and thought-provoking things in time and space, as a bodily experience – and that is exactly what museums can offer. The digital is only a substitute.

The third issue of FNG Research we publish this year is in this sense special. The articles in this edition are, as if by accident, all related to the effect of the physical aspects in art works. They all underline the importance of materiality and the use of physical means in visual art works: a sense of materiality, the use of tactile surfaces and colours in art.

In an interview by Gill Crabbe, Hanne Tikkala, who is funded as a research assistant at FNG’s materials research laboratory to undertake research for her doctoral dissertation, discusses the use of different colours by the iconic figure in Finnish ‘Golden Age’ art, namely that of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Forgeries of his works have been circulating in abundance, even during his lifetime, which makes this research of utmost importance to the contemporary art world and art market. The research is based on a conservation project that started in 2017. FNG’s Senior Conservation Scientist Seppo Hornytzkyj, together with Tikkala, have been conducting an extensive analysis of the pigments Gallen-Kallela used, selecting works spanning his entire career, from 1880 until 1929. The research shows, among other things, that Gallen-Kallela always tried to use high-quality pigments that retain their colour, which is difficult to imitate.

The two other articles in this issue have been published in the exhibition catalogue of Silent Beauty – Nordic and East Asian Interaction, and the exhibition is currently on show in Stockholm, in the Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde museum until 16 August 2020.

In her article, ‘Sense of Materiality, Simplification and Ascetic Minimalism’, Anne-Marie Pennonen is underlining the importance of simplification and the sense of materiality in art in the period following the two World Wars. The style also became an ideological and ethical question for many artists of that time, as they combined spirituality with social idealism. As Pennonen states: ‘The importance of hand-made objects and the use of natural materials were also emphasised.’

In Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff’s article ‘A Changing Landscape’, the poetical and ideological aspects are underlined in Finnish landscape painting during the 20th century: ‘Landscapes were associated with poetry, purification and heightened emotional states’, she writes. The industrialisation of Europe prompted many artists to think about the possibilities of using landscape painting as a manifestation and expression of more spiritual ideas and that was achieved through, among other things, the deployment of colour. The ideal of simplicity too evoked parallels with music and spiritual life. A very Asian notion of emptiness and space was also emphasised.

During this period of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everybody is confined to their homes, the meaning of culture and intellectual activity becomes even more important than before. It is a question of connecting with others. Art plays an important part in bringing humanistic ways of thinking to the fore. This is something we all need – and we need it right now.

Featured image: The banner on the facade of the Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, during the closure of the museum in spring 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The text says: ‘Art is waiting until we meet again.’
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Editorial: ‘When Museums Are Open Again, the Crisis Is Over’

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

 

27 March 2020

 

Less than two weeks ago, the Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin gave a memorable press conference in which she highlighted the exceptional situation in the country due to the coronavirus epidemic. Government officials started to draft the implementation of the exceptional law to protect the most vulnerable parts of the population. One consequence is to limit large audience gatherings and to keep cultural institutions, museums and concert halls closed to avoid spreading the virus. In the FNG’s management team we could not expect it to happen that soon. We had already prepared new and safe instructions on museum etiquette for our audiences, and even stopped using devices such as touch screens and headsets to avoid direct contact among our audiences. Still, one of our key tasks is to keep museums’ doors open to serve our audiences. Now that our doors have been closed we are facing a different reality from that of two weeks ago, and asking our staff for ideas, as well as feedback from our visitors on what we should do and how we can best serve our audiences now.

During the past ten days our organisation has finally taken the famous digital leap also on an everyday level, not only as one of the institution’s strategic goals. Last week’s word was cancelling, and this weeks’ word is reorganising. Remote work from home requires all the technical support to keep digitally functioning, which is vital for keeping spirits high, teams together and projects running. Online meetings via Teams and Skype meetings, the intranet’s project work spaces, and WhatsApp groups are already in use alongside more conventional platforms like Intra news and email. Also a surprise, old-fashioned phone calls are back in our toolkit!

In the current edition of FNG Research we cover different subject matters and research interests, national, transnational and global, linked to the future of our collections. One of the key articles, by Gill Crabbe, is dedicated to the European Revivals research project initiated by the Finnish National Gallery in 2009, which aimed to examine the phenomena surrounding European national revivals from a more wide-scale international perspective. Its concluding conference, ‘Art, Life and Place: Looking at European Transnational Exchange in the Long 19th century’ earlier this year at the Ateneum Art Museum, as well as its five previous international conferences, scores of published papers and affiliated exhibitions, have broadened the scope of European revivals substantially. ‘The issue of cultural revivals, whether national, universal or local, is far more wide-reaching, multidimensional and complex than we could possibly have imagined at the beginning of this journey’, state the Director of Collections Management Dr Riitta Ojanperä and Chief Curator of the Ateneum Art Museum Dr Anna-Maria von Bondsdorff, who were both initiators of the research project.

Another text, which relates to the revival research project, is the introductory lecture by Anne-Maria Pennonen to her recent doctoral thesis In Search of Scientific and Artistic Landscape Düsseldorf Landscape Painting and Reflections of the Natural Sciences as Seen in the Artworks of Finnish, Norwegian and German Artists, which was examined in February 2020 at Helsinki University. Pennonen’s key analysis in her thesis is to explore the intellectual and mental changes in the historio-social and temporal context taking place in Finnish landscape painting in the second half of the 19th century, and ‘how the general awareness of ideas concerning nature and developments related to the history of nature changed’. Landscape in art is not only linked to landscape painting, but it is also an aesthetic category, and post-nationalistic discourse, which will be revisited in the future.

Today we are witnessing unexpected drastic changes globally in our societies. While writing this I should have been finishing my speech for the opening ceremony of the ‘Mad Love’ exhibition, curated from Seppo Fränti’s large art collection, but now the show awaits post-crisis rescheduling. Fränti’s collection is his life’s work and he donated it to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery two years ago. Obviously, this ‘opening of the decade’ had to be cancelled due to the current situation and limitations on large public gatherings. In this FNG Research edition we publish two articles that deepen our understanding of the 650 works in the donated collection.

In the first article Kiasma Collections Chief Curator Dr Kati Kivinen and Curator Dr Saara Hacklin, who together curated ‘Mad Love’, analyse the significance of the collection and describe the collection handling and management processes that were key elements in the acceptance of this large-scale donation. For nearly four decades, Fränti has been collecting mostly Finnish visual arts and especially paintings by talented young artists of the period. The statistics of the collection reveal its structure: ‘While the Fränti Collection complements the museum’s collection, it also alters it. The donation comprises works by 90 artists, of whom more than 50 are new to the museum. It also adds weight to the proportion of Finnish paintings from the 2010s in the museum’s collection.’ The Fränti Collection has come under the institution’s protective wing and is promoted to be a part of a public collection and a shared cultural heritage looked after by professionals.

In the second article on the Fränti Collection art historian Dr Juha-Heikki Tihinen brilliantly analyses the emotional contents that are activated through collecting and attempts to understand the psychological dimensions of the collector living in a labyrinth-like open art repository. Tihinen asks: ‘How should one approach a very eclectic collection?’ While museums often seem to seek coherence and comprehensive representations of certain time periods, private collectors are allowed to focus on specific artists or phenomena in art. As Tihinen points out, the Fränti Collection ‘is more of a passionate verbalisation of the opportunities and boundlessness of art’, reflecting the collector’s mental landscape within the field of contemporary art. Tihinen’s art-historical perspective takes in some iconic collectors and museum quality collections, and examines the ideals and behavioural patterns behind collecting, opening up wider understanding of the meaning of collectors for the art world. Tihinen also leaves us with an image of Seppo Fränti as an enthusiastic art lover and as a storyteller through his active and passionate role as a collector among two generations of artists in Finland.

Our task in the museums is to ask ourselves, what kind of narratives we create from this current time of epidemic crisis and its prevailing dystopic mindscape. We should ask ourselves, how do we write relevant histories in a time of crisis, and what are the lessons we should learn? Those forthcoming stories should be multiple, linked to other stories, individual narratives from all around the world, not only given official truths or nationalistic narratives. I would see our artists from local and global communities being very perceptive at this point. And the multidisciplinary results will be seen sooner than we think on different platforms, most likely first on online digital platforms, and later on in museums and galleries, when we are ready to reopen and to meet again face to face.

P.S. The title of this editorial is taken from a column by Anna-Stina Nykänen in 26 March edition of Helsingin Sanomat, entitled ‘Why the closing of the museums made me cry?’ The current epidemic reminds the author of the writings after the Second World War, when the opening of the museums was seen as a real sign of peace.

Featured image: Kiasma suljettu / stängt / closed. March 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

Joseph Alanen, Lemminkäinen and the Cowherd, 1919–20, tempera on canvas, 50cm x 64cm. Collection Maine Wartiovaara née Alanen, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: European Revivals Ten Years On

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

 

20 January 2020

 

Dear Readers,

As we enter a new decade, the FNG Research magazine is proud to launch a special collection of art-historical articles under the title European Revivals. From Dreams of a Nation to Places of Transnational Exchange. Released to coincide with an international conference this month, this publication marks the culmination of the ‘European Revivals’ research project and its accompanying series of six international conferences inaugurated in Helsinki in 2009 with subsequent conferences held also in Oslo, Krakow and Edinburgh.

On this occasion the Finnish National Gallery extends its warmest thanks to all those individuals and organisations who have taken part in and committed to realising the vision for the ‘European Revivals’ project and its research publication. Working together with our colleagues and international collaborators on both an intellectual and a practical level has been most interesting and inspiring.

The reason behind the project was to stimulate debate and reflect upon the phenomena surrounding European national revivals by bringing together and analysing the multifarious connections and correspondences that have helped to shape the identities of modern European nations. In 2009, the question of national revivalist discourses in art and art-historical research was a topical subject at the Finnish National Gallery, which had just opened a comprehensive exhibition of Finnish art based on motifs from The Kalevala past and present.

Towards the end of the 19th century, European artists began to express a new and profound interest in their unique local pasts and cultural inheritances. This growing sense of national identity prompted a major flowering of debate concerning the rapidly disappearing regional cultures throughout Europe. This was a debate that was largely shaped by the desire within several countries for cultural and artistic, and ultimately social and economic, independence. It resulted in creating new art that sought modern interpretations and links with local roots. It also resulted in art-historical and cultural historical narratives in which the uniqueness of the narratives of national or local histories were emphasised.

It was clear that art-historical scholarship on the subject had been broadly established, but the ‘European Revivals’ project aimed to examine parallel phenomena from a more wide-scale international perspective. Our key interest was to look at the similarities of these narratives, rather than their differences. In the course of the project, this approach turned out to raise lively interest among art historians in both museums and across academia.

From the outset, the project aimed to work towards producing a scientific publication which would cover the most interesting topics to have emerged over the ten years of its activities. We therefore invited several scholars who had participated in European Revivals conferences to submit articles for this publication. These peer-reviewed articles have been developed from the original papers given between 2009 and 2017.

As well as publishing research articles and other information concerning the Finnish National Gallery’s research activities, we are continuing to develop our research intern programme. Each year, we recruit for a period of three months up to three, master’s-level art history students to study a chosen topic arising from material in our research archives. The aim is to publish an article based on their research process, supported and tutored by our in-house professionals.

From the applications received last year, two research interns for 2020 have been selected. Karita Kivikoski, from the University of Helsinki, is studying the artist Leena Luostarinen and her artistic output during the 1980s–90s from the point of view of the reception of her works and discourse analysis. She will be researching press clippings, interviews and exhibition catalogues related to Luostarinen and her art works in the collection of the Finnish National Gallery. Olga Korka, from the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, is studying Ilya Repin’s years in Finland and the Finnish-Russian cultural relations based on Repin-related archival material and Repin’s art works in the collections of the Finnish National Gallery.

The call for research interns for 2021 will be launched in autumn 2020. During this year, the FNG Research magazine will be published every second month, continuing its in-depth exploration of the research interests behind the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums’ exhibition programmes. We also invite scholars to submit articles that are linked with or relevant to our extensive collections.

Wishing you all a most inspiring new decade,

Dr Riitta Ojanperä

Featured image: Joseph Alanen, Lemminkäinen and the Cowherd, 1919–20, tempera on canvas, 50cm x 64cm. Collection Maine Wartiovaara née Alanen, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Helene Schjerfbeck, Landscape from St Ives, Barnoon Villa, 1887, ink on paper, 11.5cm x 18cm- Friends of Ateneum Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Editorial: Support Strategies

Marja Sakari, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

 

27 November 2019

 

When I first read the articles for this edition of FNG Research, I did not think there was any particular connection between them. The articles covered curatorial issues, a doctoral thesis on Helene Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits, and a conference paper on the theme of the subjectile and the play between immateriality and materiality. However, a closer look reveals that, in fact, they all have quite a lot in common. Ari Tanhuanpää’s article is based on his contribution for this autumn’s Tahiti 8 conference and is titled ‘All the Leaves in the World: the Subjectile as a Problem’. Tanhuanpää claims in his article that paper, or indeed any other support in an artwork, is something that oscillates between materiality and immateriality.

In the same way, I suppose, curatorial work is the invisible or immaterial aspect that constitutes a support for the artworks to be displayed in an exhibition. The public won’t necessarily notice the curatorial decisions but these play an important part in the narrative of the exhibition. The curatorial underpinnings make visible some issues and ideas, whereas others might remain obscured.

In an exhibition display, the entire design can be thought as the subjectile. The colours of the walls, and the arrangement and juxtaposition of the artworks are there to emphasise meaning. But for the audience the support remains ‘immaterial’ in the same sense that in Tanhuanpää’s article Susanne Gottberg’s plywood support stays quasi-unseen and immaterial as the background for her images.

I am writing this editorial in Paris, having visited many exhibitions here and also in London. The context gives meaning. For example, today we look very differently at the portraits by Gauguin, following the #Metoo debate, as we also look differently at the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters’ exhibition in the context of the current discoveries about women in art. Then again, even when an exhibition is mounted within a ‘white cube’ context, with its neutral background, as was the case in the 1950s, it has significance, as Mariliis Rebane points out in her article revisiting the Collection Display at the Ateneum Art Museum in 1959. The white cube underlines the modernist idea of artworks being something by themselves. Any kind of stories would just disturb the purity of painting.

The modernist purity of painting is disrupted in Helene Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits, as Patrik Nyberg discusses in the interview with Marja Lahelma and Gill Crabbe. In his doctoral thesis, Painted Faces: the Self-Portraits of Helene Schjerfbeck, Modernism and Representation, Nyberg argues that the idea within modernism, that a painting should not interact with the viewer but be its autonomous self, is interrupted in Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits. I also link Nyberg’s ideas on Schjerfbeck’s painting to the discussion of the immaterial and material support for painting. She was actually using the support of the canvas as an essential part of the painting by scratching paint away, having first covered the canvas with it.

This issue of FNG Research is published to coincide with the Helene Schjerfbeck exhibition that has travelled from London to the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki. Almost all of the works that were shown in the London exhibition are also on display in the Helsinki show. Yet these two exhibitions are nevertheless very different. This becomes evident in Gill Crabbe’s interview with Chief Curator of the Ateneum Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, who was a key player in the curation of the Helene Schjerfbeck exhibitions in both London and Helsinki. The Helsinki version is different because, in addition, it contains many works that were not shown in London. But the essential difference is more on a conceptual level. As the article states: ‘While the London exhibition was very much an introduction to Schjerfbeck’s work, based on in-depth research covering her entire career, and giving centre stage to the artist’s remarkable body of self-portraits, the Helsinki show required a different treatment for an artist who is a household name in Finland and who is regarded as a national treasure.’

The research projects continue, and the next issue of FNG Research will concentrate on the results of the European Revivals research project. The Finnish National Gallery is also organising the project’s concluding conference in January 2020. Registration is now open – visit https://research.fng.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/european_revivals_programme.pdf for the conference programme and how to register..

Featured image: Helene Schjerfbeck, Landscape from St Ives, Barnoon Villa, 1887, ink on paper, 11.5cm x 18cm- Friends of Ateneum Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1525, oil on panel, 41cm x 27cm. O. W. Klinckowström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: On the Trail of the Old Masters

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

 

24 September 2019

 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) the great German Renaissance Master, and Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), one of the most well-known Finnish women painters, are taking centre stage in Helsinki and in London in two important exhibitions.

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s exhibition ‘Lucas Cranach – Renaissance Beauties’ presents an area of Cranach’s oeuvre that has received less attention: female beauty and nudes. The starting point for the exhibition concept was the only two Cranach paintings located in Finland, which belong to the Sinebrychoff Art Museum collections: Portrait of a Young Woman (1525) and Lucretia (1530). This is the first monographic exhibition of Cranach to take place in Finland and includes paintings and prints from across Europe’s collections.

We decided to revisit our two Cranach paintings in terms of technical investigation, as well as art-historical research in connection to the forthcoming exhibition. Portrait of a Young Woman was studied comprehensively about 30 years ago, but now there is extensive new technical research data about Cranach’s work that is easily accessible to researchers through Cranach Digital Archive project. At the same time research by art historians has deepened our understanding of Cranach’s art.

Professor Gunnar Heydenreich is head of the Cranach Digital Archive and the leading expert on Cranach’s workshop. We are really delighted and grateful that Dr Heydenreich had time to travel to Helsinki and study the paintings together with our specialists. In this issue we publish an interview with Dr Heydenreich, by Gill Crabbe. The article paints a vivid picture of the art-historical research today and and the refined technical methods used nowadays by conservators in studying works of art.

The major exhibition of Helene Schjerfbeck at London’s Royal Academy of Arts marks an important collaboration with the Ateneum Art Museum. The show will travel to Helsinki later in the autumn. We publish an interview with independent curator Jeremy Lewison who put together the exhibition along with the co-curators Anna-Maria von Bondsdorff, who is Chief Curator at the Ateneum Art Museum, and the RA’s Sarah Lea. Lewison describes the powerful impact Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits had on him, and how they have also been given a significant role in the exhibition. He also emphasises Schjerfbeck’s strong connection with Old Master painting, underlining her engagement with the tradition and her own transformation of it within the modern or the early modernist tradition. Also in this issue, the painter and Royal Academician Ian McKeever reflects on Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits in the context of the development of this genre in Western art. Meanwhile, curator Anu Utriainen offers a more general view on women artists who were active in Finland during the early 20th century in her article dealing with historical, economic and social aspects. This article is also in the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Creating the Self: Emancipating Woman in Estonian and Finnish Art’ that opens at Kumu, Art Museum of Estonia, in Tallinn on 6 December 2019.

Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its fourth Call for Research Interns, for 2020.

Finally a reminder that this is the last chance to submit proposals for the European Revivals Conference at the Ateneum in January 2020. The deadline is 30 September 2019.

Featured image: Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1525, oil on panel,
41cm x 27cm. O. W. Klinckowström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Art and the More-than-human World

 Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery

 

23 July 2019

 

Artists have always been in the forefront of tackling important questions of life and the world, and one of the roles of museums and researchers is to make these issues visible both in contemporary society and in art and history.

The latest collection exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, ‘Coexistence’, explores a hot topic that stretches way beyond the realms of art –– the relationship between humans and nature, including climate change, between humans and more-than-humans, but also between humans and humans (minorities). In this edition of FNG Research we publish four articles connected to the exhibition, all studying the above mentioned themes – all very topical in academic research, too.

Sanna Karhu writes about the contradictory relationship of humans to other animal species, ranging from speciesism to the possibility of coexistence. Saara Hacklin’s subject is temporality and the Anthropocene in contemporary art, while Satu Oksanen explores the challenges of reconciling the divergent rhythms of a museum and non-human life. Kati Kivinen’s article reflects on how people feel an increasing urge to connect with the past, to unite ancient customs and rituals with today’s digitised existence, and how this has given birth to a global interest in local heritage, traditions, and alternative belief systems, also in contemporary art. Hacklin, Kivinen and Oksanen work as staff members at Kiasma and are curators of the ‘Coexistence’ exhibition.

Our research intern programme at the Finnish National Gallery has once again produced excellent results, which we publish in this issue. MA student Emma Lilja, who worked as an intern this spring, writes about artist Outi Pieski and her installation, Our Land, Our Running Colours (2015). From one artwork Lilja widens her study of the artist to include many focal issues: landscape, environment, Sámi handicraft tradition and identity, tradition and art museums, and the rights-of-nature debate.

In this issue we also have an opportunity to a reconsider a period in Finnish art history from a totally new angle, shedding fresh light on some very well-known art works in the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Collection as they are studied from an esoteric and occult point of view. Occulture is a current trend both in art-historical research and exhibitions. In June, Gill Crabbe from FNG Research attended an international conference on wide-ranging themes of esoteric influences on culture at the University of Turku and writes about two of the presentations on subjects connected to art history given by two Finnish researchers, Nina Kokkinen and Marja Lahelma. This new gaze gives fascinating insights into artworks by Ellen Thesleff, Pekka Halonen, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Hugo Simberg.

A call-for-papers is now open for an international conference that the Finnish National Gallery is organising in January 2020 at the Ateneum Art Museum. The conference with the theme ‘Art, Life and Place: Looking at European Transnational Exchange in the Long 19th Century’ concludes the international research project ‘European Revivals’ that the Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum began in 2009. We are looking forward to receiving a great number of interesting proposals, so remember to submit yours by 30 September 2019 (please see https://research.fng.fi/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/european_revivals_call_for_papers.pdf).

I wish you all a nice and warm summer with a photo from our archive collections depicting the summer life over a hundred years ago: the Finnish artist Hugo Simberg with the family spending a cheerful day by sea at their summer paradise Niemenlautta in Säkkijärvi, Karelia, in 1905.

Featured image: Finnish artist Hugo Simberg (far left) and his family by the seaside at Niemenlautta in Säkkijärvi, Karelia, in 1905. Hugo Simberg Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Ane Graff, Ingela Ihrman, States of Inflammation, 2019. A Great Seaweed Day, 2018–2019 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial: Weather Report – Voicing a Call for Nordic Responsibility

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

24 May 2019

 

Last year, when Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery took responsibility for co-ordinating the Nordic Pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale, we decided to focus on the main global concern of our times. The Nordic Pavilion’s exhibition, Weather Report: Forecasting Future, is themed around the complex and varied relations between the human and non-human in an age when climate change and mass extinction are threatening the future of life on Earth.

From this year on, the Nordic Pavilion’s exhibition will be co-commissioned by a Nordic Committee representing the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery, Moderna Museet, Stockholm and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway. Together, these three institutions will select the curator and review the proposed themes and artists, and we will jointly provide institutional support for efforts to raise the profile of Nordic contemporary art.

The multiple components of climate change are anticipated to affect all levels of biodiversity. Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on our natural environment.

It is often difficult for we humans to notice life forms that exist on a scale different from our own. When imagining the future, we face the responsibility of acknowledging multispecies entanglements.

According to a recent report in Finland, 12 per cent of all species are under serious threat of extinction. As Ane Graff, the Nordic Pavilion’s Norwegian artist, reminded me the other day: ‘Our human guts are the interface to our environment: the extinction of bacteria in our guts reflects directly the extinction of other species in nature.’ Biodiversity affects our food, medicine, and environmental well-being.

At its most interesting, contemporary art engages in public discourse through questions, proposals and provocations put forward by individual artists and, to a growing degree, also cross-disciplinary projects. Art enriches our vision of the future by casting light on its many dimensions and opportunities.[i] While voicing a call for responsibility, future-sketching is often a collective process that brings people together. The Nordic Pavilion provides a forum for reflection on the future in various formats: in our curatorial notes, in the selected exhibits, and in a series of scholarly discussions.

Along with Ane Graff, the other artists invited to exhibit in the Nordic Pavilion this year are Ingela Ihrman from Sweden, and nabbteeri, an artist collective from Finland. They all work across a wide range of media, including sculpture, digital media and text. Their practice is interdisciplinary and often produced collaboratively or in dialogue with experts from specific fields.

The work of artist duo Janne Nabb and Maria Teeri is context-specific, engaging in close interaction with the venue and its immediate location, materials, and multispecies neighbours. Their new intervention, Ethnographies of a homespun spinelessness cult and other neighbourly relations, consists of three parts: a 3D-animation and plant installation, Gingerbread House, displayed in an enclosure of sandbags; Compost, a compost heap growing herbs and vegetables outside the pavilion in a container made of discarded mooring dolphins partly digested by naval shipworms; and Dead Head, a wire sphere, also outside the pavilion, that contains twigs collected from the immediate environs. Together, they constitute an endeavour to create a self-maintaining, life-producing ecosystem in front of the pavilion.

Ane Graff employs a wide-ranging multidisciplinary approach incorporating perspectives ranging from feminist new materialism to microbiology and chemistry. In her Cabinets of Inflammation, Graff focuses on the environmental toxins in our daily environment and their destructive effect on vital microbes in our bodies. Graff’s works make connections between climate change, Western societies driven by economic growth, the extinction of immune-modulating intestinal microbes and the spread of inflammatory diseases. The three beautiful glass vitrines and objects on display refer to the human body and its current inflammatory state, emitting signals from the past and hinting at possible future scenarios.

Ingela Ihrman comments on the environmental wave of the 1970s, while also drawing from queer theory and ethnobiology. In the exhibition Ihrman highlights colourful species of algae in her multipart installation A Great Seaweed Day, which reflects on the direct, near-bodily connection between humans and other species. Ihrman’s algae installation tells a story of the liquid origins of human bodies and the existing connections between diverse lifeforms. Silent, large-scale seaweed sculptures invite the exhibition visitors to partake in a bodily experience. I believe that a growing interest in the energy stored in seaweed also yields a promise of a viable renewable alternative for our future post-fossil age.

In this edition of FNG Research we republish three newly commissioned catalogue essays from the Weather Report. Forecasting Future exhibition catalogue. In her contribution ‘Being and thinking with(in) the pavilion space’, co-curator of the exhibition Piia Oksanen writes about how ‘the exhibition is a temporary guest that must adapt to the space’ with its three European nettle trees (Celtis australis) growing inside the pavilion. Hanna Johansson, Professor of Contemporary Art Research at the Academy of Fine Arts/University of the Arts Helsinki, writes a critical reappraisal of climate issues from the perspective of air and the atmosphere, within the context of art and philosophy. A new media theorist Jussi Parikka, Professor in Technological Culture & Aesthetics at the Winchester School of Art/ Southampton University, analyses the challenges of forecasting the future, both throughout history and in this age of climate crisis, in his essay ‘Abstractions – and how to be here and there at the same time’. The catalogue is co-published and distributed by Mousse Magazine and Publishing.

We are also delighted to publish a new article by our recent research intern Eljas Suvanto. In his article ‘Examining the acquisitions of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 1939–46: a case study of Arvid Sourander’s donations’, Suvanto focuses on the ideas behind the acquisitions of the time of the Second World War. His motivation is to understand the formation of the collection during that time of crisis through correlations and variations between purchases and donations, especially from the perspective of a specific private donor, whose donated collection contains 63 works now in the Ateneum – a museum governed by the newly established Fine Arts Academy of Finland at that time.

[i] Renata Tyszczuk and Joe Smith, Culture and climate change scenarios: the role and potential of the arts and humanities in responding to the ‘1.5 degrees target’, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2018, volume 31, 56–64.

Featured image: Installation view of works by the artists at the Nordic Pavilion exhibition, Venice Biennale, 2019
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

The Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society, painting class in 1899. In the front row from left Väinö Hämäläinen, Thyra Malmström, Maria Boehm, and Agnes Leidenius. In the middle from left: Hanna Hirn, Ester Hougberg, Lydia Bäckström, and Karin Nordensvahn. In the back row from left: Edit Petander, Bruno Hahl, teacher Albert Gebhard (1869–1937), nude model and Sigrid Lehrbäck. Photographer Jakob Ljungqvist, Helsinki 1899. The Väinö Hämäläinen Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Restructuring Art-historical Canons

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

 

26 March 2019

 

All art historians most probably know Linda Nochlin’s ground breaking article with its challenging title ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ (ARTnews, January 1971). The feminist approach and growing interest in women artists who were left out of the canon of art history is echoed also in the Finnish art history scene and research on Finnish artist women has been published, especially from the 1980s onwards.

Reorganising art-historical canons seems not to be a quick and easy process but rather one that involves generations of researchers, curators and other actors of the art world. Let us take as an example the Swedish painter who has her first solo show in the United States at the Guggenheim, New York, up to the 23 April. Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) is among the artists who were presented in the exhibition ‘The Spiritual in Art’ and its comprehensive catalogue in 1986 and thus her name has been known at least by those art historians who have been interested in spiritual ideas connected with art. Now the time seems to be right for establishing her rightful status in the history of pioneering abstract artists. In this issue Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff is writing in the context of a current exhibition at the Ateneum, about František Kupka who, on the other hand, is among the recognized abstract painters from the early 1900s.

Interestingly, the Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) was born the same year as Hilma af Klint. Schjerfbeck’s art is exceptionally well represented in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections and has so far been shown, for example, in Paris, Hamburg and in several venues in Japan. An exhibition arranged by the Royal Academy of Arts in London and co-curated by the RA and the FNG, is opening in July. Current trends of looking at modernity in art from angles other than solely the aspiration towards abstract expression, are apt to pave the way for deepening recognition of artists like Schjerfbeck in the context of European modern art. In an interview published in this issue of FNG Research Marja Sakari, who has recently taken up her new role as director of the oldest of our three museums, the Ateneum, discusses research prospects, such as those concerning women artists.

Art-historical canons have traditionally been based on the idea of individual artists implementing exceptional or even heroic human creativity in the anthropocentric modern world. In this issue of FNG Research Satu Oksanen, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, discusses the work of Alma Heikkilä, a contemporary artist woman whose solo exhibition is shown in the museum. Heikkilä challenges both the anthropocentric world view and the traditional idea of unique and individual authorship in art. Her art practice is linked with environmental issues and human impacts on ecosystems. As Oksanen writes: ‘During this epoch of ecological threat, taking action means searching for new ways of existing, speculating, and recognising the agency of the non-human. (…) Heikkilä strives to broaden the scope of authorship beyond the individual, dismantling structural hierarchies and making space for more-than-human agencies. In doing so, she challenges not only anthropocentrism, but also museum conventions.’

Featured image: The Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society, painting class in 1899. In the front row from left Väinö Hämäläinen, Thyra Malmström, Maria Boehm, and Agnes Leidenius. In the middle from left: Hanna Hirn, Ester Hougberg, Lydia Bäckström, and Karin Nordensvahn. In the back row from left: Edit Petander, Bruno Hahl, teacher Albert Gebhard (1869–1937), nude model and Sigrid Lehrbäck. Photographer Jakob Ljungqvist, Helsinki 1899. The Väinö Hämäläinen Archive. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery