The reverse of Domenico Bossi’s miniature painting Mayor Nelander, 5.5cm x 5.5cm Sinebrychoff Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Simo Karisalo

Editorial: The Art Experiment, Bodily Approaches and Material Support

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

 

6 July 2022

 

A work of art always needs a material support and structure to be presented to an audience. And art is always exhibited in specific circumstances that are framed by the cultural and political discussions of the day. In our summer edition of FNG Research, we have selected four different articles, which at first glance are not easy to categorise according to specific thematic guidelines. Still, taking them all together, the questions of materiality, objecthood and the art beholder’s presence in the shared space with the work of art, seem to be relevant even if the artworks derive from different time periods.

Materiality and the sense of touch are very topical interests for living artists, along with the intensification of societal topics. The Chief Curator of exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma João Laia opens the key narratives in the ARS22 exhibition entitled ‘Living Encounters’. Our aim in the show was to include a multitude of different media to highlight the variety of contemporary practices, which artists are using today. At the same time, we also wanted to bring together a range of local and global geographies and in so doing making various material cultures visible. Then alongside the artefacts there is temporary live art as well as performances to create a specific atmosphere for the show. Laia reminds us in his article that ‘(b)y countering mediated forms of isolated digital connectivity with actual bodily and dialogical exchanges, these expanded live practices create spaces of communal experimentation, places of imaginative possibility where social formations can emerge in shared manners’.

Among the many works, the exhibition includes Marina Abramović and Ulay’s seminal performative experiments exploring the embeddedness of the spiritual in the bodily, which were originally presented in 1983 at the Ateneum Art Museum as a part of the ‘ARS83’ exhibition. A few black-and-white documentation photographs in our archives witness the event, and one of those is presented in the current version of the ARS22 exhibition, creating a historical link to live art practices in the show. It is fascinating to recognise that a world famous artist, like Abramović, has a history from her early days in Helsinki.

The Ateneum in its early days also ran an art school next to the museum collection in the same premises. And so the presence of naked bodies, in the anatomy classes and croquis drawing sessions, had a history in the very same gallery spaces as today’s museum. Now this early history of bodies has been researched by Laura Nissinen via the 19th-century anatomy drawings in the Finnish National Gallery’s Collections. In her article, which is the result of her internship at the Finnish National Gallery Nissinen follows different layers of bodily presentations, representations and enactments in art teaching via copies of master sculptures produced in plaster, archive materials such as photographs and drawing manuals, collections of drawings and sketches. ‘Common to the philosophical and artistic bodies is that they are both representations that reflect the thinking, skill, and aesthetic sensibility of their creator. […] The bodily representations are mirrors of humanity, expressing the values of different cultures and eras.’

The body of a painting can be studied in different ways. In this issue, Hanne Tikkala’s peer-reviewed article analyses the colour palettes and colour schemes used by two internationally renowned Finnish artists, Helene Schjerfbeck and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Tikkala identifies and compares the contents of their pigment palettes using energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry and polarised light microscopy. Shades of pigments like iron-based oranges and reds, chromium or Indian yellows and Prussian blues will appear differently via those devices and methods. Schjerfbeck and Gallen-Kallela were working at a time when new artificial pigments and colours started to replace some of the classical earth pigments. Gallen-Kallela’s travels were even possible to follow by studying more closely the pigments used and their availability at the time.

This year’s second FNG research intern Hilla Männikkö has touched in her article on the special characteristics shared by the miniatures in Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoffs’ Art Collection. These portable and intimate paintings were in their day both material and social objects, which could also be appreciated through the sense of touch. As the author highlights: ‘…especially when considering a miniature, it is important to see its tangible nature. They are not consumed solely by the eye. The connection with a miniature and its subject emerges also with touch: the size and shape are usually well fitted into the hand, which can hold it tight, lift it to be kissed or stroke its smooth surface gently.’ In our times, the closest we can get to these minute paintings is by viewing them in a display case or by exploring the digitised images, which also give access to the reverse side of the paintings that might contain personal notes, or even memorabilia.

Along with an artwork’s material existence is always the presentation of it, the framing and displaying, which are linked to the episteme of the time – the context, discourses and cultural climate, which create the surroundings for works of art. These aspects are consciously highlighted in gallery texts, academic papers and in a way how different artists and objects are curated together.

This issue’s curatorial discussion between Gill Crabbe and curator Claudia de Brün focuses on the ‘Linnaeus: Glimpses of Paradise’ exhibition, which touches on the flora and garden of art treasures at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. It’s time to enjoy the natural beauty around us and if you wish to intensify your floral experiences and deepen the understanding of the subject matter, you are welcome to admire the flower paintings inside the museum surrounded by its garden of delights.

Featured image: The reverse of Domenico Bossi’s portrait miniature Mayor Nelander, 5.5cm x 5.5cm. Sinebrychoff Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Simo Karisalo
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 2/2022 as a PDF

The Ateneum Research Library. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Researching the Finnish National Gallery’s Collections

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

 

11 March 2022

 

The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, one of the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums, closed its doors for more than a year in order to carry out renovation work to the building. During this period the museum staff were busy focusing on curating an extensive exhibition of international contemporary art ‘ARS22 – Living encounters’, which opens in April.

This exceptional period offered Kiasma a rare opportunity to concentrate on its collections. One result is the publication of a richly illustrated book, The Many Forms of Contemporary Art, which celebrates 30 years of collecting contemporary art. The current issue of FNG Research magazine publishes online two articles from the book, as well as an interview with the curators responsible for the book project. From a research point of view there was a specific chance for the curators to follow their own research interests and to avoid using the standard ways of looking at the collection, instead roaming freely through it.

Since 2017 the Finnish National Gallery has run a research intern programme to foster collaboration between the museum professionals and academic studies in art history. Interns have been recruited to work for three months on a selected part of our collections, honing their skills in researching chosen topics by studying material collection objects, such as specific artists’ archives. In this way we wish to support future museum professionals’ practical enthusiasm for actual physical objects in the collections in their many formats. This programme has proved to be successful both for graduate-level students and the museum’s professionals practising research.

Our research intern for the autumn period in 2021, Ida Pakarinen, chose to look at the collections from the viewpoint of current climate change. Through the artists’ works she chose to examine, her article, ‘Recycled Utopia – Where Art and Everyday Life Coalesce’, touches upon important questions concerning a museum’s collections management in the form of contextualising collections objects with metadata. Focusing on recycled materials and their status in artworks and artists’ working processes, she came to discuss certain key words or concepts, such as ‘trash’, ‘waste’ or ‘junk’, as part of the contextualisation of collection objects. Her approach makes visible how, for example, vocabularies used in cataloguing museum collections are entangled with transforming meanings and values.

An important international research project that FNG Research is currently following is entitled ‘Gothic Modern: from Medieval and Northern Renaissance to Dark, Emotive, Uncanny Modern Art’. The project schedule stretches from 2018 to 2025 and explores the pivotal importance of Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this issue, we follow the international partners group meeting and encounter modern Gothic throwbacks in Finnish cultural history.

Featured image: The Ateneum Research Library
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 1/2022 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>

Paul Sinebrychoff and Fanny Grahn, as an engaged couple, 1883. Photographer: Johannes Jaeger. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Celebrating the Milestones

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

 

19 November 2021

 

 

The Finnish National Gallery recognises the importance of celebrating key moments in its cultural history. This year marks the centenary jubilee of the donation of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Art Collection to the Finnish State. And next spring the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma celebrates the 10th edition of one of the most important shows in its calendar, ARS22, marking 60 years of ARS exhibitions that take the temperature of the contemporary art world.

The Sinebrychoffs’ house museum was opened to the public for the first time on 27 November 1921. At the opening ceremony, the art collection was presented to the political leadership of the young republic. Those in attendance included the President of the Republic and his wife, all of the cabinet ministers, and civil servants from the church and education ministries. The donation was reported widely in the Press. In a newly independent Finland it was a unique and exceptionally grand collection of old European art. The leading art experts of the time praised its artistic level, particularly in terms of the artworks.

The Sinebrychoffs’ house on Bulevardi has seen many changes in the past century. The same can be said of the house museum that it became. The building was last renovated extensively at the end of the 1990s, including a restoration of the rooms on the Bulevardi side to their appearance at the time of the Sinebrychoffs. Black-and-white photographs of the rooms taken by Signe Brander in 1912 made this reconstruction possible. The photographs were used to place the furniture and artworks in the locations they had occupied during the Sinebrychoffs’ lifetimes. The house museum as we know it today opened its doors in early 2003.

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the donation with a jubilee publication, which throws light on the house museum as a whole. Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff decorated the rooms on the Bulevardi side of the building in a range of styles. A great deal of Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence has been preserved regarding the purchases for the collection, which allows us to envision the planned, long-term process that shaped it. The Sinebrychoffs were very informed about the collection trends and interior decoration fashions of the time, which is visible in many ways in their collection.

The jubilee publication A Bulevardi Home – Art Collectors Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff, includes a collection of scholarly articles. Kari-Paavo Kokki’s essay places Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s house museum in a European context. He examines the possible influences on the rooms, which were decorated in a variety of styles, in relation to contemporary fashion and style trends, but above all, he focuses on individual artefacts and furniture and their details. FNG Research also publishes an interview with him in this issue. Here too we republish another essay from the book, by Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi, MA, a curator at the Finnish National Gallery, which approaches the collection through the couple’s travels in the 1880s and 1890s, based on Paul Sinebrychoff’s correspondence archive.

Also in the jubilee publication Professor Charlotta Wolff examines Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff’s collection and art collecting in the frame of reference of late 19th-century Finland. Prof. Wolff visualises the collection itself and its special traits as an expression of its time. Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum Ira Westergård, PhD, delves into the donation of the art collection, and particularly Fanny Sinebrychoff’s role in the donation process, as well as the history of the collection after the donation as far as the outbreak of the Winter War at the end of the 1930s.

The jubilee celebration also marks the inauguration of the renewed display of the permanent collection at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Many of the acquisitions made during the past seven years are on show, including recently acquired paintings by Jacopo Bassano, Giorgio Gandini del Grano, Abraham Bloemaert, Salvator Rosa and Henry Raeburn among others. The Friends of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum celebrate their 10th anniversary of activity and all 22 artworks that have been donated by them are on show for this occasion.

As part of the Finnish National Gallery’s international research and exhibition project ‘Gothic Modern’, this issue of FNG Research includes a presentation given earlier this year to the project’s first knowledge sharing workshop. Dr Jeremy Howard’s abstract highlights the influence of the Gothic on Russian art and culture through exploring the metaphor of the vault.

An article by Katariina Johde and Hanne Tikkala explores new approaches to conservation work that they have carried out at the Finnish National Gallery’s Conservation Unit. They highlight the value of research that combines extended observations using the naked eye together with the latest technology in assessing the condition of the much-loved painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake View (1901).

Also in this issue of FNG Research, Saara Hacklin, PhD, curator at Kiasma, follows the work of five printmakers, all alumnae of the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, to explore how the relationship to the human body is manifested in their artworks.

Feeling the pulse of the contemporary art world locally and internationally has been the remit of the ARS exhibitions, which every five years have presented an overview in their thematic shows. Ahead of the 10th edition, ARS22, opening in April at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Gill Crabbe interviews Museum Director Leevi Haapala and Chief Curator João Laia about the research and curation processes involved in creating this landmark exhibition.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to our annual call for research interns for 2022. Applications will be taken until 31 December 2021, and two interns selected by 21 January 2022. Details of how to apply are in this issue.

Featured image: Paul Sinebrychoff and Fanny Grahn, when they were engaged to be married, 1883. Photographer: Johannes Jaeger. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 3/2021 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>

Ilya Repin, Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin, 1903, oil on canvas, 78.5cm x 130cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenny Nurminen

Editorial: Past, Present and Future

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

 

31 May 2021

 

This edition of FNG Research is looking to the past, present and future. The future is opened up in two major research projects – ‘Gothic Modern’ and ‘Pioneering women artists’. The two initiators of the Gothic Modern project, Chief Curator, Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, from the Ateneum Art Museum and Dr Juliet Simpson, Professor of Art History at Coventry University, are spearheading an international endeavour to rethink the development of a specifically Nordic Modernism at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, having its inspiration in the northern Gothic and Renaissance. The project is concentrating on illuminating the Gothic as a core fascination for late 19th- and early 20th-century art that crossed cultural borders, transcended nationalism and straddled war and its aftermath. The sources of inspiration for artists of that time can be traced to some exhibitions and to specific artists, such as Lucas Cranach and Hans Holbein.

Influences were also a political issue, as shown by Dr Krista Kodres, who in her article sheds light on the Estonian historiographical undertones shaping the understanding of Gothic art and architecture in Estonia. In her article, which is an extended abstract of her lecture given at the Gothic Modern knowledge sharing workshop in March of this year, she is asking how in different periods art-historical writing has formulated the understanding of cultural heritage. The basic question she asks is whether the artistic results of medieval and Renaissance art were nationally unique, or were they just copying the ‘trend-setting centres’, located mainly in German cities. The aim of some local art historians in Estonia was to demonstrate that the Baltic-Nordic region created its own independent art forms, an idea that challenged the view that Hanseatic German art was the predominant influence in this region.

Dr Anne-Maria Pennonen presents the recently launched international research project concerning women artists in the mid-19th century from Finland, Nordic and Baltic countries and Germany. What were the routes of inspiration for these artists, where did they study and what kind of networks did they form during their years of study?

In this issue we also present the results of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery undertaken by MA student Emmi Halmesvirta, who examines a much more recent artist, namely Juhana Blomstedt (1937–2010). Halmesvirta took as her starting point the archive material and sketches in the Finnish National Gallery collection related to Juhana Blomstedt’s career in the period 1970–80. Blomstedt’s art-theoretical thinking during the 1970s seems to revolve around questions of form, content, expression, abstraction, subjectivity, truth and optics. In his art he was somehow distancing himself from the high modernist demand for purity, even if his art could be categorised as being part of the constructivist tradition.

The Director of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum Kirsi Eskelinen writes about the provenance of a painting by Jacopo Bassano (c. 1510–92), Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and St Anthony the Abbot, which is housed in the museum’s collection. It is a republication of her article from 1992 but in connection with it, we are for the first time publishing images of the details on the back of the frame moulding. These give some important clues about the provenance of the artwork. The Museum has plans for a monographic exhibition on Jacopo Bassano in the near future, which makes it even more relevant to republish and expand on this article.

Two articles in this issue are focusing on the current exhibition of Ilya Repin at the Ateneum Art Museum: Chief Curator Timo Huusko’s essay on the Russian artist’s relationship to Finland, and an updated article by curator Helena Hätönen on the archival material related to Repin in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery, first published in the catalogue of the Kadriorg Art Museum’s Repin exhibition which took place in Tallinn in 2013.

The Ateneum Art Museum’s curators Hanne Selkokari and Anu Utriainen have been interviewed in connection with the exhibition ‘Among Forests and Lakes: Landscape Masterpieces from the Finnish National Gallery’, which is now on display at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle.

Dr Harri Kalha’s interview in this issue is connected with the exhibition of Magnus Enckell, which unfortunately had to be closed just a few weeks after its opening in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, this exhibition is continuing in the Tampere Art Museum in a slightly smaller version this autumn.

I hope you will enjoy these diverse articles from different sectors of art history.

Featured image: Ilya Repin, Double Portrait of Natalia Nordmann and Ilya Repin, 1903, oil on canvas, 78.5cm x 130cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenny Nurminen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 2/2021 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>

Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Portrait of Sigrid af Forselles, 1902, oil on hardboard, 37cm x 35cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Editorial: Taking Research Interests to the Next Level

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

 

23 January 2021

 

We are beginning 2021 by publishing a second series of articles on the life and work of the Finnish painter Magnus Enckell (1870–1929). These articles were first published in the exhibition catalogue of Enckell’s monographic exhibition in October 2020.

A focal trait in Enckell’s art was his continued interest in classical European mythology, from his early output up to his very late works. Mythological themes offered him a way to align with the early modern Symbolist movement and its radical ideas in Paris in the early 1890s. These themes also served as a vehicle for the emotional transference he sought in his artistic practice along the lines of the emerging theories in modern psychology and art theory of the period. A fresh look at Enckell’s paintings has also revealed new links between his Neo-impressionist period from the early 1910s and European vitalist philosophy.

A major outcome of the Magnus Enckell research project is the publication of a separate illustrated catalogue of the artist’s paintings and graphic works, which is intended particularly as a future resource for the art-historical research community. A survey was conducted simultaneously with the exhibition project among Finnish museums, foundations and institutions that elicited information about several works in private collections that could be included as well. The catalogue refers to and complements to an extent a constitutive biography and catalogue raisonné of Enckell’s art by Dr Jaakko Puokka, published in 1949. Our new catalogue is available only online.

Accomplished artist women from Finnish art history have raised continuing interest internationally and some, such as the painter Helene Schjerfbeck, have been presented in solo exhibitions and gradually included in the canon of modern European art. However, the matter of looking more thoroughly than previously into women’s contribution in art is by no means complete. On the contrary, the results of an intensified investment in researching, for example the limiting conditions faced by women artists on their way to a more or less recognised artistic career, are yet to be seen. Now the Ateneum Art Museum, as part of the Finnish National Gallery, is participating in a groundbreaking project in co-operation with the national galleries of Sweden (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) and Norway (National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo) to shed new light and share innovative approaches to Nordic women sculptors between 1870 and 1940.

Last but not least, we are delighted to announce that the Finnish National Gallery’s successful research intern programme is continuing in 2021. Two research interns have been selected to work for a three-month period to investigate their chosen areas of the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. By investing annually in the programme we wish to encourage interest in our collections and support students who choose to study subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data. During the past four years, this format of interaction between experienced museum professionals and masters-level students has created a bridge between museums and academia in a most fruitful and gratifying way.

Featured image: Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Portrait of Sigrid af Forselles, 1902, oil on hardboard, 37cm x 35cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 1/2021 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>

Magnus Enckell, a page from a sketch book, 1912, probably showing the Variety Theatre Bal Tabar in Paris, pencil on paper, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Taking the Long View

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

 

27 November 2020

 

This autumn all three museums of the Finnish National Gallery have been a hive of activity. New shows have been opened and our audiences have received their exhibition programmes with enthusiasm. This is most rewarding after the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year. It underlines the relevance of long-term and focussed art-history based research, which is the steady cornerstone of our exhibition programmes. Our current programme opens new horizons in looking at both Finnish and Italian art.

In this issue of FNG Research magazine we publish four articles that first appeared earlier this autumn in the context of a monographic exhibition of the artist Magnus Enckell (1870–1925) at the Ateneum Art Museum. Enckell was one of the key figures during the period when Finnish artists were being influenced by Symbolist phenomena in Paris during the early 1890s. Some 20 years later, Enckell was considered to be one of the first to lead Finnish painters towards a notable strand of Neo-Impressionism.

Comprehensive exhibitions of Enckell’s work have been rare in recent decades, but both the man and his art have been a constant source of interest to Finnish critics and art historians since his death. Enckell has been considered an enigmatic and rather inaccessible person. In the late 1900s and early 2000s, one reason for this was revealed in the art-historical studies undertaken by Harri Kalha, as well as Juha-Heikki Tihinen. Kalha’s article in the current exhibition catalogue, based on his extensive monographic study from 2005, discusses the discursive strategies of veiling and unveiling Enckell’s covert homosexuality, which seemingly created a deliberately enigmatic and rather inaccessible aura around Enckell’s person. Marja Lahelma sheds light on Enckell’s work after the turn of the 20th century from the perspective of the philosophical and health-promoting aspects of vitalism. The theme of plein air and marine landscape in relation to Enckell’s art is discussed by Anne-Maria Pennonen. And a new approach towards the artist’s late career is outlined by Marja Sakari, one of the exhibition’s curators.

For the first time ever in Finland, the Sinebrychoff Art Museum brings together more than 20 oil paintings, in addition to drawings and etchings, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and his son Domenico. The exhibition includes a significant tranche of drawings by the Tiepolos from The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, whose leading Tiepolo expert, Dr Irina Artemieva, is interviewed in this issue. According to Dr Artemieva, the very subject of the exhibition, Tiepolo’s art in Northern Europe, is already new and offers a fresh approach to the study of these great Venetian masters. The show, and the research associated with the exhibition that is published in an accompanying catalogue, is set to stimulate justified interest and surprises among Tiepolo specialists internationally.

FNG Research magazine, together with the Ateneum Art Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, wishes readers and collaborators inspiring and thought-provoking discoveries in our latest issue.

Featured image: Magnus Enckell, a page from a sketch book, 1912, probably showing the Variety Theatre Bal Tabar in Paris, pencil on paper, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

Read more — Download FNG Research No. 6/2020 as a PDF

Download the articles as a PDF >>

 

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

 

26 May 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