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

Featured image: Aarre Heinonen, Railway Square, 1945, oil on canvas, 81cm x 60cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Search and Search Again

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

 

24 January 2019

 

Last November (29–30.11.2018), the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki, along with the Art History Department of Helsinki University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, got together to organise a two-day conference, ‘Connoisseurship in Contemporary Art Research’, which had as its theme the importance of the archival approach in research into contemporary art. One of the highlights was Katharina Günther’s presentation, which was based on the results of her year-long residency at the City Gallery in Dublin. Her research project was concentrating on the material from Francis Bacon’s London studio, which had been transported from London to Dublin in 1998 in the exact same condition as it had been left when Bacon died. She worked with the original material in the studio with a variety of items, from photographs to all kinds of ephemera. Seemingly worthless material transformed, in the hands of the researcher, into authentic evidence. With that material, she was able to prove that despite Bacon’s own observations that art has nothing to do with illustration, most of his artworks were based on everyday media images. The composition, details and figures were often borrowed almost identically from images published in printed media.

For a researcher, material that has previously gone unnoticed, has been abandoned or considered as apparently unimportant might become the very core of the research and a source of new knowledge.

In this first issue of FNG Research in 2019, two researchers are presenting their new findings. Both articles are good examples that show how important it is to study profoundly different archives and to experience original material. For these researchers, archival material and the rereading of the material in connection to previous research, is of utmost importance.

Both Sandra Lindblom – whose article is dealing with the early career of the painter Eva Cederström – and Antonella Perna – who has as her topic the friendship, mutual respect and influence of two scholars of Asian art and culture – base their research on letters, diaries and other archival materials.

Lindblom, whose article is resulting from the research internship at the FNG, writes in her preface: ‘The study reassesses and gives new information about the narrative on Cederström’s early career, using previously unstudied archive material, drawings and paintings.’ In her article she is able to show that Cederström eschewed the label of being a woman artist, but at the same time she was the victim of conventions prevailing pre- and post- Second World War. Despite her talent and passion for art she was obliged take on office work because of lack of money. With the archival material Lindblom shows the contradictions in the start of Cederström’s career. Her early years as an artist contained ‘failures, successes, institutional support and economic problems’. The article points out that despite her being appreciated as a promising artist at an early phase, she couldn’t advance as an artist in the way she would have wanted. Being a woman was significant, it seems.

Antonella Perna writes in her peer-reviewed article how her attention was drawn to the relationship and position of Osvald Sirén in Italian studies of Asian culture by a single letter in the Sirén Archive in Stockholm. According to that letter, Sirén was appointed Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Rome La Sapienza. To Perna this single letter was not sufficient to explain why this happened and she started to look for other evidence to find out why he was honoured this way. Perna found the evidence in the correspondence of Sirén with the Italian scholar of Asian studies, Giuseppe Tucci. Perna is revealing new knowledge of this relationship. She writes: ‘since there are no previous studies on the relationship with Tucci, I would like to present a first analysis of unpublished letters and other archival material that can throw some light on this aspect of Sirén’s professional life: his particular role in the development of Oriental scholarship in Italy.’

***

I started to write this editorial for the FNG Research issue just when the annually organised Days for Science were about to start. In the main Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, there was an interview with three academics, namely the former rector and chancellor of the University of Helsinki Risto Ihamuotila, Professor of Cosmology Kari Enqvist and researcher of political history, Johanna Vuorelma. They all defended the significance of the sciences, the meaning of knowledge based on facts and profound research, at a time of the increasing dominance of social media, when it is possible to spread all kinds of knowledge just with one keystroke.

According to them, in science it is important to understand that knowledge is constantly changing and that it is always important to recheck already existing information: what we know and what can be known (Helsingin Sanomat 9 January 2019). In undertaking this kind of rechecking, the role of archives and the development and deeper understanding of their content is extremely important.

Featured image: Aarre Heinonen, Railway Square, 1945, oil on canvas, 81cm x 60cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Telegram dated 26 March 1909 from Paul Sinebrychoff in Helsinki to Professor Osvald Sirén in Stockholm about an acquisition of a painting assumed to be by Rubens. Paul Sinebrychoff’s Letters 1900–1909. The Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

Editorial: New Angles for Researchers and the Public Alike

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

 

28 November 2018

 

This year important steps have been taken to make the FNG collection – its artworks, archive material and objects – more available to everyone. We have written about them in FNG Research, too. In the July issue we discussed collections metadata. A huge amount of work has been – and continues to be – undertaken to improve the available metadata now that we have migrated the collections into the new collections management system. The metadata work is now inextricably linked with presenting the collections online. We have also opened up the images of our copyright-free artworks online into the public domain with the CC0 license. We will have better information to offer and images available in a more convenient way when the new website is launched in 2019.

One example of this metadata work is the cataloguing into our new system of correspondence on the art acquisitions of the businessman and brewery owner Paul Sinebrychoff. Although some of this material has already been available online via the Sinebychoff Art Museum website, it will soon be accessible via the same webpage as the artworks belonging to the Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Art Collection which nowadays forms part of the FNG / Sinebrychoff Art Museum collection. Our curator, who has a long-standing and extensive knowledge of the collection, is linking the letters to the Old Masters mentioned that are now in the FNG collection, together with facsimiles of the letters and transcriptions of their content.

To give another example, the media art at the FNG / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is being assigned more precise and versatile metadata as works of this kind are being recatalogued. Collections research is thus being carried out within the Finnish National Gallery every day and it is for the benefit for all the users, either in-house or in the wider world.

Many of the exhibitions of the three FNG museums and their publications shed light on the research being carried out into the collections. In this issue we reproduce two articles from the catalogue Urban Encounters. Finnish Art in the Twentieth Century accompanying the current exhibition at the Ateneum. Both the book and the exhibition scrutinise the art collection from new angles, offering a chance to get acquainted with works the public might not have been able to see before. Also in this issue of FNG Research, an interview with Dr. Marja Lahelma, author of the new book on Akseli Gallen-Kallela in the series Artists of the Ateneum, tells us how you can find a different interpretation of a very well-known and much studied artist in Finland, who is also well represented in the FNG collection.

I hope you enjoy reading our latest issue of FNG Research.

Featured image: Telegram dated 26 March 1909 from Paul Sinebrychoff in Helsinki to Professor Osvald Sirén in Stockholm about an acquisition of a painting assumed to be by Rubens. Paul Sinebrychoff’s Letters 1900–1909. The Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Kirsi Halkola

Paul Sinebrychoff’s study in the house museum at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Sonja Hyytiäinen

Editorial: Feeling at Home at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum

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

 

27 September 2018

 

The collection of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff, donated to the Finnish State in 1921, and now on show on the second floor of the house museum, is the heart of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The display is a faithful reconstruction of their home as it was during the 1910s. It was opened in 2003 after a thorough renovation of the whole museum building.

In addition to its important collection of Old Master paintings, the house museum also includes a unique and rare collection of furniture, as well as porcelain, mirrors, clocks etc. Some of these pieces have turned out to be of a very special value as, for example, the cylinder secretaire in mahogany with its intarsia decoration, a masterpiece by the 18th-century Swedish carpenter Gustaf Adolph Ditzinger (1760–1800).

The artworks and various objects in the house museum offer us a special challenge. How to tell our audience the story of the house museum and the many stories behind the individual objects? How to give a voice to the collectors Paul and Fanny? Visitors are also interested to hear about life in the house at different historical moments.

In fact we have already taken some first steps to meet that challenge. A couple of years ago we launched a dramatised guided tour. Visitors can enjoy the life and atmosphere of the house as it would have been 100 years ago at the beginning of 20th century, while being guided through the house by ‘Fanny Sinebrychoff’ herself. In addition, some years ago we published a virtual tour of the house museum on the museum’s website, in which visitors can explore and enjoy the different rooms with all their furnishings. Paul’s study offers a chance to deepen the virtual visit even further, as you can learn more about the individual works of art hanging on the walls just by clicking on them on the web page. We also recently renewed the display of the Paul Sinebrychoff’s miniatures collection and in a new initiative we made the tiny portraits more accessible to visitors with the aid of tablets, which magnify the details and show images of the hidden parts of these objects.

Now we have just launched an audio-guided tour of the house museum which takes you through the rooms in the company of ‘Paul and Fanny’. You can enjoy this tour in the museum’s website, at home or listen to it on your mobile phone while strolling around the museum. We hope that in the future we are able to tell our audience even more fascinating stories of the people who have lived at this special home, and their beloved collection, their life.

This autumn we have just opened ‘Moved to tears: Staging emotions’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The exhibition explores the reciprocal influences of theatre and painting in expressing emotions through gestures and poses. The works of art on show date from the Baroque era to the late 19th century. The exhibition is dedicated to Fanny Sinebrychoff, who was herself a celebrated actress in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki before she married Paul Sinebrychoff in 1883. See the interview with the curator of the exhibition, Laura Gutman in the FNG Research issue 3/2018 (https://research.fng.fi/category/issues/2018-no-3/).

In this issue of FNG Research we are happy to publish the first peer-reviewed article written for the magazine: Art Collections Born through Division ─ Kouri Collection Case Study, by Kari Tuovinen MSc. Also in this issue the Finnish National Gallery announces its third Call for Research Interns, for 2019.

Featured image: Paul Sinebrychoff’s study in the house museum at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Sonja Hyytiäinen

Click here for a virtual tour of Paul’s study >>

Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Editorial – Stimulating Research through Collections’ Metadata

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

 

19 July 2018

 

Multiculturalism and opening up to the changes and challenges of today’s world are topics that are often discussed when museum professionals get together in meetings and conferences. It is about being relevant to the societies around us.

Collections are traditionally considered the core of museums and the kernel of museums’ role as providers of reliable knowledge about culture and its history. Therefore a significant interest in the histories of collections – that is for whom, in what historical period and for what reasons the collections were formed – has been shown within the museums themselves, as well as in the academic field.

Metadata is a key concept when talking about making collections and collections’ data relevant. Metadata creates patterns of knowledge that are connected with each single object in the collection. The data are gathered in museums’ databases and, ideally, shared via digital platforms, thus serving as an important primary source for academic research, as well as other interests.

The ways in which we organise, enrich and share the metadata that is formatting the knowledge do matter. This part of professional practice has the potential to reflect a museum’s and its collection’s relevance and also offers the possibility to participate in current discourses within academic research fields. Collections as sets of chosen objects are relatively static, but the metadata connected to them, and the procedures for constituting knowledge, need not be.

The Finnish National Gallery has very recently accomplished the task of migrating its collections’ data to a new database system and we are planning to share the data on a new website next year. We are also looking forward to experimenting with crowdsourcing keywords.

While doing this, we will be happy to hear about our colleagues’ experiences and to share with others what we are learning.

Wishing you all a nice summer!

Featured image: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

On the Finnish National Gallery’s website the basic information given about this painting is: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, Keywords: kesä, maisema, heinäpelto, figuuri, yö, nainen, allegoria. In future we wish to share the keywords with you also in English: summer, landscape, hayfield, figure, night, woman, allegory.

Information about the FNG collection is also available on these data platforms:

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial – Seppo Fränti Donates his Art Collection to Kiasma

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

 

25 May, 2018

 

The Finnish art collector and philanthropist Seppo Fränti has decided to donate his entire contemporary art collection, comprising more than 700 works, to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki. The collection represents more than 100 artists, and about half of the artists are already included in Kiasma’s collections with their later works.

The profile of the Fränti collection is unique: it is very personal, brave, and up to date and it has two different focuses – the tradition of expressionistic painting, and works based on hard-edge painting and post-conceptual art. Classical two-dimensional mediums are predominant: most of the collection comprises paintings or paper-based works, including drawings, photographs, and graphic art, along with some sculptures and objects. The Kiasma collection also shares the same key focus on very recent contemporary art by living artists.

Fränti’s name became well known in 2000 when he was taken hostage by Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines on the remote jungle island of Jolo. After 140 days of what he described as ‘living hell’, kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, Fränti was released along with four other westerners. Fränti has explained that drawing helped him through his depressive period following his experiences on Jolo. ‘I was very down. I drew and this helped me very much,’ he said. His life changed after that drastically, and collecting art, as well as drawing, became an important tool in his personal survival kit.

Fränti had already started collecting art at the turn of the 1970s and 80s. After his time being held hostage, it became a more serious pursuit, and he also found his focus – collecting contemporary art by emerging Finnish artists. The collection also includes some more established artists, such as Olli Marttila, Outi Heiskanen, Henry Wuorila-Stenberg, Jukka Korkeila and Heikki Marila. Many of them have been teachers and professors for younger-generation artists such as Janne Räisänen, Olli Piippo, Liisa Lounila, Jyrki Riekki, Robin Lindqvist and Reima Nevalainen. Fränti is often seen as a welcome guest at opening receptions in galleries and art museums and he also visits artists’ studios regularly, as well as art students before they have even participated in their final exhibition ‘Kuvan Kevät’ at the Academy of Fine Arts, (University of Arts, Helsinki).

Seppo Fränti’s collection was shown in 2016 as a selected exhibition entitled ‘Wound’ at Lapinlahti, a cultural centre located in an old psychiatric hospital in Helsinki. Fränti himself curated the show and installed it with the kind help of a group of artists who are represented in the collection. The collection’s artists have become true friends of Fränti. The exhibition venue, the old Medical Director’s residence at the disused Lapinlahti hospital, also resonated with the role of the collection as a meaningful way to handle the core issues of humanity. The works reflect how to overcome situations when an individual is in the most fragile position, and how to live a full life in a time of joys and sorrows. Fränti’s collection is also a perfect example of showing different audiences how the art around you can help to communicate very personal experiences, and also demonstrates the particular role that visual arts have in today’s society.

Now it is our turn to initiate our part of the deal. Earlier this week the first 20 larger-scale paintings were packed and moved from Fränti’s apartment to Kiasma. Over the next two years the collection will undergo collection management and handling. Conservators will make their comments and reports on the condition of each work, and following that they will be photographed, catalogued and stored by the Finnish National Gallery’s professional collection team. The collection will be exhibited in the summer of 2020 as a large collection display with a salon-style hang. Along with the exhibition a research-based publication, including photographs from Seppo Fränti’s home, will be published. Like the collector said at a recent press conference, his children now have a new family and a new home at Kiasma and the Finnish National Gallery.

New interns with a special research interest in this collection, are most welcome to apply to the next round of internships at the Finnish National Gallery in the autumn of 2018.

Featured image: The interior of Seppo Fränti’s apartment, photographed when the first tranche of his donated art collection was transported to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in May 2018. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Vincent van Gogh: Street in Auvers-sur-Oise. Photograph: Kansallisgalleria / Eweis, Yehia

Editorial: Seeing into the Future

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

 

29 March 2018

 

In February the Finnish National Gallery released more than 12,000 images of copyright-free artworks into the public domain. With this great opening up we are of course reaching out to anybody interested in art but we also hope it will help and inspire researchers internationally as they can now freely download high-quality jpeg images for study purposes, presentations and online publications. These 12,000 artworks represent 1,144 artists, including many renowned Finnish artists, such as Helene Schjerfbeck and Hugo Simberg, as well as international artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch.

At the same time the Finnish National Gallery is preparing to start using its new collections management system, which brings all the collections – artworks, objects and archive collections – into one and the same database for the first time. We are also planning our new collections online web pages which will be launched next year. Improving the online availability of our collections is a pivotal way to enhance research related to them, through providing more opportunities for study.

The images under the CC0 license are available on our Art Collections online website, but they have also been released at Europeana, a digital platform for European cultural heritage, and can thus be downloaded from the Europeana portal, too, as we want to share them with as wide and as international an audience as possible, researchers and students included. From now on we will be using the CC0-licensed images in FNG Research, too, whenever it is possible.

In this issue we are examining the research related to the Finnish National Gallery from three different angles: our research internship programme, FNG staff undertaking specific research, and international co-operation. The article by one of our research interns for 2017, Irene Riihimäki, sheds new light on the early stages of Finnish art education in the middle of the 19th century. Our senior conservator Dr. Ari Tanhuanpää is scrutinising the lifespan of artworks from a philosophical perspective and boldly questions whether an artwork does in fact have a lifespan. As an example of international co-operation is the article on the Russian artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (1969–2013), written by two prominent researchers from St. Petersburg, Dr. Olesya Turkina and Dr. Victor Mazin, published in connection with the retrospective exhibition of the artist at The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

Finnish National Gallery Art Collections online
http://kokoelmat.fng.fi/app?lang=en

Europeana Collections
https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en

Featured image: Vincent van Gogh, Street in Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890, oil on canvas,
73.5cm x  92.5cm
Antell Collections, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

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.