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

Europeana Collections

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.

Masterpieces of Finnish Art at the Europeana Collections

Editorial: Learning by Doing – the Value of Research Internships

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


25 January 2018


Last year the Finnish National Gallery launched a research internship programme for master’s-level students in art history, cultural history and museology. The first round of applications resulted in employing three graduate students for a three-month period during the autumn of 2017.

As a museum organisation, the FNG feels deeply its responsibility to pass on to future museum professionals and researchers of art and cultural history the enthusiasm, commitment and practical skills to work with a variety of art-historical sources. The defined task of each intern was to engage in hands-on original research using a selected part of the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. The interns had two nominated mentors from the FNG senior curatorial staff with substantial research expertise to support their work.

The interns were expected to reflect their own research questions and interests in relation to the information and issues raised by working intensively and purposively in our research archives. They were also expected to produce a text related to their materials and working process.

In this issue of the FNG Research web magazine we are delighted to publish the results of the research carried out by two of our first three research interns. It turned out, that their readiness and assiduity in answering the challenge of writing a professional scientific article exceeded our expectations. The authors Aino Nurmesjärvi and Max Fritze are Finnish MA students, whose articles are based on the work carried out during their research internship periods.

FNG’s commitment, however, extends not only to future generations of researchers and museum professionals but also to the continuing development of its own staff, through its staff residency programme. While our first research interns were delving into our archives, one of the FNG’s senior professionals, Dr. Hanna-Leena Paloposki, was taking part in a work exchange programme at the Europeana Foundation office in The Hague, also during the autumn of 2017. Her target was to amplify FNG’s know-how regarding compiling and publishing digital collections’ data in a substantial international and pragmatic context. She explains how she got on in an interview in this issue.

Featured image: Screen capture of the front page of the image gallery ’Masterpieces of Finnish Art’ on the Europeana Collections website featuring art works from the Finnish National Gallery collections

Screen capture of the Finnish National Gallery Archive Collections webpage Lähteillä with material related to artist Hugo Simberg

Editorial: Linking Researchers and Museum Collections Data

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


30 November 2017


One of the topics of this issue is Hugo Simberg (1873–1917), who is one of the most well-known artists in the Finnish art of the turn of the 19th century. Many national
art histories have their ‘golden ages’ and Finland’s relates to this particular period
when Hugo Simberg, together with artists such as Helene Schjerfbeck and Akseli
Gallen-Kallela, renewed Finnish visual art in the spirit of international early modernism. A fascinating aspect of Hugo Simberg’s work has always been the way in which he weaves myths and tales together with an animated feeling of nature.

Hugo Simberg is also one of the artists who is exceptionally richly represented in the Finnish National Gallery’s collections. Together with some 800 art works, the museum holds a significant number of documents such as the artist’s letters and photographs both taken by him or of him. All of the materials in the collections have been thoroughly catalogued at different times, according to varying methods and means.

Today, museums and other cultural heritage organisations are expected to emphasise their ability and willingness to share the cultural property that they possess as widely as possible. At the Finnish National Gallery digital technologies have enabled us to increase digital collections data in our databases and to deliver this information via cultural heritage platforms such as Europeana or the Finnish portal Finna.

Even so, there is still a whole lot of work to be done. Improving collections metadata together with choosing the right digital platforms will enable us to connect datasets that have not previously been linked. If we succeed in carrying out this current objective, this will also strengthen our role as a relevant research organisation and facilitator. All users of digital collections will profit from better data, researchers and research included.

Generating principles for creating relevant collections metadata that meet the needs of future research also requires research skills. We need clearly defined problems to be solved, relevant working methods shared by an active team and a focused plan for reaching the goal. A museum’s mission of being a source of high-quality knowledge is no longer fulfilled only by keeping the collections but also by finding ways to connect those collections to other sources of knowledge via digital metadata.

At the Finnish National Gallery we are looking forward to migrating all of the collections data to a new platform. In the future we wish to serve researchers all around the world with data that will foster the creation of new knowledge about artists such as Hugo Simberg in new and so far unimagined contexts.

To view Hugo Simberg’s works at the Finnish National Gallery’s current collections web page click here:

Featured image: Screen capture of the Finnish National Gallery Archive Collections webpage Lähteillä with material related to artist Hugo Simberg


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Editorial: Network Gains

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


26 September 2017


Whether we are talking about research work or exhibition planning, the key words are collaboration and networks. For curators working with Dutch and Flemish Art there is CODART, an international network for curators of art from the Low Countries. CODART organises annual conferences and other scholarly meetings that also provide platforms for exchanging ideas on research and exhibition collaboration. The Caesar van Everdingen exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum from spring 2017 is a good example of the importance of these kinds of networks.

In the field of Old Masters the research work carried out by the Sinebrychoff Art Museum is international from the very beginning. When it comes to the exhibitions, one of our strategies is organising exhibitions that grow out of the research into works that are the highlights of our own collection. The research process itself can be long and painstaking as it usually involves specialists from different fields of expertise such as conservators, technicians, of course not forgetting art historians.

A good example of this kind of international collaboration is the research work that is being carried out by the museum into the provenance of two Tiepolo paintings, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) and Greeks Entering Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727–1804). The art of the Tiepolos was highly appreciated and sought after by the art collectors in northern countries such as Russia and Sweden during the late-18th and 19th centuries. Ira Westergård, Chief Curator at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, is leading the provenance research project on the two Tiepolo paintings. In an interview in this issue she talks about the importance of provenance research in art-historical practice.

Also in this issue of FNG Research the Finnish National Gallery is announcing its second Call for Research Interns, for 2018.

Featured image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Study of a Female Head (recto), c. 1730, black chalk with white chalk highlights, 28.5cm x 21cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

One of the Finnish Art Society’s minute books shown open with additional inserts. Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Minttu Juvonen

Editorial: Art History and the Spirit of Inquiry

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


July 25 2017


In 1891 Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä (1847–1917) published the art history book Suomalaisen taiteen historia pääpiirteissään which was the first ever art history presentation printed in Finnish. It was a supplement to Wilhelm Lübke’s famous book Grundriss der Kunstgeschichte (Outlines of the History of Art, 1860) that had been translated into several languages, including Finnish in 1893.

Aspelin-Haapkylä told the general story passionately. And he was certainly the right man to do the job: he had already written two artists’ monographs – one published in 1888 on the sculptor Johannes Takanen, and the other in 1890 on the painter Werner Holmberg. As one of the first art historians in Finland, he felt that the country needed to understand the importance of art and its development.

There were many publications that were to follow. By the end of the nineteenth and early 20th century, art historians such as Johan Jakob Tikkanen, Onni Okkonen and Johannes Öhquist continued to research and write the story of art. In addition to these general presentations, artists’ monographs also became increasingly important. The key artists all deserved an analysis of their lifetime achievements.

These early publications explain what was valued and why, what was regarded as good and what less so, and why certain artists became more celebrated than others. The authors were all gatekeepers of their own time, having several roles such as art history writers, critics, university professors, and active members of the art world, thus being in the possession of a fair amount of cultural, economic and societal capital. Their choices mattered a lot.

Contemporary research can revisit the formation of the history of art history. It can – and must – look into what was trending at the time, what the authors read and whom they followed, how their taste was built and why, who were their friends and how the professional networks were built. The archives of the artists add to the story in a significant way.

In terms of the historical material, we can still rely on archives: rich correspondence, minutes of meetings and other documents. The closer we come to the present, the thinner the material we leave behind. Thinking about my discussions with my international or in-house colleagues, or any discussions of any member of the art world – they are mostly floating in the cloud of emails or social media messages. And who knows, some of that material could be valuable one day.

The articles in this issue remind us of the importance of the source material for research: physical art works, oral history i.e. interviews that can still be made, material that already exists in the collections that can be revisited and analysed from today’s perspective, and documents such as artists’ letters that are being acquired for the collections.

Most importantly this issue of FNG Research reminds us – as all of them do – that we must continue asking questions. This is the only way forward and the gateway to new discoveries.

Featured image: One of the Finnish Art Society’s minute books shown open with additional inserts. Archive of the Finnish Art Society. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery.
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Minttu Juvonen

Pilvi Takala, The Trainee, 2008. Installation shot, Kiasma 2009. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Editorial: A Trainee to Remember

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


May 26, 2017


It would be a challenge for museums to manage their daily activities without skilful interns from various study programmes linked to museum studies. Each year, several students who are training at master’s level in art history, aesthetics, museology and cultural management and production come to work with us from between one and three months. They work together with museum professionals on an exhibition or research project, they help to catalogue works of art and documents for databases, update artists’ files, edit exhibition texts, just to mention some of the key tasks.

I still remember one particular trainee from 10 years ago. Kiasma’s partner at that time, Deloitte, came up with a proposal to have an artist in residence in their office building in Ruoholahti, Helsinki. The aim of the project was to re-examine the development of co-operation between the company and the museum together with an artist. The idea was to develop a new kind of project model in which three different agents could meet and learn something together. The young artist Pilvi Takala had just completed her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, and I thought she was the right person to start with a discussion about this highly unconventional trainee programme.

Her art works open up the codes of behaviour operating in different social situations, so she needed a cover story to stay in the office building without revealing her background as an artist or her research topic, namely the company as a work place and its social habits among the personnel seen from the perspective of a trainee. For Takala the internship was a one-month intervention, in which an initially normal-seeming marketing trainee started to apply peculiar working methods during the last week of the internship. For example, she stayed for a whole day in the elevator in order, she said, ‘to do the thinking work’. On another day she just calmly sat by her desk and stared ahead at law division’s office. She had hidden several cameras early in the morning in the office to document people’s reactions.

The unwritten rules, habits and practices of a work place became perceptible and re-examined during the process, feeding into her multi-channel video installation entitled The Trainee (2008), which has received worldwide recognition. Pilvi Takala will return to Kiasma in spring 2018 with a solo exhibition. She has started to prepare another exceptional project, but that is another story.

The editorial board of FNG Research has selected its first three research interns from Helsinki and Jyväskylä Universities based on an open call for applications earlier this spring. We were happy to find out that the interns had done their homework, and priority was given to students whose applications were based on a concrete and defined part of the FNG collections and especially to previously unstudied and topical materials. We’ll return to their essays on selected research matters later this year. We are happy to welcome our new interns with innovative insights!

Featured image: Pilvi Takala, The Trainee, 2008. Installation shot, Kiasma 2009. Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino. Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Collections – Fresh Viewpoints and New Openings

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


March 23, 2017


Collections are closely linked to the exhibition programme of the Finnish National Gallery’s three museums, collections exhibitions being an important part, and the research projects behind them always have their basis in our own collections.

TheStories of Finnish Art’ collections exhibition has now been on display at the Ateneum Art Museum for a year and will continue till 2020. When the project started, one of the leading ideas was to engage people from all the different areas of expertise in the museum to look at the collections and their display in a new way. From the start, the visual design was seen as an indispensable part of telling the stories of Finnish art. In an FNG Research interview Museum Director Susanna Pettersson and the exhibition designer Marcel Schmalgemeijer explain the process of making the collections exhibition at the Ateneum.

Sometimes temporary exhibitions form the starting point for new developments in collecting. The ‘ARS17 Hello World!’ exhibition at Kiasma (31 March, 2017 – 14 January, 2018), besides being a link in a chain of important international contemporary art shows in Finland, is also marking a new phase in collecting contemporary art for the FNG collections: starting an online artwork collection that is accessible on the web. It has required philosophical-theoretical thinking and the examination of legal, technical and conservational matters. How to buy and include in a museum collection an artwork that is digital, ephemeral and already available to all on the web and how to preserve it for future generations? In this issue FNG Research offers its readers two possibilities to get acquainted with this post-internet art: an interview with two chief curators of Kiasma, Arja Miller and Marja Sakari, and an article on online art by Arja Miller.

The new research internship programme that the Finnish National Gallery launched in March also has its focus on the collections. The programme has two aims. Finnish National Gallery wishes to emphasise the study of its collections, including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time we wish to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data. In 2017 we are prepared to recruit three research interns, each for a period of three months, to study pre-chosen material in the Finnish National Gallery collections. We are also envisaging that the resulting reports and texts can be published in FNG Research. While writing this editorial the first application period is currently underway.

We are looking forward to welcoming our first research interns and a new kind of international collaboration with universities in order to enhance collections research together.

Featured image: People queuing for the ’ARS 83 HELSINKI’ exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum in autumn 1983. Photographer Ilkka Leino.
Photo: Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery