Unknown Dutch Artist, Portrait of a Family, mid-17th century onwards, oil on canvas, 157cm x 208cm Gösta and Bertha Stenman Donation Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen & Henri Tuomi

Old Masters Meet Russian Revolutions

Kersti Tainio, MA, PhD Student, University of Helsinki

Old Master paintings in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum that came from Russia to Finland as a consequence of the Russian Revolutions are the subject of Kersti Tainio’s research undertaken during her recent internship at the Finnish National Gallery


The political turmoil in Russia has unexpectedly given us a chance to rescue some of the treasures threatened with being swept away by the whirlwind of the revolution, but again, the opportunity has not been fully exploited. Some works of art have ended up here through private initiative but there have been no systematic purchases, although the owners of celebrated art collections would have sold their old Flemish and Italian works rather than see them being smashed or plundered by the Russian utopians. Now many of these works have gone to England and America.[1]

 This is what the art dealer Gösta Stenman wrote in 1919 after he had brought dozens of Old Master paintings from revolutionary Russia to Finland. In this article I shed light on the period of time between the two Russian revolutions in 1917 when there were a few Finnish people actively buying art in the chaotic capital of Russia. I will show, case by case, how this extraordinary situation affected the art collection of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum.

Provenance research is an important part of museum practice, as it may clarify or confirm attributions and dating, or even reveal the original commissioner of an artwork or help to identify a portrayed person. The subject I studied during my internship has not been systematically researched, although there are informative museum catalogues, one of which actually raised my interest in the first place.[2] Provenance research is most typically carried out in connection with forthcoming exhibitions, and that was the case with the painting Young woman with a glass of wine, holding a letter in her hand, by Gerard ter Borch. The former Chief Curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Marja Supinen, made an effort in the 1990s to tease out its convoluted provenance. The painting found its way to the museum collection in the early 1920s, when a Russian citizen brought it to Helsinki from Petrograd[3] and sold it to the museum. The painting had ended up in St. Petersburg in the aftermath of the French Revolution when Prince Alexander Bezborodko (1746–99) purchased it in 1795. Over 100 years later, the painting left Petrograd, ironically enough, as a consequence of the Russian Revolution.[4]

[1] ’De politiska omvälvningarna i Ryssland ha plötsligt skänkt oss en möjlighet att rädda en del av de skatter stormfloden hotat att sopa bort, men även nu har tillfället icke utnytjats. Visserligen har en del verk på privat initiativ funnit vägen till oss, men ett planmässigt förvärv har icke ägt rum. Och dock ha ägarna till berömda samlingar, hällre än de sett sina gamla holländare och italienare förstöras eller rövas av de ryska världsförbättrarna, – försålt sina skatter. En stor del av dessa verk har gått till England och Amerika.’ Gammal konst. Stenmans konstsalongs publikationer II. Helsingfors: Frenckellska Tryckeri-Aktiebolaget, 1919. My translation.

[2] Supinen, Marja. The Ter Borchs Meet Again. Helsinki: The Museum of Foreign Art Sinebrychoff. The Finnish National Gallery, 1995; Supinen, Marja. The Fine Arts Academy of Finland, Sinebrychoff Art Museum: Foreign Schools: Summary Catalogue 1: Paintings. Helsinki: Suomen taideakatemia, 1988; Keltanen, Minerva, ed. Art & Atmosphere. Helsinki: Sinebrychoff Art Museum, 2014.

[3] St. Petersburg became Petrograd in 1914 when, following the declaration of war between Germany and Russia, the former name was considered to be too German. In 1924 Petrograd was again renamed, remaining as Leningrad until 1991.

[4] Supinen 1995, 34–35, 43.

Featured image: Unknown Dutch artist, Portrait of a Family, mid-17th century onwards, oil on canvas, 157cm x 208cm, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen & Henri Tuomi

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 ‘Old Masters Meet Russian Revolutions’, by Kersti Tainio, as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, En Saga (Jean Sibelius and Fantasy Landscape), 1894, gouache and watercolour on paper, 31cm x 17cm and 24cm x 30cm. Ainola Foundation. Photo Finnish National Gallery Hannu Pakarinen

Association for Art History (AAH) Annual Conference 2018, Courtauld Institute of Art & King’s College London

5–7 April 2018, London

Here we publish the Finnish National Gallery’s contribution to the 2018 AAH Conference comprising conference abstracts from the two Finnish National Gallery delegates

Featured image: Akseli Gallen-Kallela, En Saga (Jean Sibelius and Fantasy Landscape), 1894, gouache and watercolour on paper, 31cm x 17cm and 24cm x 30cm. Ainola Foundation. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Between Sounding Canvas and Visual Music: from Sibelius to Kupka

Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

Session: Seeing and Hearing the ‘Beyond’: Art, Music and Mysticism in the Long 19th century

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

The Nordic Art Journal: Writing New Art History

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

Session: Remembering and Forgetting the Enlightenment

Download the Conference Abstract as a PDF >>

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.

Isak Wacklin: Miss Heckford, 1757, Oil on canvas (detail), Finnish National Gallery, A II 1439. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Conservation Department.

The Lifespan of Artworks Between the Earth and the World

Ari Tanhuanpää, PhD, Senior Conservator, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

This article is based on the lecture given at the ‘Object Biographies, Second International Artefacta Conference’, organised by Artefacta, The Finnish Network for Artefact Studies, in collaboration with the Finnish Antiquarian Society and Nordic Association of Conservators in Finland, held at the House of Science and Letters, Helsinki 2–3 March 2018

When browsing through a book by a Belgian art historian Roger H. Marijnissen, entitled Dégradation, conservation et restauration de l´œuvre d´art (1967) a phrase caught my attention and began to haunt me:

Il est parfois difficile, voire impossible de faire une nette distinction entre l´usure et la patine. [1]

This translates in English as: ‘It is sometimes difficult, or even impossible, to make a sharp distinction between effacement and patina.’ This led me to ponder such questions as time, which, as Aristotle stated (Physics, 217b) ‘is that which is not’, or is only ‘barely and scarcely’[2], and the working of the artwork which transcends its materiality. The fundamental question of my paper is, however: can we really draw a strict demarcation line between life and death?[3]

[1] R.-H. Marijnissen. Dégradation, conservation et restauration de l´œuvre d´art (Bruxelles: Éditions Arcade, 1967), 168–69.

[2] Jacques Derrida. ‘Ousia and Grammē: Note on a Note from Being and Time.’ In Margins of Philosophy. Translated, with Additional Notes, by Alan Bass (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982), 39.

[3] Derrida argued that ontical disciplines – such as biology and anthropology – ‘naively put into operation more or less clear conceptual presuppositions (Vorbegriffe) about life and death’. Jacques Derrida. Aporias. Transl. Thomas Dutoit (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993), 29.

Featured image: How much usure can an artwork endure? Isak Wacklin, Miss Heckford, 1757 (detail), oil on canvas , Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Conservation Department

Read more — Download ‘The Lifespan of Artworks Between the Earth and the World’ by Ari Tanhuanpää as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm, Aiax, a Study of a Plaster Cast, undated, charcoal on paper, 44cm x 41.5cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

How an Artisan became an Artist – an Overview of the Early Stages of Finnish Art Education

Irene Riihimäki, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery, during which Irene Riihimäki studied material in the Archive Collections of the Finnish National Gallery

It is childish to long for native art; Finland can never be a land for artists.’
– It was not long ago when this sentiment was commonly heard; in this way many speak even today, but their number is becoming smaller and smaller.

This article focuses on early art education in Finland from the 1840s to the end of the 1860s. During this time the backbone of art education was created in The Grand Duchy of Finland. Before the 1840s there was no institution in the country focusing primarily on educating artists. The distinction between the artist profession and craftsmanship emerged during this time and was connected to the development of the schooling system for artists. The artist’s new identity was accompanied by the founding of art academies.

An important step in Finland creating its own generation of artists was the foundation of the Finnish Art Society in 1846. Another important contributor was the Imperial Alexander University in Helsinki in the mid-19th century. The most essential source material for this article has been the Finnish Art Society’s minutes with appendices from the years 1846–69. These minutes include, for example, information about acquisitions of works of art, exhibitions and letters sent to the board by artists.[2] Circumstances in Finland were challenging during the mid-19th century. During this 20-year period Finland endured the Crimean War, from 1853 to 1856, a cholera epidemic and the Famine of 1866–68. Despite all of these difficulties there were hopes of improving the education system for artists.

[1] Papperslyktan 15 October 1860. My translation.

[2] The oldest part of this material (years 1846–1901) is available in digitised form. It can be read from the website: http://www.lahteilla.fi/styp/.

Featured image: Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm, Aiax, a Study of a Plaster Cast, undated, charcoal on paper, 44cm x 41.5cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Read more — Download ‘How an Artisan became an Artist – an Overview of the Early Stages of Finnish Art Education’ by Irene Riihimäki as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe performing in Helsinki in 1991 Photo Sakari Viika

A Star Called Monroe

Olesya Turkina PhD and Victor Mazin PhD

Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe was an idiosyncratic Russian artist whose rise to stardom came in the wake of perestroika, as he pushed the boundaries of identity, gender and celebrity status through his reinventions of the world’s iconic stars. Researchers Dr. Olesya Turkina and Dr. Victor Mazin[1] survey his short career, as Kiasma mounts his first solo show in Finland

A star

The star of Vladislav Yurievich Mamyshev-Monroe ascended at the beginning of perestroika. In fact, perestroika started not in politics but in art. In 1982, Timur Novikov founded the Novye khudozhniki (New Artists) group; in 1984, Sergey Kuryokhin organised the Popular Mechanics orchestra; and only then, in 1985, the newly elected relatively young General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev began talking about the need for perestroika. Vladislav Mamyshev saw in Gorbachev the swapping of the male archetype for female, militarist policy for pacifist. The artist marked his official portrait of the General Secretary with a bindi – third eye and a sign of truth in Hinduism, which is also a mark of married women. This collage is the first artwork by Mamyshev to have been widely recognised. A portrait of Gorbachev by Vladislav Mamyshev, of course, was bound for success in the mass media, and set the artist up for stardom. It was reprinted by a number of leading Western magazines, in particular, by the German magazine Stern (Star).

[1] About Olesya Turkina and Victor Mazin, see http://www.mg-lj.si/en/events/2036/a-short-history-of-necrorealism/ .

Featured image: Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe performing in Helsinki in 1991. Photo Sakari Viika

Read more — Download ‘A Star Called Monroe’ by Oleshya Turkina and Victor Mazin as a PDF

Download the Full Article as a PDF >>

’Russian Stardust’, 9 February – 29 July, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

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