Wäinö Aaltonen, Jean Sibelius, 1935, marble, ht. 70 cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Article: From a Young Genius to a Monument

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

First published in Hanna-Leena Paloposki (ed.), Sibelius and the World of Art. Ateneum Publications Vol. 70. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2014, 13─61.

We all know what the composer Jean Sibelius looks like. He is elderly, with penetrating eyes, his mouth closed in a stern line. He is bald and – if we can see more than his face – he sits in an armchair and smokes a cigar. The image is very much a cliché. It is also quite possible that this is no longer the figure many Finns see in their minds – the prevalence of such images is very much bound to culture and generation. It is nevertheless quite likely that such an image of Sibelius is shared by those of us who were born before the 1970s, who received a school education founded on early 20th-century unified culture – our minds imprinted not only with the image of the stern national composer, but also with the Finlandia Hymn and the Song of the Athenians – and who in primary school groped for the notes of Andante Festivo in the ranks of the school orchestra.

The assumption of a widely held visual image requires at least that we know who Sibelius is. The composer has been on the list of the most famous Finns for decades, although the basis of his recognition is undoubtedly different in Finland than elsewhere. In Finland, Sibelius’s peers have comprised both the most prominent statesmen and the most prestigious representatives of art and culture. The Finnish adage ‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu’ carries the name of Sibelius everywhere that the deepest perceived values and everyday experiences of Finnishness are discussed.[1]

The popular recognition of Sibelius shows no sign of declining. In 2013, the Finnish Cultural Foundation conducted an extensive Gallup poll on the kind of art Finns find appealing.[2] The result shows that the appreciation of Sibelius is virtually unrivalled, insofar as age, education and domicile in Finland made hardly any difference in the overall positive result.[3] The survey suggests that while traditional cultural heavyweights remain strong, the top four – Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna and Juice Leskinen – encompass a wide spectrum of artforms and artist’s ages.[4]

[1] ‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu’ is used as an idiomatic compound. Its reference is to the cultural determination of Finnish identity, sometimes used ironically. Examples: in popular culture, the chart hit of the Kivikasvot ensemble entitled Made in Finland (Tankeros love) 1975; in an academic context, the title of a seminar ‘Sibelius, sauna ja sisu! Suomen maakuvan historiaa’ (‘Sibelius, sauna and sisu! History of the Finnish national image’), University of Helsinki 16 April 2009, or the title of a thesis Sauna, sisu ja Sibelius. Jean Sibeliuksen konstruoidun säveltäjäkuvan muodostuminen musiikkikirjallisuudessa (‘Sauna, sisu and Sibelius. The formation of the constructed image of Jean Sibelius in music literature’), Lantto 2013.

[2] Study commissioned by the Finnish Cultural Foundation Suomalaisten näkemykset kulttuurista. Vaikuttuneisuus taiteilijoista ja tyylisuunnista (‘Finnish Views on and Engagement in Culture and the Arts’). The survey questions related to 32 pre-selected artists.

[3] Suomalaisten näkemykset kulttuurista. Vaikuttuneisuus taiteilijoista ja tyylisuunnista, 35.

[4] Press release of the Finnish Cultural Foundation 2013: ‘Tutkimus: Tunnetuimmat taiteilijamme ovat Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna ja Juice Leskinen’ (‘Study shows our most famous artists are Jean Sibelius, Tove Jansson, Väinö Linna and Juice Leskinen’).

Featured image: Wäinö Aaltonen, Jean Sibelius, 1935, marble, ht. 70cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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Ellen Thesleff, Violin Player, 1896, oil on canvas, 40 x 44 cm Ahlström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jukka Romu

Article: Correspondences – Jean Sibelius in a Forest of Image and Myth

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

First published in Hanna-Leena Paloposki (ed.), Sibelius and the World of Art. Ateneum Publications Vol. 70. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2014, 81–127.

Thanks to his friends in the arts the idea of a young Jean Sibelius who was the composer-genius of his age developed rapidly. The figure that was created was emphatically anguished, reflective and profound. On the other hand, pictures of Sibelius show us a fashionable, reckless and modern international bohemian, whose personality inspired artists to create cartoons and caricatures. Among his many portraitists were the young Akseli Gallen-Kallela[1]  and the more experienced Albert Edelfelt. They tended to emphasise Sibelius’s high forehead, assertive hair and piercing eyes, as if calling attention to how this charismatic person created compositions in his head and then wrote them down, in their entirety, as the score.

Such an image of Sibelius largely conforms to the notion of the artists’ spirituality in late-19th-century art theory: artists were seen as special individuals endowed with the ability to achieve greatness and explore inner worlds. The idea was brewing in the international art world that artists were free, heroic individuals detached from everything mundane and trivial.[2] The importance of Sibelius for Finnish art of the 1890s is also accentuated by the fact that, according to the symbolist theory of art, music, being ‘immaterial’, was the highest form of art. Sibelius’s synaesthetic propensity to perceive colours and sounds together was also seen as a sign of a true artist.[3]

This essay examines Jean Sibelius through the visual art of his day, with a view to discovering how his image was fashioned to correspond to international ideas of art prevalent in the 1890s. It also highlights the way his music influenced the artists around him and their work. On the other hand, it is also obvious that Sibelius drew on influences from contemporary art for his own work as a composer. He was in constant contact with artists and surrounded himself at his home in Ainola with artworks that he both purchased and received as gifts.[4] This fruitful and complex interaction played a central role at a turning point in Finnish art and culture at the beginning of the 20th century, when the art world was undergoing an innovative period of new contacts and internationality.

I am so happy to be able to view paintings in Munich and in particular those of [Franz von] Stuck that Erik [Eero Järnefelt] has pictures of. I will now surely save [money] so that before returning home I will get to Italy – to Venezia. (……) I will take a ‘gallery’ at the opera. I will sit there in my shirtsleeves and enjoy. I am now fully restored to my old self. I will have to try to get out a little every year. Then I will be as I used to be.[5]

International modern art provided links to literature, poetry, music, nationalism and science. The age favoured artists such as Sibelius who might be described as a patriotic cosmopolitan. There was a duality in his work; he was both national and international. Sibelius travelled outside Finland 41 times in all, and throughout his active career he went abroad on average once a year.[6] These travels were also a necessity for the composer, who publicised his music by conducting it with different orchestras. At the same time, he also spent a great deal of time engaging with contemporary art. Travelling nourished inspiration and Sibelius worked on his second symphony in Italy, in Rapallo, on his third in Paris, and on Tapiola in Rome. It is characteristic that, by his own admission, he worked best either in the peace and quiet of the countryside or in a hotel room in the city. This productive dualism is common to many visual artists, too. Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Sibelius’s brother-in-law Eero Järnefelt, as well as Pekka Halonen, all found directions for their art in both urban Paris and the silence of the forest. The clear references in Sibelius’s music to the mythic world of the Kalevala, to the forces of nature, to the animal kingdom and turn-of-the-century fantasy all contributed to the image of a contemporary composer who was as much at home as a flâneur in Vienna, Berlin and Paris as he was trekking in vast forests or seeking inspiration among the Koli hills.

[1] Axel Gallén (1865–1930), this form of name until 1907.

[2] Alongside Realism and Naturalism, the literary movement known as Nietzscheism also developed on the international art scene. In his lectures on Nietzsche in 1888, the Danish writer Georg Brandes disseminated the new philosophy among Scandinavians. Another important influence was the Swedish writer, critic and artist August Strindberg, who had entered his ‘Nietzsche period’. The philosophy, with its mythical culture of superman and mysticism, left its imprint also on Finnish art of the 1880s. The first version of Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s On the Road to Tuonela (1888) portrays a heroic man, a free individual, who is liberated from all that is mundane and ordinary. Sarajas-Korte 1989, 239.

[3] Synaesthesia refers to the neurological condition in which the senses intermingle. A sensory stimulus results in a perception belonging to some other sense. A person suffering from synaesthesia may see sounds as colours or taste phonemes. The most common form of synaesthesia is so-called colour hearing, which became activated in Sibelius when he saw colours. For further information on colours and synaesthesia, see Arnkill 2007.

[4] On the art works in Ainola, see Hälikkä 2014b, 168–171.

[5] Franz von Stuck was a leading Symbolist artist in Germany and later a teacher of Wassily Kandinsky. Jean Sibelius to Aino Sibelius, Bayreuth 23 July 1894. Talas 2003, 52.

[6] The young Jean Sibelius had his first contact with urban life when, with his sister Linda and his aunt Evelina, he moved from Hämeenlinna to Helsinki in summer 1885. Sibelius’s financial worries made him enter, in his father’s footsteps, the medical faculty of the Imperial Alexander University, but he soon switched to law. He was already irregularly attending the new Music Institute at this time. From the outset he had his mind set on a career as a celebrated violinist. Goss 2009, 64, 67.

Featured image: Ellen Thesleff, Violin Player, 1896, oil on canvas, 40 x 44cm
Ahlström Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jukka Romu

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Article from a Shanghai newspaper in Chinese on the occasion of Jean Sibelius’s 70th birthday in late 1935. Archive of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Article: The Nation of Sibelius – Sibelius and the Construction of the Finnish National Identity Abroad in the Early Decades of Finnish Independence

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

First published in Hanna-Leena Paloposki (ed.), Sibelius and the World of Art. Ateneum Publications Vol. 70. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum, 2014, 211–229.

Promoting Finland Abroad

After gaining its independence in 1917, Finland began establishing contacts with other countries and to make itself known internationally. Finland wanted to portray itself as a solid, independent Western state and an internally unified nation. Culture played an important role in the construction of the country’s image. As the evening newspaper Iltalehti observed in 1927, Finland had to make itself known abroad for more reasons than that we ‘run fast and make good butter and excellent pulp.’ According to the paper, Finland also had great theatre, first-class music and vibrant literature and art.[1]

From the start, the task of promoting Finland internationally fell to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, established in 1918, and Finnish diplomatic missions played an important role in this. The visibility of the country, the dissemination of information about and events associated with Finland were constant topics in the press summaries, reports and reviews supplied by Finnish embassies to the ministry, as well as in news wires sent to Finnish papers.[2] Aside from the authorities, many institutions, societies and private individuals contributed to the cultural exports of Finland.

In this essay, I discuss the ways in which Jean Sibelius and his music were used in official promotion during the first decades after Finnish independence. I will focus on the activities of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Finnish diplomatic missions,[3] particularly in relation to two topics: Sibelius’s 70th birthday celebrations in 1935, and Sibelius and the construction of the image of Finland in Italy.

[1] Järjestelmä tarpeen. Iltalehti 26 February 1927.

[2] Information on the promotion of Finland can be found in the archives of the Foreign Ministry as well as Finnish diplomatic missions. The former contain a section dedicated to this matter. Historians Pekka Lähteenkorva and Jussi Pekkarinen discuss the matter in Ikuisen poudan maa. Virallinen Suomi-kuva 1918–1945 (2004) specifically based on archive material and from the perspective of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. However, the section on Sibelius is rather short in the book. The sequel, Idän etuvartio? Suomi-kuva 1945–1981, was published in 2008 (Helsinki: WSOY).

[3]  In this essay, I do not discuss Sibelius’s own relations abroad, his own views of his role in the promotion of Finland, or the issue of the possible ‘Finnishness’ of Sibelius’s music.

Featured image: Article from a Shanghai newspaper in Chinese on the occasion of Jean Sibelius’s 70th birthday in late 1935. Archive of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

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Magnus Enckell, Music, 1906, soft-ground etching, 33 x 42,5 cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Article: Finlandia – From National Tableau to ­Triumphal Anthem

Timo Huusko, PhD.Lic., Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum

First published in Hanna-Leena Paloposki (ed.), Sibelius and the World of Art. Ateneum Publications Vol. 70. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2014, 253–60.

Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia was originally composed as the last part of a six-part series of historical tableaux presented in Helsinki in November 1899. It was commissioned for a celebration of the Finnish press held at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, which stood as an example of the counter-censorship struggles of the time. Finlandia was performed after a tableau depicting the Great Northern War.[1]

The link between the composition and the awakening of Finnish national self-awareness was clear from the start. In the programme, the text describing the sixth part read: ‘The dark powers have not succeeded in carrying out their dire threat. Finland awakes. From among the spirits of the age that are writing the pages of history, one rises up to tell the story of Alexander II. Memories of this awakening are evoked. Runeberg bending his ear to his muse, Snellman declaiming words of awakening to students, Lönnrot writing down the poems of two singers, the four spokesmen of the first Diet, primary school, the first railway engine.’ The tableau also included a poem by the Finnish poet Eino Leino: ‘Kyntäkää, kylväkää, toukojen, toivojen aika on tää. / Toivehet milloin toteutuu, / milloin halla ne syö. / Nyt on Suomen toukokuu, / nyt on kynnön ja kylvön työ, / leikkuu, korjuu – kaikki muu / jääköön Herran huomaan.[2]

According to Erik Tawaststjerna, the patriotic force of the composition became clear at the latest in December that year, 1899, when it was performed at a concert in Helsinki, conducted by Robert Kajanus, as part of a symphonic series compiled from five compositions.[3] The piece was named Finlandia in March 1900. The idea for the title came from Axel Carpelan, an eccentric baron, music-lover and Sibelius’s future patron, who suggested it to Sibelius in his first letter to the composer.[4] At the 1900 Paris World Fair, it was performed at the Trocadéro under the title La Patrie.[5]

[1] Sirén 2012, 200.

[2] Tawaststjerna 1997, 139. ‘Now to ploughing! Now to seeding! / The time for planting and hopes is nigh. / Sometimes hopes are fulfilled, / Sometimes nipped by the frost. / Now is spring in Finland, / Now for the work of ploughing and sowing, / Cutting and tying – May everything else / Be with God.’ Translation from Goss, Glenda Dawn, 2009. Sibelius. A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

[3] Tawaststjerna 1997, 139.

[4] Dahlström 2010, 59. Carpelan himself was not particularly wealthy, but he procured patrons for Sibelius.

[5] Dahlström 2010, 35.

Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Music, 1906, soft-ground etching, 33 x 42,5cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

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Salla Tykkä, Giant, 2013. A still from an HD video 12:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Hear the Heartbeats of Museum Collections

Leevi Haapala, PhD, Museum Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

 

‘Is “contemporary” the name of an art-historical period that has succeeded modernism, or does ‘contemporaneity’ mean that periodization is past (an anachronism from modernity) both in general culture and in art?’  This question from the Australian art historian Terry Smith prompts us to think about the meaning of living today and actively shaping our cultural heritage. Is contemporary art a label for today’s art, or is ‘contemporaneity’ also something that can be found from each historical period?

Art collection is one way of telling our story as a nation. That is a big challenge. What kind of story do we want to tell? And how do we want to be remembered by future citizens and museum visitors from other countries? Who are we, who are those who belong to ‘us’, and how is the nation defined through art? Museum directors need to face these questions every time they plan a new collection display or write an article about one of the museum’s many collections.

The art museum is a collecting institution. The collections of the Finnish National Gallery comprise around 40,000 works of art, objects and an art-historical research archive. The collections are closely integrated into the three museums’ exhibition programmes in the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. In the current edition of FNG Research, all three museum directors reveal the timespan and the guidelines for current acquisitions. Each time has valued its art differently – asking what is important, who are the artists to represent the nation or a particular patron, what is the relationship between private and public collections, whose taste to follow? The exhibition and research activities of the three museums range from contemporary digital art and European old masters to the constitutive history of Finnish art before and after Independence. One time’s novelty is today’s antiquity.

Collection is a wider concept than just the body of works. The organisation of exhibitions and public programmes inside the museum goes hand in hand with acquiring collections. Every year a number of pieces exhibited in the temporary exhibitions programme of the three museums augment the collections: either as purchased works of art, or through documenting them in photographs, artist interviews and research articles. Museums create narratives around the collections and about the collections via arts professionals together with living artists or with the help of documents. The art-historical archive is a treasure, full of artists’ correspondence and notebooks, audio records and media archives, art reviews, and even more.

Contemporary art is created and displayed in a context that is characterised by interaction between local and global culture. Finnish contemporary art, too, has become an important part of the international scene with its biennales, topical museum exhibitions, international artist residencies and art fairs. Kiasma’s collections are currently developed by acquiring important works of contemporary art of outstanding quality, regardless of national or geographic boundaries and yet with an underlying focus on art from nearby regions. Kiasma’s mission is to collect current contemporary art that reflects the times as broadly as possible. Important factors that determine acquisitions are an understanding of the times, fearless vision and sensitivity to phenomena such as network culture. As the Ateneum Art Museum’s Director Susanna Pettersson remarks in her paper in this edition, ‘The trends of the 21st century urge the museum field to share collection resources and to make better and more effective use of collections.’ That is precisely the target we are aiming at in Kiasma too, as we prepare to launch a digital Online Art Collection as a part of the forthcoming ‘ARS17’ exhibition. Through this initiative, online commissions will be made directly accessible to our digital natives wherever they may be.

The collection is the heart of the museum!

Featured image: Salla Tykkä, Giant, 2013. A still from an HD video 12:9, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

Johannes Takanen, Carl Gustaf Estlander, 1883, plaster cast, height 66cm. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Peer Reviewed Article: Nordic Art History in the Making

Nordic Art History in the Making: Carl Gustaf Estlander and Tidskrift för Bildande Konst och Konstindustri 1875–1876

Susanna Pettersson, PhD, Museum Director, Ateneum Art Museum

 

First published in Renja Suominen-Kokkonen (ed.), The Challenges of Biographical Research in Art History Today. Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia (Studies in Art History) 46. Helsinki: Taidehistorian seura (The Society for Art History in Finland), 64–73, 2013

 

… “så länge vi på vår sida göra allt hvad i vår magt står – den mår vara hur ringa som helst – för att skapa ett konstorgan, värdigt vårt lands och vår tids fordringar.

Stockholm i December 1874. Redaktionen.”

(‘… as long as we do everything we can – however little that may be – to create an art body that is worth the claims of our countries and of our time.

From the Editorial staff, Stockholm, December 1874.’)[1]

 

These words were addressed to the readers of the first issue of the brand new art journal Tidskrift för bildande konst och konstindustri (Journal of Fine Arts and Arts and Crafts) published in Stockholm over two years in 1875–1876. One of the founding members of the journal was the Finnish academic and cultural activist Carl Gustaf Estlander (1834–1910), whose professional ambitions fit well into the picture.

I will argue that Tidskrift för bildande konst och konstindustri provided the Nordic editors of the journal with a platform to manifest their concept of art history. They developed a method of communicating the contents through a specific set of articles. The journal was a perfect 19th-century example of a project showcasing the development of a profession in the making and the use of professional networks. For Estlander, this was a gateway to the Nordic and North European art-historical discourse, and strengthened his position as the leading Finnish art historian of his time.

[1] Tidskrift för bildande konst och konstindustri 1875. Stockholm: C. E. Fritze’s Bokhandel, VIII.

Featured image: Johannes Takanen, Carl Gustaf Estlander, 1883, plaster cast, height 66cm.
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

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Hugo Simberg, Old Man and Child, 1913, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Articles: Enhancing the FNG’s Collections

The Finnish National Gallery art collections consist of about 40,000 art works from the 14th century to the present day. They are owned by the State, along with its large archive collections. Responsibility for the augmentation and management of the art collections is divided between the three museums of the FNG – the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. The Directors of these museums, Susanna Pettersson, Leevi Haapala and Kirsi Eskelinen, write here about the collections and their history, as well as about acquisitions, donations, and collections policies

Featured image: Hugo Simberg, Old Man and Child, 1913, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

19th Century and Modern Art: Collecting for the Ateneum Art Museum

Susanna Pettersson

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Collections in Kiasma Live Along with Renewal of Art Itself

Leevi Haapala

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The Collections and Acquisitions Policy of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum

Kirsi Eskelinen

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