Koliba Villa (Willa Koliba), designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in 1892–93, is now the Museum of the Zakopane Style, a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane Photo: Tatra Museum Archive

Article: Return to Nature

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

A key feature of the European revivalist art of the late 19th century were the artists’ communities that grew up in areas of natural beauty across Europe. Gill Crabbe meets two of the organisers of the 2015 European Revivals conference, which took place in Krakow and Zakopane in the Tatra mountains

When one thinks of the European revivalist culture that emerged in the later decades of the 19th century, one thinks of Paris as having been the central hub of the artistic ideas that spread across Europe and that included – especially in northern Europe – an urge to return to local territories and art practices. There were also the philosophical ideas generated by British artist thinkers such as John Ruskin, and the birth of the Arts and Crafts movement, epitomised in the decorative arts of William Morris. However, fewer scholars internationally today have been aware of its manifestations in central Europe, and one significant result of the Finnish National Gallery’s European Revivals Research Project has been a conference that took place in Krakow and Zakopane in Poland, which has now placed the country’s Tatra mountain region firmly on the European revivalist map.

The FNG’s European Revivals Project, which has been active since 2009, aims to bring together scholars, art histories and narratives from different countries and explore their common cultural heritage concerning this key period in Europe’s cultural history. The four international conferences that have so far taken place have provided fertile ground for sharing ideas, networking and exploring common experiences.

The Tatra Museum conference in Krakow in 2015, which included a day visiting the Tatra mountain village of Zakopane, took as its theme the return to nature that can be seen as a feature of European revivalist cultures, reflected in the development of artists’ colonies in rural areas that promoted a simple healthy lifestyle. Their art not only foregrounded en plein air landscape painting but also manifested in fresh creativity in the decorative arts and architecture and indeed across all artistic disciplines. At the conference, curators and scholars from as far afield as Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and of course Poland, explored themes ranging from nature and myth, and colour and national artistic identity, to wilderness and violence, and the significance of the rustic hut.

Edyta Barucka, an independent scholar based in Warsaw, explains how the Krakow conference came about. ‘It goes back to the first of these conferences, held at the Ateneum Art Museum in 2009, which was about the myths and visions of history and included study visits to the Finnish artists’ houses – Gallen-Kallela’s house in Tarvaspää and houses in the Tuusula district near Helsinki,’ she says. ‘It was a marvellous experience just to touch these houses, to see them as they were, to learn their respective histories. And it added an important dimension to our research – sharing direct experiences and insights with colleagues. I remember the lineoleum in one of the rooms and wondering if it was from Scotland. It was the first time I thought it would be good to share what we have in Poland.’

At subsequent conferences, delegates became aware of new threads and areas of interest developing. ‘Then, following the Oslo conference in 2014, I revisited the idea of bringing scholars to Poland, in collaboration with the Tatra Museum,’ says Barucka.

Featured image: Koliba Villa (Willa Koliba), designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in 1892–93, is now the Museum of the Zakopane Style, a branch of the Tatra Museum in Zakopane
Photo: Tatra Museum Archive

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Read more about the European Revivals Research Project — just follow the link below:

https://research.fng.fi/research-projects/

Download the programme from the European Revivals 2015 conference, Tatra Museum, Krakow and Zakopane

Download the Conference Programme as a PDF >>

Jacob Axel Gillberg, Self-Portrait, 1815, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,2cm x 6,2cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

Article: Small is Beautiful

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The Sinebrychoff Art Museum has one of the finest collections of portrait miniatures in the Nordic region. Curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi gives Gill Crabbe the backdrop to the conservation work that has taken place over 15 years of collaboration with the specialist conservator Bernd Pappe

Paul Sinebrychoff’s collection of miniatures, which date from the 17th to 19th centuries, originally enjoyed pride of place in the salon of his home in Bulevardi, Helsinki, which is now the Finnish National Gallery’s Sinebrychoff Art Museum. As museum curator Reetta Kuojärvi-Närhi explains, ‘They were his treasures and he started by buying two big collections of about 100 pieces each, having done his own research. Altogether, though, he collected around 400 images which are contained in more than 320 items (some miniatures contain multiple images).’ Sinebrychoff’s treasure trove has been augmented by a further 46 miniatures collected by Mikko and Mary Mannio, as well as seven miniatures acquired through other donations.

Today a selection of these miniatures is on display in a specially designed room with lighting suitable for conservation purposes and in a cabinet that enables the viewer to see the exquisite workmanship in closer detail. Much of this display has been conserved by Bernd Pappe, a leading expert in miniature conservation, who first visited the museum as an advisor 15 years ago, and then as conservator. On his most recent visit in April 2016, he has been bringing many works up to the standard required for them to go on show in the permanent exhibition. This has been part of a two-year project during which Pappe has concentrated on replacing the damaged glasses in the frames.

Featured image: Jacob Axel Gillberg, Self-Portrait, 1815, watercolour and gouache on ivory, 6,2cm x 6,2cm, Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff Collection, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

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Nikolai Astrup, June, Night in the Garden, undated, colour woodcut with handcolouring, 31.2cm x 41.3cm, from the collections of the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Photo: The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo / Børre Høstland

Article: Inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

 

The ‘Japanomania’ exhibition in Helsinki is the culmination of an innovative inquiry into Nordic Japonisme that began in 2011. Gill Crabbe meets the show’s Chief Curator, Professor Gabriel Weisberg, a leading authority on Japonisme, and Riitta Ojanperä, Director of Collections Management at the Finnish National Gallery, and reports on the highlights of the exhibition’s accompanying conference

Gabriel Weisberg, Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, is a world expert on Japonisme, a term that was first used in 1872 by the French art critic and collector Philippe Burty to describe the influence of Japanese art on Western art and design that began around 1870 and flowered through to the end of the First World War. Prof. Weisberg was recently in Helsinki, as Chief Curator of ‘Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918’, which opened at the Ateneum Art Museum, and which travels to the National Museum, Oslo, this summer, and to the Statens Art Museum, Copenhagen, in 2017. The project was started at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki in 2011 as the museum wished to establish a deepened research collaboration with Prof. Weisberg. The curatorial team consisted in the beginning of Prof. Weisberg and the Finnish National Gallery’s Chief Curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff and was later increased with art historians from other Nordic countries.

I met Prof. Weisberg, along with Riitta Ojanperä, Editor in Chief of the FNG Research web magazine, to discuss key themes in the exhibition and in art-historical research relating to Japonisme in Finland and other Nordic countries. The meeting took place ahead of a day-long international conference on the topic, with distinguished art historians and experts on Japonisme taking part, including Director of the Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Akiko Mabuchi.
Prof. Weisberg’s interest in Japonisme began in the 1960s when, as a student, he wrote his doctoral thesis on Philippe Burty, who had put his finger on the start of a phenomenon that was to sweep across Europe and America. For Weisberg too his research was the start of an enduring passion that has lasted almost 50 years – one that he shares with his wife Yvonne – and perhaps following the footsteps of Burty, Weisberg himself has now coined the term ‘Japanomania’ in giving the title to this groundbreaking exhibition.

‘Japanomania wasn’t a term that was used in the 19th century,’ Prof. Weisberg explains. ‘It’s a word we have come up with to deal with what was previously called Japonisme, and I now call Japanomania because it was a phenomenon that touched every aspect of life.’ While Japonisme can be seen as an influence on Western art and design, Japanomania implies a much bigger impact, one that caused a frenzy of interest from artists, collectors and fashionable society. ‘It overtook everything,’ says Yvonne Weisberg. ‘Japanomania was huge in America, for example. It was chic. People had their houses redecorated with Japanese objects. The son of the American poet Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow even went to Japan and came back with his body tattooed.’

As Prof. Weisberg points out in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition: ‘The impact of Japanese art throughout the Nordic countries would not have been possible had Japonisme not become more than a mere curiosity.’

Featured image: Nikolai Astrup, June, Night in the Garden, undated, colour woodcut with handcolouring, 31.2cm x 41.3cm, from the collections of the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Photo: The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo / Børre Høstland

 

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See the video of a presentation in the recent Ateneum Art Museum conference on Japonisme in Nordic Art by Dr. Akiko Mabuchi:

https://vimeo.com/album/3863187

See the Call for Papers for an international symposium Interaction, Influence, and Entanglement. 100 years of Finnish–Japanese Relations and Beyond organised at the University of Oulu, Finland in September, 2016:

Download the CFP of the ‘Interaction Influence and Entanglement’ Symposium >>