Riikka Stewen, PhD, Lecturer, University of Turku / Adjunct Professor, University of Helsinki
Also published in Hanne Selkokari (ed.), Magnus Enckell 1870−1925. Ateneum Publications Vol. 141. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020. Transl. Don McCracken
In the autumn of 1894, Magnus Enckell travels to Italy on a study trip, bound for Milan to see and study Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (c. 1495−98). Once there he stays for several weeks, making sketches for what would become his most monumental work of the 1890s, Melancholy (1895). In a letter to his friend Yrjö Hirn, he says that the painting is intended to convey a certain feeling, or emotional state, to the viewer. Enckell and Hirn would both turn 24 that autumn, but the discussion in their correspondence about the meaning of art and the role that emotions play in it started much further back in time. Two years earlier, Hirn had completed his study on the influence of Lucretius, an ancient materialist philosopher, on modern psychological thinking, and he was now focusing on the psychology of shamanism. When Hirn’s study, The Origins of Art, appears in 1900, he becomes a key international exponent of a new trend in aesthetics, called psychological aesthetics. Enckell, the artist, and Hirn, the theoretician, are both interested in the connection between art and emotion, and they recognise that they share the same interests as regards the essence of art: in a letter from Milan, Enckell declares what a unique privilege it is to share ideas with a friend.
 Magnus Enckell’s letter to Yrjö Hirn, Milan 5 November 1894. Yrjö Hirn’s Collection, Coll. 75. The National Library of Finland. Salme Sarajas-Korte also mentions Oscar Wilde’s ‘transference of emotion’ in connection with Enckell’s letter, Salme Sarajas-Korte. Suomen varhaissymbolismi ja sen lähteet. Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, 1966, 199.
 Hirn’s archive in the National Library of Finland includes his thesis Lucretius’ theory of the psychology of the sensations, 1892, and his handwritten manuscript ‘Preparatory works for the planned thesis about the psychology of shamanism’, 1895, and ‘The beginning of the planned thesis about the psychology of shamanism’, 1897.
 Magnus Enckell’s letter to Yrjö Hirn, autumn 1894. Yrjö Hirn’s Collection, Coll. 75. The National Library of Finland.
Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Fantasy, 1895, gouache, crayon and pencil on paper, 47cm x 44cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen
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