Collection of prints and drawings

Japanese woodcuts. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Henri Tuomi

Ateneum Art Museum houses the largest and most extensive collection of Finnish prints in the country, dating from late 19th century to the present day. The works of those contemporary printmakers who have had their first public exhibition before the year 1960 are included in Ateneum’s collections. The works of younger printmakers can be found at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.

There is also a handsome collection of Nordic and European prints. The largest single collection is that of Japanese woodcuts.

The extensive collection of drawings, sketches, watercolours, and sketchbooks provides a rather exhaustive overview of Finnish art history, from Alexander Lauréus (1783–1823) to the present day. This collection is indeed highly significant for researchers of Finnish art. The collection of drawings also includes a number of works by foreign artists.

Collection of prints

The first ever Finnish print, Flower of Death (1895) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, was donated to Ateneum by the artist himself soon after printing. From the year 1900, the museum began acquiring works by the pioneers of Finnish printmaking. Today the museum collection includes just about perfect sets of Gallen-Kallela’s, Albert Edelfelt’s and Hugo Simberg’s graphic works.

The second and third decades of the 20th century were a period of few acquisitions, but the 1930s saw a boom of Finnish printmaking, and this was also reflected in the growing number of prints purchased. From the 1950s, Finnish prints began making up a considerable part of the museum’s yearly acquisitions.

The latest notable additions to the collection have been donations. In 2001 the museum received the whole life’s work of printmaker Aune Mikkonen, donated by the artist herself. In 2003 the estate of Helmi Kuusi donated around a hundred prints and over two hundred sketchbooks. Works of printmaker Lea Ignatius were also donated to Ateneum following an exhibition of her work in 2003. A significant addition to the collection of modern European prints was the donation of the Ester and Jalo Sihtola Fine Arts Foundation in 2001, while the donation of the Rolando and Siv Pieraccini collection in 2008 has international significance with its over 600 examples of Italian 20th-century printmaking.

Artists featured in Ateneum’s collection of prints include Lauri Ahlgrén, Tuomas von Boehm, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Ina Colliander, Albert Edelfelt, James Ensor, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Paul Gauguin, Simo Hannula, Pentti Kaskipuro, Pentti Lumikangas, Henri Matisse, Ernst Mether-Borgström, Edvard Munch, Teuvo-Pentti Pakkala, Pablo Picasso, Tuulikki Pietilä, Ulla Rantanen, Hugo Simberg, Ellen Thesleff, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Eduard Wiiralt.


Japanese woodcuts

The Finnish National Gallery collections include some 900 Japanese woodcuts. Most of them are part of the Antell Collection, for which they were purchased in 1908 from Adolf Weigel’s antiquarian shop in Leipzig. The intermediary was a French lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Jean Poirot, who asked the antiquarian to send a selection of ukiyo-e prints to Finland. The delivery included bundles and long rolls of woodcuts, over 650 works in all. The Antell committee bought them all for 1,581 marks. The works were deposited in the Ateneum Art Museum.

Most of the collection is theatrical woodcuts by Kunisada (Toyokuni III). They give a fairly good idea of the work of this incredibly productive woodcut artist. The museum published a scientific catalogue of its Kunisada collection in 1985. The woodcuts from Weigel also included works by Harunobu, Hiroshige, Hokusai, Toyokuni, and Utamaro.

The Japanese collection was only added to in 1994, when some forty theatrical woodcuts by the Osaka school were purchased from a private collection in Helsinki. Most of them are made by the most productive artist of the school, Hirosada. In 1998 the Japanese collector Tadashi Goino donated 150 woodcuts to the museum, among them several masterpieces.

The Japanese woodcuts were exhibited in Ateneum in 2000 in the exhibition The Scent of a Cherry Tree. It was accompanied by a publication on the woodcuts of the Japanese Edo period.

Artists featured in Ateneum’s collection of Japanese woodcuts are Ashiyuki, Harunobu, Hirosada, Hiroshige, Hokusai, Kiyonagai, Kunisada, Kuniyoshi, Toyokuni I and Utamaro.


Collection of drawings

The Ateneum Art Museum’s extensive collection of drawings by Finnish artists has mostly been acquired in large batches, either as donations or from the artists’ heirs. The first notable acquisition was the purchase of almost 300 ink and pencil drawings by R. W. Ekman. The collection was auctioned in Turku in 1873, soon after the artist’s death. This acquisition was the background for the collection of drawings acquisition policy: the museum became a guardian of the Finnish artistic heritage. The following year K. E. Jansson’s father donated over a hundred pencil drawings of his late son.

In 1875 the museum purchased 180 drawings from the estate of Magnus von Wright, mostly landscapes and town views. All of Werner Holmberg’s watercolours, drawings, and sketchbooks, over 250 works, were purchased in 1890 from the artist’s widow. They came with over a hundred drawings by P. A. Kruskopf that Holmberg had owned. It has often happened that all the drawings and sketches of a single artist have been acquired as a rather perfect set. Such was the case with the 55 sketchbooks of Eero Järnefelt, which the artist’s heirs donated in 1993.

Ateneum’s collection of hundreds of sketchbooks includes material that is crucial to the study of Finnish art.

Artists featured in Ateneum’s collection of drawings include Fanny Churberg, Albert Edelfelt, R.W. Ekman, Magnus Enckell, A.W. Finch, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Werner Holmberg, K.E. Jansson, Eero Järnefelt, Oscar Kleineh, Alexander Lauréus, Kauko Lehtinen, Henri Matisse, Otto Mäkilä, Tapani Raittila, Ilja Repin, Hugo Simberg, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Louis Sparre, Maria Wiik and the von Wright brothers.

The Collections web service of the Finnish National Gallery provides basic information on the works and artists in Ateneum’s collection of drawings.

Press releases

Adel Abidin’s exhibition deals with the painful aspects of our history

From 14 March to 22 April 2018, the Ateneum Art Museum will host History Wipes, an exhibition by the contemporary artist Adel Abidin (born 1973, Baghdad, Iraq). The exhibition will present video installations and sculptures by the internationally recognised artist. Some of these works…

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