The Modern Woman

The Modern Woman discusses the role and position of Finnish women artists in the decades of 20th century modernism. The exhibition delves into the role of women in the midst of the social, political and cultural changes of the era.

  • 10.2.–27.3.2022
3rd floor
Tickets: with a museum ticket
A self-portrait by painter Elga Sesemann, featuring a woman with a white hat, eyes closed.
Elga Sesemann: Self-Portrait (1946), detail. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

12 trailblazing artists

The artists featured in the exhibition are Helene Schjerfbeck, Sigrid Schauman, Ellen Thesleff, Elga Sesemann, Hilda Flodin, Sigrid af Forselles, Gunvor Grönvik, Eila Hiltunen, Lea Ignatius, Helmi Kuusi, Laila Pullinen, and Essi Renvall. The exhibition of approximately 150 works includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from the Ateneum collection. The exhibition is curated by the senior researcher at the Ateneum, Anu Utriainen.

The exhibition explores women artists from two angles: women as creators of images, and women as objects in images and as objects of the gaze. The themes are linked to the debate on gender equality, which continues to be a topical and globally important issue.

Through the selected works and the artist biographies, an image is formed of the opportunities of Finnish women to get an education and to work as artists. The artists featured in the exhibition worked internationally as artists throughout their lives. One of the key questions in the exhibition is how class background and life situations influenced the artists in making careers for themselves, and how this is reflected in the choice of subject matter and techniques in the works at different times.

An abridged version of the exhibition has been touring the world since 2017, and shown, for example, in New York, Tokyo and Copenhagen. Everywhere, it has sparked a lively debate about the social status of women and their opportunities for independent professional careers.

Exhibited at the same time

Gallery texts

You can read the texts of the exhibition at your own pace with your device. Texts can also be listened with a screen reader.

Start reading

A guided tour for your group

Enquiries and bookings:  or by phone at +358 294 500 500 from 10:00–14:00 Monday to Friday. 

Guided tour: The Modern Woman and Dialogue

What opportunities have women had to build careers as artists in Finland? What about femininity and artistry today – how do they fit together? Join us to delve into these issues in a joint guided tour of the exhibitions.

The Modern Woman looks at the role and status of Finnish women artists in the decades of 20th century modernism. Dialogue is based on the long friendship between the photographic artists Elina Brotherus (b. 1972) and Hannele Rantala (b. 1952), and their discussions about art.

The themes of both exhibitions are entwined with a discussion of gender equality and women’s opportunities to make choices.

Tour languages: Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian
Price: €95 + admission fees, school groups €70.
Group size: 1-20 persons, school groups max. 25 persons
Duration: ca. 1 h

Virtual guided tour: The Modern Woman

The Modern Woman examines the role and status of female artists in the decades of 20th century modernism. What opportunities did women have to build careers as artists in Finland?

We consider the role and representations of women, as both creators of images and subjects of them. These themes are entwined with the discussion of women’s status and opportunities, which is still timely and important today.

Rather than touring the exhibition halls, the guide presents themes and works through a slide show. At the end of the lecture, there is an opportunity to ask questions.

The guidance is led via the Teams platform. You can participate as a group or from your own terminals via the link we provide.

The Teams application must be downloaded if mobile devices are used. The guidance can also be accessed via a web browser on a computer. When using a browser, we recommend updating to the latest version of Chrome or Edge. When participating in a virtual guided tour, the network speed should be at least 10 Mbit/s or a 4G connection. The virtual guided tour may not be recorded.

Tour languages: Finnish, Swedish and English
Price: €95/20 persons, schools €70
Group size: Max. 150 persons
Duration: 45 min

Artworks at the exhibition