Helene Schjerfbeck: Pukukuva I, 1908-1909. Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo, kok. Hoving. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria / Hannu Aaltonen
Helene Schjerfbeck: Pukukuva I, 1908-1909. Kansallisgalleria / Ateneumin taidemuseo, kok. Hoving. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria / Hannu Aaltonen

Ateneum opens an extensive Japanomania exhibition, providing new insight into the Nordic golden age of art

Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918 opens on 18 February, taking over the entire third floor of the museum. In this extensive exhibition, the opulent decorativeness of international art and design meets the delicate Nordic naturalism. Artists such as Albert Edelfelt, Helene Schjerfbeck, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Edvard Munch, Oda Krohg, Frida Hansen, Bruno Liljefors, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet were fascinated and strongly influenced by Japonism. The exhibition includes more than 400 works of art and exhibits, 150 of which are on loan from abroad.

The opening up of Japan in the 1850s elicited a heightened interest in East-Asian culture. Collecting Japanese art and objects became highly fashionable. In the art world, this trend is referred to as Japonism, and it left an indelible mark on the visual arts, design and popular culture. The impact of Japonism on the Nordic countries came later than elsewhere in Europe, reaching its peak during the years 1889–1900. From the Nordic perspective, Japan represented something distant and exotic – only few had actually visited the country.

Japonistic traits are manifest in many paintings, such as Albert Edelfelt’s The Parisienne (Virginie) (1883), Claude Monet’s Manne-Porte, Étretat (1885) and Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Wild Angelica (1889). Alongside Nordic artists, the exhibition will feature paintings, drawings and objects by European and Japanese artists.

“Japonism led to new processes and technical innovations in the art of the Nordic countries. The relationship with the surrounding aesthetic changed, which shows in the works but also in the way artists built and decorated their homes,” says Gabriel P. Weisberg, Professor of Art History from the University of Minnesota and the chief curator of the exhibition alongside Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, PhD, Chief Curator from Ateneum Art Museum.

The exhibition is the culmination of a four-year research project in which Japonism in the Nordic countries has been studied for the first time. It will continue to tour the Danish and Norwegian national galleries.

“Artists, writers and philosophers have always played a crucial role in introducing new ideas and phenomena. Today, the Nordic national galleries want to join forces in their search for new insights into art and its history. This exhibition and the extensive research project that preceded it are a prime example of such collaboration,” says Susanna Pettersson, Museum Director of Ateneum.

Loans for this exhibition have been generously contributed by HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; and Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Events related to the exhibition

Fri 19 February, 10am-4pm: Changes in the Visual Culture – Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918, Ateneum Hall
The conference looks into Japonism as a phenomenon in the Nordic Countries. The keynote speakers are Gabriel P. Weisberg, University of Minnesota, and Akiko Mabuchi, Director General of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. The conference language is English. Free with museum admission. No advance registration needed. More information here.

Sat 16 April, 10am–5pm Japanomania in the Nordic Countries 1875–1918 theme day
The programme will be confirmed at a later date.

Other exhibitions at Ateneum:
From 5 February 2016 sculptor Kaarina Kaikkonen’s works Falling Light and Blooming Spirit will be installed in the museum courtyard and in the park outside the museum facing Keskuskatu.

5 February–8 May 2015 Auguste Rodin. Rodin, who lived and worked in Paris, brought a whole new character to sculpture with his robust expressiveness, emphasising physicality.

UPCOMING From 18 March 2016 Stories of Finnish Art. Handpicked from the nearly 40,000 works in the Finnish National Gallery collection, this extensive selection of art illustrates the development of art in Finland from 1809 until the 1970s. In March, the section on the decades up to the 1940s will be opened. The rooms covering the 1950s and 1960s will open in summer 2016.

Opening hours

Tue, Fri 10am–6pm | Wed, Thu 10am–8pm | Sat, Sun 10am–5pm | Mon closed


18 February – 8 May 2016: Adults €15 | Concessions €13 | Under 18s free admission | with S-Etukortti card €14

9 May–9 June 2016: Adults €13 | Concessions €11 | Under 18s free admission | with S-Etukortti card €12