Alfred William Finch: Orchard at La Louvière (1890). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Our forecast for the autumn: sun, light and joie de vivre

The exhibition Colour & Light – The Legacy of Impressionism will be shown at the Ateneum Art Museum from 20 October 2023 to 25 February 2024.

In October, sunshine and the joy of life will flood the Ateneum Art Museum, as the exhibition Colour & Light – The Legacy of Impressionism opens to the public.

Impressionism is an art movement that was active in France in the 1870s, in which immediate perceptions and impressions were highlighted. At the end of the 19th century, almost all Finnish professional artists headed to Paris and, while in the art capital, they were exposed to all things new – including Impressionism. In the 19th century, however, none of the Finnish artists actively embraced this movement that brought about a radical revolution in art.

“One of the key starting points of the Colour & Light exhibition is the question of why the effects of Impressionism did not start to show in Finnish art until the first two decades of the 20th century”, say the curators of the exhibition, Marja Sakari and Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff.

The exhibition project has, from the outset, also involved Professor Emeritus Anthea Callen, an expert in international Impressionism.

The Colour & Light exhibition is strongly linked to the history of the Ateneum. In 1904, an exhibition of Franco-Belgian art was held at the Ateneum, which did not attract a large audience, but which served as one of the key events that marked the beginning of a new, colourful phase in Finnish art.

“Joyful play with colour gradually found its way onto the canvases of Finnish artists. In the history of Finnish art, there is an interesting period of ten or so years, from 1906 to 1916, when almost every artist changed their palette to brighter colours. Once the shift was underway, it also led to new subject matter. Whereas earlier works had depicted hard physical toil in the countryside or the uniqueness of wild nature, now the focus was on the comforts of middle-class life. Artists were drawn to city parks and squares, crowded markets, street views, sunbathing, nudity, and glimmering seashores”, say the curators.

“In the Colour & Light exhibition, we want to bring to the fore the principles of Impressionism and its radical nature as a reformative art movement. We highlight the impact of the legacy of Impressionism on modern Colourist art in Finland in the 1910s.”

Indeed, the exhibition shows top names in international art side by side with artists from the heyday of Finnish Colourism, from 1906 to 1916.The international artists in the exhibition include Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Alfred William Finch, Paul Signac and Théo van Rysselberghe. The featured Finnish artists include Alvar Cawén, Antti Favén, Magnus Enckell, Pekka Halonen, Ellen Thesleff, Verner Thóme, Yrjö Ollila, Tyko Sallinen and Wilho Sjöström. After a year of renovation, the Ateneum Art Museum opened on 14 April 2023 with a new collection exhibition A Question of Time. During the summer, until mid-September, the museum is also presenting an exhibition of works by Albert Edelfelt. Both exhibitions have, during spring, proven to be very popular.
Since opening, the renewed Ateneum has already been visited by 100,000 visitors.

Colour and Light – The Legacy of Impressionism

Wilho Sjöström: Summer Evening (1912), Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen