A rich collection
The Ateneum Art Museum has the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland. The collection includes nearly 30,000 national treasures. The Ateneum Art Museum collection presents the development of Finnish art from 18th-century Rococo portraiture to 20th-century experimental movements. The Ateneum’s representative collection of international art includes more than 650 works.
The earliest paintings in the Ateneum collection include portraits from the Romantic era and landscapes of the Düsseldorf School. The collection also features Parisian influences from the end of the 19th century, the beginning of realism, symbolism, and the finest paintings of the golden age of Finnish art. These trends usher us into the beginning of the 20th century, when the expressive scope of Finnish art expanded. Finnish expressionism, impressionism, cubism and surrealism reflect international influences.
The Ateneum collection includes works by artists who began their careers as late as the 1960s, with the latest featured pieces dating from the past few years.
The extensive collection of drawings, sketches, watercolours, and sketchbooks provides a representative overview of Finnish art history up until the present day. Indeed, this part of the collection is of great importance for research on Finnish art. The collection of hundreds of sketchbooks contains material that is essential for art research, providing, for example, insights into artists’ working methods.
Artworks on tour
Loans are a major part of museum work. Each year, 300 to 600 works of art from Ateneum’s collection are lent to different exhibitions. The aim of lending is to mobilise Ateneum’s collection, to show it to as wide an audience as possible, both domestically and internationally.
The growing collection
Latest additions to the collection
The Ateneum Art Museum collection grows every year, either through the museum’s own acquisitions or through donations. The acquisitions made by the museum complement the existing collection as a whole and make it more comprehensive for specific time periods. The idea is to introduce new perspectives to the existing perception of the work of well-known artists.
In recent years, the areas of focus in acquisitions have included increasing the number of works by female artists and obtaining works that depict 20th-century urban life in Finland. Acquisitions are also made with future special exhibitions in mind.
Donations from Väinö Kunnas’ daughter
Donated in 2021
In 2021, the Finnish National Gallery received three oil paintings by Väinö Kunnas as a donation from the artist’s daughter.
Thunder and Heat, dating from 1925, is one of Kunnas’ most significant early cityscapes. It represents the urban romanticism typical of the Tulenkantajat (“The Flame Bearers”) artist group and Kunnas’ characteristic bold use of colour.
Chimneysweep, again, is an unusual painting in the sense that it depicts a working-class urbanite. The interesting depiction shows the subject as energetic and shameless.
Kunnas’ Self-Portrait with a Hat presents the artist himself simultaneously as a carefree bohemian and as an elegant urban gentleman. All his works are characterised by the effect achieved through strong colour contrasts.
Mikko Oinonen: Market Scene in Paris, 1908
Donated in 2021
Market Scene in Paris (1908) is a famous painting from the era of early Finnish “colour modernism”. Its painter, Mikko Oinonen, was, at the time, spending time in Paris and studying at the Académie Julian, with the support of the Helsinki-based businessman Uno Staudinger.
Oinonen has immortalised himself and his friend Yrjö Ollila in the painting. In the picture, Oinonen is second from the right with a pipe in his mouth, next to a German student of aesthetics, while Ollila stands in the foreground, second from the left, with a pipe in his hand. Both Oinonen and Ollila saw, among other things, the Salon d’Automne in Paris and the Finnish exhibition presented there in the autumn of 1908. At this stage, Oinonen’s work is still characterised by rather dark, heavy massing. After his second trip to Paris, from 1911 to 1912, he moved on to a lighter and brighter expression in the spirit of Renoir. Both Oinonen and Ollila joined the Septem group, which was founded in 1912 and which aspired to the ideals of French impressionism and neo-impressionism.
The work by Oinonen presented here was originally part of the August and Lydia Keirkner Fine Arts Collection, from which it ended up in the Wulff collection.
Elga Sesemann: Still Life with Bottles, 1945
Acquired in 2021
Elga Sesemann’s oil painting Still Life with Bottles is, in terms of its mood and colours, a great example of the artist’s early work from the 1940s. The still life is painted with thick and strong brushstrokes in the expressionist style. The artist has depicted the glass bottles, familiar from her other works, toppled, which adds a tense mood to the work. The work was probably exhibited in Sesemann’s first solo exhibition, which she held at the Konstsalongen art gallery in Helsinki in the spring of 1945. The still life is a fine addition to the body of Sesemann’s works held by the Ateneum, and it is closely linked to current exhibition projects.
Hilda Flodin: Gymnast, 1904
Acquired in 2022
Hilda Flodin (1877–1958) was a pupil and assistant to the sculptor Auguste Rodin in Paris. Rodin’s model at the time was the Welsh painter Gwen (Gwendolen) John (1876–1936), whom Flodin befriended. According to the art historian Liisa Lindgren (PhD), this bronze sculpture depicts Gwen John. Until now, the Ateneum collection has only included one sculpture by Flodin: Old Man Thinking, from 1901. Dating from a key period in the artist’s career, the acquired work is, therefore, an important addition.
Explore the entire art collection
The works in the collections of the Ateneum, Kiasma and Sinebrychoff art museums can be explored on the Finnish National Gallery website. You can search for works by title, year, artist’s name, or theme. Copyright-free works can be downloaded directly from the website.