Hugo Simberg: The Garden of Death (1896). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jouko Könönen.

Gothic Modern

The research and exhibition project Gothic Modern has been launched. The period of the project is from 2018 to 2024. ‘Gothic Modern: from Northern Renaissance to Dark, Emotive, Uncanny Modern Art’ explores the pivotal importance of Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.

  • An ambitious new approach to modern art focusing on the untold story of Nordic and Northern European medieval reinventions from the 1890s to the fall of the Weimar Republic.
  • Illuminates the Gothic as a core fascination for early twentieth-century art, transcending nationalism, straddling war and its aftermath.
  • Reveals a hidden Edvard Munch and Käthe Kollwitz through their deep attraction to the art of the ‘Gothic’ past and how this resonated for their contemporaries, including Akseli Gallen-KallelaHugo Simberg and Helene Schjerfbeck.
  • Explores how these artists were inspired by medieval art through pilgrimages, eroticism and the ‘Dance of Death’ to create powerful new expressions of sexuality and trauma, death and reconnection.
  • Project’s focus is on major fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century Nordic, German and Russian art works displayed alongside rare medieval and Northern Renaissance objects.
  • A compelling exploration of the Gothic for the twenty-first century, about individual, gender and transnational community, entwined with the dark, the emotive and uncanny.
    (Juliet Simpson, 2020)


May 2019: ‘Gothic Modern’ project launch – Knowledge-Sharing Workshop and papers co-convened by Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff and Prof. Juliet Simpson (Ateneum; FNG) exploring the Gothic in the long nineteenth-century: artists, collections and museums – beyond national art canons .

Forthcoming in Spring and Autumn 2020: workshops and symposia (Helsinki and London), co-organized by Prof. Juliet Simpson and Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff on ‘Gothic Connections’ – Northern medieval and Renaissance art in Nordic, German contexts: reception, display and reinvention, 1900s-to the fall of the Weimar Republic. For international scholars, curators, PhD and early-career researchers.

Author:Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff

Chief Curator, PhD