The exhibitions scheduled to open at the Ateneum Art Museum in November will run for one week longer. The exhibitions Through My Travels I Found Myself – Helene Schjerfbeck and Finnish Artists in Ruovesi will, contrary to a previous announcement, open already on 15 November 2019, and will be on display until 26 January 2020. The common theme of the exhibitions, which divide the Ateneum’s third floor exhibition space in two, is the importance of place in an artist’s work. In addition to Helene Schjerfbeck, the names to be featured at the Ateneum in late 2019 and early 2020 include Werner Holmberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Elga Sesemann, Hugo Simberg and Ellen Thesleff, all of whose works will be on display at the Finnish Artists in Ruovesi exhibition.
Through My Travels I Found Myself to introduce new Schjerfbeck works to Finland
The exhibition Through My Travels I Found Myself – Helene Schjerfbeck will include five works that have not previously been displayed in Finland. These include Chickens amongst Cornstooks (circa 1887), which was painted in St Ives and discovered in the United Kingdom; A Girl with a Madonna (1881) from the Helsingborg Museums; and Red-Haired Girl in Blue (circa 1894) from a private collection.
The exhibition will also present a previously unknown work, Girl from Barösund, (1885–1890), whose private owner contacted the Ateneum while the exhibition was being prepared. The painting Narcissus (1908–1909), which is part of the Ateneum collection and was recently discovered underneath the work Costume Picture I (1908–1909) during conservation, will also be on display.
An exhibition of works by Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), which was shown at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 20 July to 27 October 2019, met with an enthusiastic reception in the UK. The exhibition was extensively featured in international media, and it has been covered by the BBC, Harper’s Bazaar, The Art Newspaper, The Economist, The Guardian and The Observer, among others. The exhibition that Finns get to see at the Ateneum will be more than twice the size of the one staged in London. It is curated by Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, chief curator at the Ateneum.
Through My Travels I Found Myself – Helene Schjerfbeck describes how Helene became Helene, and how a talented student grew into one of the most influential artists in our history. The exhibition focuses specifically on Schjerfbeck’s years of travel, during which she stayed in Paris, Pont-Aven in northern France, Fiesole in Italy, and St Ives in England at the end of the 19th century. What was the importance of travel for her work and working methods – and how did it influence her art when she returned to her home country?
The works in the exhibition include landscapes, still lifes, and depictions of people who were important to the artist. The exhibition also includes 16 of Schjerfbeck’s self-portraits from the period between 1884 and 1945, presented in a chronological order, which makes for an interesting viewing experience. In total, the exhibition features some 130 paintings, drawings and sketchbooks.
Finnish Artists in Ruovesi to feature rarely seen works by Gallen-Kallela, Simberg and Thesleff
Ruovesi and its surroundings in Pirkanmaa have attracted artists since the 1820s. All the artists who have operated in the region are linked by an interest in the spirit of the place, and its nature, people and culture. How has this influenced the art of those who have worked in Ruovesi? The exhibition presents works that depict the people and landscapes of the region, along with artists’ self-portraits. The exhibition is curated by the senior researcher at the Ateneum, Anu Utriainen. A total of 140 works are on display.
Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931), Ellen Thesleff (1869–1954) and Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) all had their own villas built in Ruovesi. Werner Holmberg (1830–1860) and Hugo Simberg (1873–1917) also took a liking to the region. Other artists featured in the exhibition are Lauri Anttila, Gabriel Engberg, Kalle Löytänä and Louis Sparre. The exhibited works date from the 1850s to the 1980s.
Akseli Gallen-Kallela had a ‘wilderness studio’, Kalela, in Ruovesi, which he himself designed as a home for his family in the mid-1890s, after having fallen in love with the region’s rugged nature. Exhibits by Gallen-Kallela include paintings depicting the people of the region, Kalevala-themed prints, and sketches for frescoes he created for the Finnish pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition, which are rarely seen in public. The exhibition also features ex libris and prints made by Gallen-Kallela for his friends and family in Kalela. These feature subject matter through which he processed the grief caused by the loss of his daughter, Marjatta.
Gallen-Kallela was one of the first Finns to become interested in printmaking, and Hugo Simberg came to Gallen-Kallela to study it under his tutelage. In addition to printmaking, Simberg was fuelled by the rustic culture of the region surrounding Kalela, which inspired the devil figures, death and natural mysticism in his works. The exhibition displays all 25 of Simberg’s watercolour and gouache works in the Ateneum collection, including Frost (1895) and The Garden of Death (1896).
There will be an exceptional exhibit on display by Ellen Thesleff: the beloved Self-Portrait (1894–1895), which is rarely shown at exhibitions because of its fragility. Other Thesleff works on display include landscapes of Murole in Ruovesi.
Updated 14 November 2019
Image: Helene Schjerfbeck: Girls Reading (1907). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.