Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931) was a well-known artist both in Finland and abroad already during his lifetime. Gallen-Kallela’s depictions of Finnish people, myths and nature played a key role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. Numerous exhibition invitations from European art associations and other actors in the 20th century indicate how Gallen-Kallela’s art also appealed to international art audiences and artists, in art hubs and art circles in places such as Paris, Berlin, London and Vienna.
Gallen-Kallela’s visual idiom is an original combination of different elements and techniques. While concentrating on Finnish motifs he developed his expression in constant exchange with international modern artists. After his time in Paris it was Central Europe that provided him with new stimuli.
In 1901, Gallen-Kallela made his debut in Vienna at the Secession* participating at an exhibition dedicated to mostly Nordic artists. The Moderne Galerie, today the Belvedere museum, acquired Gallen-Kallela’s painting Spring (c. 1900)from this very exhibition. Gallen-Kallela was invited back to an exhibition dedicated to ‘monumental’ art, organised by the Secession in Vienna in 1904, where he presented, for example, studies for frescoes he had painted for the Jusélius Mausoleum in Pori, Finland. On this occasion, the artist was welcomed into the circle of Gustav Klimt.
Cooperating with the Secessionists was important to Gallen-Kallela, and it left its mark on his art. In turn, Secession artists who shared Gallen-Kallela’s aim of wanting to reform art and artistic expression admired his works.
The Ateneum and the Belvedere museum in Vienna join forces to stage the first show dedicated to Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s art in Austria. The show, which features around 60 works, will open in Vienna, Austria, on 27 September 2024. The exhibition is curated by Dr Arnika Groenewald-Schmidt, assistant curator at the Belvedere, in cooperation with Anu Utriainen, senior researcher at the Ateneum.