A self-portrait by painter Elga Sesemann, featuring a woman with a white hat, eyes closed.
Elga Sesemann: Self-Portrait (1946). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis.

The modern woman

Turku Art Museum

The exhibition showcases the work of four early 20th century Finnish artists from the collections of Ateneum: Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), Sigrid Schauman (1877–1979), Ellen Thesleff (1869–1954) and Elga Sesemann (1922–2007).

Helene Schjerfbeck, Elga Sesemann, Sigrid Schauman & Ellen Thesleff

This exhibition highlights the pioneering role played by four women artists in Finnish art at the turn and early decades of the 20th century. They were all exceptionally international, and in defiance of the conventions of the time, they travelled alone without a male companion. Each artist also kept painting until the end of her life.

Exploring the role of the modern woman amidst the social, political and cultural changes of the day, the exhibition investigates the means whereby a woman could create an independent career for herself as an artist in Finland. The themes of the exhibition are examined from two perspectives: the woman as image-maker and the woman as object of depiction. The themes intertwine with the discourse on the status and opportunities of women, an issue that remains urgent and globally relevant to this day. The exhibition comprises around 50 paintings from the collections of the Ateneum Art Museum, supplemented with works from the Turku Art Museum collection.

The exhibition is curated by senior researcher Anu Utriainen at the Ateneum Art Museum.

Take a look at the artworks from this exhibition at the web gallery

The exhibition has toured the world

Before Turku, the show has had some 350,000 visitors around the world:

  • Independent Visions, Scandinavia House, New York, 26.4.–7.10.2017
  • Den moderna kvinnan, Millesgården, Stockholm, 28.10.–25.2.2018
  • Moderni nainen, Oulu Art Museum, Oulu, 15.4.–2.9.2018
  • The Modern Woman, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 18.6.–23.9.2019
  • The Modern Woman, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Copenhagen, 27.8.2020–10.1.2021
  • Moderni nainen, Ateneum Art Museum, 10.2.–27.3.2022