Urban Life

Stories of Finnish Art. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

Stories of Finnish Art. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

In this gallery the artist’s gaze turns inwards, quiet and sometimes melancholy as well, focusing on a single person, a view from the window or a townscape.

Artists in Finland closely followed events on the international art scene. The latest European art, such as Russian avantgarde and that being done by French and German artists, was presented in art galleries founded in Helsinki. However, the First World War dampened things and limited contacts.

Following Finland’s independence in 1917, the political situation between right and left was riddled with tension. The home, safe and forward-looking, became an important symbol.

Sulho Sipilä: The First of May, 1932

Sulho Sipilä: The First of May, 1932. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

Sulho Sipilä: The First of May, 1932. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Mäkinen

Artist couple Sulho Sipilä and Greta Hällfors-Sipilä were among the first to adopt new ideas when the Finnish art circles were scandalised in the 1910s by exhibitions of German and Russian avant-garde art. Both artists’ styles are characterised by decorativeness, humour and a bold palette. Towards the end of the 1920s, Sulho Sipilä’s flighty, cubism-influenced imagery gave way to a style influenced by Neue Sachlichkeit, and The First of May with its spring lightness is a case in point. Views from Sipilä’s home and its surroundings at Viiskulma in Helsinki, St John’s Church, are a recurring theme in Sipilä’s work.

Antti Favén: The Artist Fahle Basilier, 1908

Antti Favén: Artist Fahle Basilier, 1908. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Ahlström. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Antti Favén: Artist Fahle Basilier, 1908. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Ahlström. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

This portrait of Finnish artist Fahle Basilier (1880–1936) was painted in Paris, which was the home of young Favén for a period of ten years in the early 20th century. The sitter is shown in a highly personal, loose and expressive pose and in almost mischievously direct contact with the viewer – or with the artist who painted him. A highly skilful with a pen and keen observer, Favén also made caricatures. He became one of the most popular portraitists in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s, capturing on canvas several presidents and other elite members of the young republic.

Marc Chagall: The Mandolin Player, 1914

Marc Chagall: The Mandolin Player, 1914. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Keirkner. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jukka Romu

Marc Chagall: The Mandolin Player, 1914. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Keirkner. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jukka Romu

The model in this painting is Marc Chagall’s brother David. It was painted in the artist’s home town of Vitebsk in what is today Belarus. Chagall had just returned from Paris, where he had lived for four years, and had become fascinated with the new directions of art he saw there: cubism and the colourful style of the fauvists. The Mandolin Player has remained in Finland following its purchase from the 1916 Exhibition of Russian Art at Salon Strindberg in Helsinki, which showcased radical new movements in art. It was bequeathed to Ateneum in 1945.

Ilmari Aalto: The Bells, 1914

Ilmari Aalto: The Bells, 1914. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Ilmari Aalto: The Bells, 1914. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

The Bells is a rare example of early Finnish cubism. Aalto’s cubist period lasted only from 1914–1916, after which his style changed in a more expressive direction. He drew his cubist influences from a 1914 exhibition in Helsinki featuring expressionist and cubist art by the German Der Blaue Reiter group and also from cubo-futurist art he had seen in St Petersburg. Because of its title, harmonious palette and rhythmic composition, the painting has also been described as visual music.

NOTE! Its status as a national gallery requires the Ateneum Art Museum to lend its works to other museums in Finland and abroad, and this is one of the reasons why the selection of works on display in Ateneum varies to some extent.

 

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More information on the works and artists from the Finnish National Gallery Collections web service.