The Great Rider

Exhibition The Great Rider. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Italian prints and Finnish female sculptors

A small-scale exhibition on the third floor of the Ateneum Art Museum will feature Italian prints and works by Finnish female sculptors. The prints are part of the extensive Rolando and Siv Pieraccini Collection of Italian art, donated to the museum. The sculptures by the Finnish female artists can be seen to draw inspiration from Italian sculpture.

The artists to be featured at the small-scale exhibition, staged in two exhibition rooms, include Afro, Eila Hiltunen, Alberto Magnelli, Marino Marini, and Laila Pullinen. The works on display are part of the Ateneum collection.
The exhibition is conceived by the special researcher Erkki Anttonen and the curator Anu Utriainen.

Marino Marini: Suuri ratsastaja, 1978. Ateneumin taidemuseo, Rolando ja Siv Pieraccinin kokoelma. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria / Yehia Eweis

Marino Marini: The Great Rider, 1978. Ateneum Art Museum, coll. Rolando & Siv Pieraccini. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Marino Marini (1901–1980) is the most internationally famous Italian sculptor of the 20th century, but he was also a respected painter and graphic artist. He has the largest and most significant group of works in the Pieraccini collection: as many as 93 pieces. Some of Marini’s most impressive works are his series of colourful illustrations for William Shakespeare’s poems, which were some of his last works. The prints are a true show of skill of Labyrinth, a Florentine printing shop: up to 28 different shades are used in one image.

Marini’s work has, in its way, also influenced Finnish sculpture, including, for example, the art of Nina Terno (1935–2003) and Eila Hiltunen (1922–2003). Helena Pylkkänen (born 1945) is interested in both old Italian sculpture and modern sculptors. Like Pylkkänen, Essi Renvall (19111979) drew on the tradition of old Italian sculpture, going back to the Renaissance. Renvall and Pylkkänen approached the relationship between modern and traditional art in a way that was characteristic of the post-war era. Similarly, Kaisa Saikkonen (19251981), a slightly lesser-known artist, was, early on in her career, inspired by Italian sculpture, from antiquity up to the Renaissance.

Alberto Magnelli (1888–1971) was one of the first Italian artists to move on to create abstract works. Many of Magnelli’s works are compositions with strong colours, but in the prints from the I Collages di Magnelli portfolio (1969–1971), he has confined himself to an almost monochromatic scale, with shades of brown, grey, black and white. In these works, he has, instead of colour, focused on exploring the relationship between various surfaces and surface structures.

Emilio Greco (1913–1995) and Giò Pomodoro (1930–2002) are, like Marini, known primarily as sculptors. The former created representational and the latter abstract art. Despite this difference, they were interested in similar issues, which is reflected in their sculptures and prints. In 2002, Pomodoro was granted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award by the International Torino Sculpture Center (ISC). In his etchings, Emilio Greco has captured the nuances of the surface of his subject by using many lines that run in different directions and that become denser and deeper in the darker, shaded parts of the images. On the other hand, large areas of the image surface are usually left blank, with only outlines of the figures remaining visible.

Laila Pullinen: Pelléas ja Mélisande, 1962. Ateneumin taidemuseo. Kuva: Kansallisgalleria

Laila Pullinen: Pelléas and Mélisande, 1962. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Sakari Viika

Very similar issues were also explored by Laila Pullinen (1933–2015) in her sculptures. Many of these are characterised by a certain dualism between the glossy parts of the sculptures and the patinated matt surfaces. The same duality shows in her method of combining different materials in one work.

Like the works by Pomodoro, the aquatints by Afro (1912–1976) were printed at the renowned 2RC printing shop in Rome. They are part of his last portfolio of ten prints (1975), created as illustrations of Charles Baudelaire’s poems Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Afro shifted his expression in the 1970s, from earlier free-form informalism towards sharply defined colour-field painting.

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