The von Wright Brothers

Ferdinand von Wright: Forest Landscape from Haminalahti, 1880. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Kuopio Art Museum

Tikanoja Art Museum, Vaasa

Tampere Art Museum

The von Wright Brothers presented the artist brothers Magnus, Wilhelm and Ferdinand von Wright as versatile painters of portraits, landscapes, and nature subjects, especially birds, and as creators of scientific illustrations.

The von Wright Brothers exhibition that was displayed at Ateneum Art Museum during winter 2017-2018 incorporated new research data and attracted more than 200,000 visitors. A touring version of the popular exhibition was on display at the Kuopio Art Museum, the Tikanoja Art Museum in Vaasa, and the Tampere Art Museum

The von Wright brothers grew up in a manor in Haminalahti, Kuopio. The brothers’ interest in nature originated in the hobby of hunting, as practiced by their father, Major Henrik Magnus von Wright. Skilled hunters, the brothers began to document the birds they caught. Through watching and painting birds over a long period of time, the brothers gained a wide knowledge of nature. Their works are characterised by detailed scientific accuracy. At the same time, their art conveys a special love of nature. The works reflect the aesthetic values of their time, the 19th century.

The eldest of the brothers, Magnus (1805–1868), known especially for his landscape paintings, was an influential cultural figure in Helsinki. He worked as a teacher at the University of Helsinki drawing school and as an expert at the Finnish Art Society. Wilhelm (1810–1887) was active mostly in Stockholm and on the island of Orust on the west coast of Sweden. He worked as a scientific illustrator for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The most famous of the brothers is Ferdinand (1822–1906), who was one of the first visual artists in Finland to make a living from art. He enjoyed the longest career of the brothers, and later attained the status of an old master and earned respect from young artists.

The exhibition will introduce new perspectives, as it explores the historical significance of the von Wright brothers for Finnish art, culture and science. The exhibition will feature more than 80 works from the Ateneum collection, and from Finnish public and private collections. The chief curator of the exhibition is Anne-Maria Pennonen.

The exhibition coincided with the release of the book The von Wright Brothers: Art, Science and Life, published by the Ateneum, which presents a wealth of new research on the brothers. The book, edited by the curator Anne-Maria Pennonen and the special researcher Erkki Anttonen, was published in Finnish, Swedish and English.

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