National fervour and symbolism

 

The plein-air method drove Finnish artists out among real subjects: the peasantry and genuine nature.

Artists, who usually had an upper-class background, began to make excursions into the “original Finland” that was supposed to lie in the forest wilderness of Karelia.

Landscape painting and realistic depictions of ordinary folk led to the development of National Romanticism, a movement which also pervaded literature, music and architecture.

The most determined and undiluted National Romanticist was Akseli Gallen-Kallela, whose life’s ambition was to illustrate the entire Kalevala, Finland’s national epic.

By Finnish standards, Gallen-Kallela is something of a Renaissance artist, best known for his oil paintings and prints, but also a designer of stained-glass windows, furniture and textiles.

He designed his own studio-home, as well as uniforms for the Finnish army, and a proposal for the Finnish flag. 

If the National Romantic movement focused on the soul of the people, Symbolism was preoccupied with the basic questions of human existence.

Life and death were strongly present. Hugo Simberg gave death human embodiment, and his black-cloaked skeletons are among the best-loved figures in Finnish art.

Magnus Enckell approached the central concerns of Symbolism through his ageless and universal studies of boys.

However, there were also notable artists who worked outside the stylistic movements of their day.

Helene Schjerfbeck deserves separate mention.

Among the work she completed is a series of dozens self-portraits, which charts the course of her long life, from the self-assured face of youth to the elderly woman confronting death.

Related articles:

  • Colour, power and the break-up of form
    Colour, power and the break-up of form

    Picture: Juho Kuva / Visit Helsinki In the early twentieth century anyone had at least a theoretical opportunity to study art, as students without means were admitted to the drawing school without fees. There were fears that the artistic community, once equated with the bourgeoisie, would bec...



  • 10 must-see museums to visit during your stay in Helsinki
    10 must-see museums to visit during your stay in Helsinki

    Picture: Aku Pöllänen / Visit Finland Here are 10 must see museums for you to visit in Helsinki that offer a wide variety of collections for every taste:   AMOS ANDERSON ART MUSEUM Large art museum in the centre of Helsinki. Yrjönkatu 27, 00100 Helsinki Tel. +358 (0)9 684 4460 Open: Mon,...



  • From rococo to realism
    From rococo to realism

    The Three Smiths statue Profane, so-called free art, had its hesitant origin in Finland in the 18th century Isak Wacklin’s rococo portraits and in Nils Schillmark’s paintings, which employed the Neoclassical idiom. Elias Martin’s landscape paintings documenting the fortification of Viapori re...