The Golden Age of Finnish Art

Masterpieces from the Turku Art Museum

March 28 – June 8, 2008
Place: Kumu Art Museum


The exhibition showing one of the greatest treasures of the Turku Art Museum – 114 masterpieces from the so called Golden Age of Finnish Art at the turn of the 19th and 20th century – will be open until 8 June.


Finnish art became notorious in Europe in 1900 at the World Fair in Paris, where the Finnish pavilion turned out to be one of the most popular pavilions at the exhibition. Paris had replaced Düsseldorf as the Mecca for Finnish artists already by 1880ies. Following the example of French art the artists adopted the idea of realistic approach and painting out in the nature became increasingly popular. Under the influence of realistic-naturalistic approach painters discovered the northern nature and national themes. Following the example of French symbolists, the painters were interested in a simplified language of images and the spiritual world of a human being. In the years 1890-1900 the national idea and the rebellious views towards the political pressure from Russia were interweaved in the Finnish art. Artists often traveled to Karelia which nature, folk art, tales and the archaic ways of life represented the genuine Finland and its people to them. Deserted wintry landscape, wild greenwoods, myths and folk tales – this is where the necessary symbols for building up the national identity at were searched.


The golden age of Finnish art fell between the years 1880 and 1905/1908. It emerged when the French realistic-naturalistic approach reached the creative horizon of the Finnish artists and ended with the general strike in 1905 and with the exhibition of Finnish art in Paris in 1908.


The exhibition is commenced by the genre paintings and landscapes from the artists engaged in painting in the third quarter of the 19th century: Robert Wilhelm Ekman, Werner Holmberg, Ferdinand von Wright, Adolf von Becker, Hjalmar Munsterhjelm, Fanny Churberg. They are followed by internationally considerable authors such as Axeli Gallen-Kallela, Albert Edelfelt, Eero Järnefelt, Pekka Halonen, Hugo Simberg and Magnus Enckell. The golden age of the Finnish art is characterised by the emergence of a generation of talented female artists. From the creation of those modern women, often called “sisters-in-art”, we have the chance to see the works belonging to the creative peak of Helene Schjerfbeck, Maria Wiik, Elin Danielson-Gambogi.


The exhibition, along with introducing the great Finnish artists, also focuses on the popular themes of the period. At the exhibition we have a chance to see milieu settings and types of folk, as well as a variety of Finnish landscapes, the Northern Light, and symbolic interpretations of winter and vastness. The exhibition also indicates to the international relations, the bond of Finnish artists with Italy and Paris, but also the impact of the modern art movements at the turn of the century. The end of the Golden Age started off the triumph of modernism.


At the exhibition a film about the foundation of the Turku Art Museum, as well as biographic films “Akseli and Young Finland” and “Albert Edelfelt” will be screened. The exhibition is accompanied by a voluminous catalogue.

The curator of the exhibition is Tiina Abel (Kumu Art Museum); co-curators are Christian Hoffmann and Mia Haltia (Turku Art Museum). The exhibition and the catalogue was designed by Tiit Jürna.

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