Akseli Gallen-Kallela

The Spirit of Finland

17 December 2006 to 15 April 2007

Akseli Gallen-Kallela is renowned to this very day, as Finland's greatest artist. His wonderful paintings of the national epic The Kalevala helped shape the Finnish national identity. He also painted the Finnish upper class, as well as the circle of artists to which he belonged, Edvard Munch and Jean Sibelius among them. His oeuvre moved from a realistic and naturalistic portrayal of his subject matter towards a more Symbolist and linear approach, especially in his paintings of the Kalevala. He was also to spend his life painting the Finnish landscape.

Gallen-Kallela’s fascination for Finland as an independent, untouched and free country is articulated in all aspects of his oeuvre. His many unpopulated and tranquil landscapes, the unique studio houses he built, and especially his life-long endeavours to illustrate The Kalevala all bear evidence to his outlook. It is this comprehensive and versatile, almost mythical magnum opus that is responsible for the image that the word ‘Finland’ evokes in visitors to the country down to the present day.

This will be the first time since the death of Akseli Gallen-Kallela in 1931 that such an extensive overview of his work is shown outside the Nordic Countries. Accordingly, the Groninger Museum is proud to announce that the President of the Republic of Finland, Her Excellency Mrs Tarja Halonen, has agreed to act as the patroness of the exhibition, thus offering the project her moral support.

Curators and publication
The compilation of the exhibition will be arranged by the guest curators Dr David Jackson, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at Leeds University, Dr Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, Director of Tampere Art Museum, and Patty Wageman, Deputy Director of the Groninger Museum, who are - together with Adriaan van der hoeven, also the authors of the publication Akseli Gallen-Kallela, The Spirit of Finland. This publication provides an extensive overview of his many-facetted oeuvre, ranging through his realistic portrayal of life in the Finnish countryside, the unspoilt landscape, his thought-provoking portraits, to his remarkable illustrations of the Kalevala epic.

The Groninger Museum is extremely grateful to the many museums and private collectors in and outside Finland for their generous co-operation in the realisation of this unique exhibition.

The exhibition was partially enabled by an investment by the Stichting Fonds Kunst en Economie (Foundation for Art and Economics), which is an initiative of VNO/NCW Noord. The Foundation is funded by the co-operation Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas.

  • Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Ad Astra. Private Collection