Dances of Colours. Estonian and Finnish Modernism 06/02/2024 – 30/08/2024

Embassy of Estonia


Väinö Kunnas. Red Dance. 1927. Oil. Art Museum of Estonia

Dances of Colours. Estonian and Finnish Modernism

The exhibition „Dances of Colours. Estonian and Finnish Modernism“ presents the works of Finnish modernist artists represented in the collection of Art Museum of Estonia in dialogues and juxtapositions with the art of the first decades of the 20th century in Estonia.

Finnish Modernist art emerged in the early 20th century at a crossroads of two conflicting influences: the creation of romanticised national myths and symbols, and the Western avant-garde movements emphasising the individuality and autonomy of art and artists. International exhibitions in Helsinki inspired a short-lived but dazzling explosion of colours in Finnish art. Representing bold and forthright Expressionism and sometimes bordering on coarseness, these artworks were seen to embody the quintessential Finnish values of persistence, self-irony and a certain harshness.

Current display presents the searchers and the rebels: Tyko Sallinen, influenced by Paul Cézanne and French post-impressionism, Eero Snellman with elegant line and surface treatment, Alvar Cawén with a sensitive social nerve. Estonian authors representing different faces of modernism have been chosen in dialogue with them: expressionist Peet Aren, vigorous and colorful August Pulst, geometrizing and constructivist Märt Laarman. During the first decades of the 20th sentury direct contacts and reciprocal creative influence between Estonian and Finnish artists were scarce. We are all the more pleased that “Finnish landscape” by Oskar Kallis on display expresses the impression of a sensitive Estonian artist on the northern landscape of the neighboring country.

Current exhibition is inspired by the exhibition “The Dance of Colors. Finnish Modernist Art” held in 2023 at the Kadriorg Art Museum. After a break of more than 20 years, that exhibition brought to the public the small but representative collection of Finnish art from the beginning of the 20th century in the collection of Art Museum of Estonia. The exhibition was accompanied by a publication in which the authors of the articles, Timo Huusko and Erkki Anttonen, helped to place the works of Finnish art found in Estonia in the context of Finnish art history. In Eero Epner’s article, Estonian and Finnish art ties and contacts were discussed, which inspired the creation of visual and aesthetic dialogues between Estonian and Finnish art of this periood.

In addition to works from the collections of the Estonian Art Museum, the exhibition includes three paintings from the art collection of family Värnik. Külli and Peeter Värnik founded their collection in 1999, and over the next 10 years they worked intensely to enlarge the collection with works mainly by artists associated with the Pallas Art School. Thematically, the focus of Külli and Peeter Värnik’s interest has been landscape painting – the favorite genre of Estonian artists of the beginning of the 20th century in the midst of a rapidly developing and modernizing world.

The works come from the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia and the collection of Külli and Peeter Värnik.

Curator: Kerttu Männiste