The Dance of Colours: Finnish Modernist Art 04/03/2023 – 20/08/2023

Kadriorg Art Museum
Adult: Kadriorg Art Museum
  • Family: Kadriorg Art Museum
  • Discount: Kadriorg Art Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia
Väinö Kunnas. Red Dance. 1927. Oil. Art Museum of Estonia

The Dance of Colours: Finnish Modernist Art

This exhibition presents the works of Alvar Cawén, Väinö Kunnas, Jalmari Ruokokoski, Tyko Sallinen, Yrjö Ollila and other well-known Finnish Modernist painters of the first decades of the 20th century. They were rebels and explorers in the art scene of that time who sought to express the artist’s inner experiences and made their own creative choices instead of turning to the politically charged National Romantic style.

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. The exhibitions of Belgian and French Post-Impressionists (1904) and Edvard Munch (1909) 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, but were criticised for a lack of respect for national dignity.

The artworks by Finnish artists of the early 20th century from the Art Museum of Estonia collection have been placed in a broader context of the artists’ oeuvres and Finnish Modernism. The focus is on the human being and the artists’ fascination with the human body and psyche. Along with portraits, there are works with metaphysical and spiritual undertones in which human existence and relations with the surrounding environment are seen in abstract and symbolic terms.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book with contributions from Timo Huusko, a curator at the Ateneum Art Museum, and the art historians Erkki Anttonen and Eero Epner.

Curator: Kerttu Männiste
Exhibition design: Exporabbit
Graphic design: Külli Kaats

In collaboration with: Finnish National Gallery – Ateneum Art Museum, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Didrichsen Art Museum and private art collections