Published 27/02/2023 | 11:40

The joy of colours and the power of expression of the greatest names in Finnish modernism at the Kadriorg Art Museum

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

On 4 March, the exhibition “The Dance of Colours: Finnish Modernist Art” opens in the Kadriorg Art Museum, highlighting the works of the explorers and rebels of Finnish art during the first decades of the 20th century. Instead of politically motivated art, these authors wanted to express their internal experiences and subjective creative choices. The exhibition includes works by prominent painters: Alvar Cawén, Väinö Kunnas, Jalmari Ruokokoski, Tyko Sallinen, Yrjö Ollila and others.

Works on display are from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, the Ateneum Art Museum: Finnish National Gallery, the HAM Helsinki Art Museum and the Didrichsen Art Museum, offering a diverse overview of the oeuvres of authors who focused on explorations of colour and form, and the emotional power of expression.

“Although the breakthrough of colours and the period of bright palettes was short-lived in Finnish art, the present exhibition includes many works by authors who cultivated free brushwork and an enjoyment of colours: Magnus Enckell, Yrjö Ollila, Ellen Thesleff and others. Viewers who enjoy the classic masters of Estonian modernism – Konrad Mägi, Nikolai Triik and other authors associated with the Pallas school – will discover in the present exhibition many parallels related to bright colouring and the selection of themes,” points out the curator of the exhibition, Kerttu Männiste.

The exhibition focuses on people and the environment. The interest of artists who had been influenced by the theories of psychoanalysis in the depiction of the corporal and psychological nature of people, including their concealed and darker aspects, is placed into dialogue with the joie de vivre and abundance expressed by landscape paintings and the idea of existing in harmony with nature.

“Finnish art and the collaboration with Finnish museums is an important aspect of the exhibition policies of the Art Museum of Estonia,” Männiste comments. “The collaboration with the Ateneum Art Museum, which began in 1993, after Estonia regained its independence, offered a selection of Finnish modernism to Estonian viewers. After the Kadriorg Museum was opened in 2000, the Finnish art works belonging to the collections of our museum were exhibited, and these also form the basis of the present exhibition.” When the first exhibition of Finnish art in Estonian took place in 1930, Alvar Cawén’s “Blind” and Tyko Sallinen’s “Landscape” were acquired for collections in Estonia.

The exhibition “The Dance of Colours: Finnish Modernist Art” is accompanied by a catalogue including texts written by the Estonian art historian Eero Epner, the curator of the Ateneum Art Museum: Finnish National Gallery Timo Huusko and the Finnish art historian Erkki Anttonen. The articles also include references to works which have been in Estonian collections for a long time and have therefore been somewhat overlooked by Finnish art historians. In the catalogue, these works have been placed in the context of the oeuvres of individual authors and of the developments in Finnish art in general.

On 19 May, the Kadriorg Art Museum and Finnish Institute in Estonia will organise a public seminar which focuses on modernisation in society and in art on both sides of the Gulf of Finland during the first decades of the 20th century. The seminar will bring together historians and researchers from Estonia and Finland in a wide array of subjects, including diplomacy, economics, art, literature and theatre. Presentations will be made by the historians Seppo Zetterberg and Andres Adamson, the art historian Eero Epner, the literary historian Mirjam Hinrikus and the theatre researcher Mikko-Olavi Seppälä.

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

Partners: the Ateneum Art Museum: Finnish National Gallery, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Didrichsen Art Museum and private collections

The exhibition in the Kadriorg At Museum will remain open until 20 August 2023.