You remember the granite figures on both sides of the main entrance of Helsinki railway station? These huge lantern holders were designed 100 years ago by a Finnish sculptor Emil Wikström. In addition to solemn monuments he made delicate sculptures.
Wikström was born in 1864 in Turku in a timberman’s family. His talents were noticed early, and many wealthy men of trade and business sponsored his art studies first in Finland and later abroad. Among them was the mighty founder and patron of paper mills in Mänttä, Gustav Serclachius. Naturally, he and his family also commissioned works of art. Nowadays The Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation maintains two fantastic museums in Mänttä.
Wikström often used bronze in his male sculptures whereas children and women are carved in marble.
In Paris Wikström shared a flat (and entertainment life) with Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who later became one of the most famous Finnish painters. He, too, was sponsored by Serlachius, who received polite letters from the young men complaining the prices of Paris…
Wikström as well as Gallen-Kallela and many other artists of the time took inspiration for their art from their own country’s cultural mythology.
If you get interested in the Finnish arts round the turn of the last century, “the Golden Age”, you soon notice that composers, painters, sculptors, writers and architects knew each other closely. Their relationships beat any modern soap opera. Sometimes they built small communities like those at Hvitträsk or Tuusulanjärvi, which nowadays serve as museums. After the lively student days in European metropolis many wanted to retreat in Finnish countryside and concentrate on creative work.
The art museum of Turku honours the 150th anniversary of Wikström’s birth by a lovely exhibition. You can see Wikström’s sculptures of various periods, photographs of his life, paintings by his friends, information boards and an ancient home-made film of the artist’s residence in Visavuori, which was opened as a museum in 1966. Turku Art Museum itself is a piece of art of that same period. The granite building was completed in 1904 and its collection nowadays comprises over 6,000 works of art.
The event I visited:
”Allure of Stone” in Turku Art Museum 24 January – 27 April 2014
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