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Albert Edelfelt

 

One of Finland’s best-loved artists, Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905) was also one of the first Finns to achieve fame in the outside world. His influence was great in art life in general, and his oeuvre reflects his strong links with both Finland and France, especially Paris. In the landscapes, imbued with the light and natural world of the north, Finland’s influence is predominant.

Albert Edelfelt was born into the nobility in Porvoo rural district. Many leading figures of the time, including J. L. Runeberg and Zachris Topelius, followed and supported his progress. Despite this promising starting point, though, Edelfelt’s pathway into art was not an easy one. Following the early death of his father the support of the whole Edelfelt family depended on his success as an artist.

Edelfelt studied both at the Finnish Art Society drawing school and in the Helsinki University drawing studio under Adolf von Becker. His first studies abroad were at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, after which he moved in 1874 to Paris and the École des Beaux-Arts, as a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme. Edelfelt also studied and worked in Russia, where he was made a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts.
 
Edelfelt’s history paintings were much praised, but painting from nature soon discplaced this genre in Edelfelt’s case as in that of many others. He was never an art reformer or radical, but a middle-of-the way artist whose oeuvre includes numerous portraits. His paintings of his home district in Haikko attracted attention at the Paris Salon for their depiction of the northern light.
 
Edelfelt played a major role in Finnish art life. He supported young artists and organized the Finnish contribution to the Paris World Fair in 1900, where thanks to his influence Finland was given its own pavilion, despite being only a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.