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Albert Edelfelt: The Nyländska Jaktklubben Harbour in Helsinki, 1899


Albert Edelfelt is also known for many paintings of sailing ships and seascapes outside Porvoo. He participated in the planning of the pictorial programme for the Finnish pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition and in the making of so-called panneau paintings.

One of these paintings was a scene from Helsinki South Harbour, showing the harbour of the Nyländska Jaktklubben yacht club. The predominantly blue picture is executed with stylised clarity, as were the other works in the pavilion. In the foreground are boats with white sails, while in the background we see white harbour buildings and the top of Helsinki Cathedral, and at right the reddish mass of the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. The mood is cheerful, exuding a touch of summer heat.

On becoming president, Tarja Halonen wanted to have this painting hanging on the wall behind her desk, where it could be seen during her official televised speeches. The dominant colours of the work are blue and white, and the carefree depiction of a leisure pastime takes one’s thoughts away from work and everyday toil. Edelfelt may even have been thinking about Finnish independence and freedom. After all, the painting was executed for the Finnish pavilion in Paris, which as a whole was a kind of manifesto of the country’s national autonomy.