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Alfred William Finch

 

Born in Brussels to English parents, Alfred William Finch (1854-1930) moved permanently to Finland at the end of the 1890s and made a major contribution to developing and internationalizing Finnish art life.  He was a founder member of the Belgian Les XX group and played a crucial role in introducing contemporary French and Belgian Neoimpressionism into Finland.

Finch was born in Brussels to English parents, and after spending his youth in the coastal town of Ostend studied at the capital’s Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1883 he became a founder member of a group of twenty young artists called Les XX, which rebelled against the rigid academicism of the day. The other members of this important group, which arranged major exhibitions of Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist art, included Théo van Rysselberghe, James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff.

After being introduced to Georges Seurat in 1887 Finch began to paint in the Pointillist style. He also grew interested in the Arts and Crafts movement and started to produce ceramics. He moved to Finland at the invitation of the Finnish artist Louis Sparre to manage the ceramics department of the latter’s Iris factory in Porvoo. In 1900 ceramics by Finch were exhibited in the Iris room of the Finnish pavilion at the Paris World Fair.

After the Iris factory closed down in 1902 Finch taught at the Finnish Art Society drawing school and the Central School of Applied Arts in Helsinki. In 1904 he and artist Magnus Enckell organized Finland’s first exhibition of French and Belgian art, introducing the Finns to Neo-Impressionism, hitherto virtually unknown. Finch was a leading light in the Finnish artists’ group Septem, founded in the 1910s. In the ‘20s he gave several solo exhibitions in Helsinki and also took part in exhibitions in Brussels.