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Ateneum's exhibition year culminates in a visit by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Monet


A major exhibition of international symbolist art will open at Ateneum Art Museum in mid-November. Entitled 52 Souls - Symbolist Landscape, the exhibition will present a wide selection of poetic, mystical and sensual interpretations of nature painted between 1880 and 1910. The result of international cooperation, the exhibition is currently on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and will open at the National Galleries of Scotland in July. A book accompanying the exhibition was published this spring.

Organised together by Ateneum, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the National Galleries of Scotland, 52 Souls is the first major international exhibition to be devoted entirely to symbolist landscape paintings. The exhibition presents works by 52 artists, including landscapes by such masters as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, James McNeill Whistler, Piet Mondrian, Edvard Munch, Paul Signac and Wassily Kandinsky. Other lesser known artists that will be featured include Eugène Carrière, James Ensor and Georges Lacombe. Finnish symbolist art will be represented by Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Hugo Simberg and Ellen Thesleff.

The paintings for the exhibition are being lent by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Tate Museum in London, MoMA in New York, the Munch Museum in Norway, and the Museum of Russian Art in St. Petersburg. In addition, paintings have been made available by major private collections in New York, Paris and Italy. The curators of the exhibition are two international renowned art experts, Richard Thomson, Professor of Art at the University of Edinburgh, and Rodolphe Rapetti, a French art historian who has studied symbolism extensively. Assisting curators include Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff from Ateneum, Nienke Bakker from the Van Gogh Museum and Frances Fowle from the National Galleries of Scotland.

Symbolist art in Europe

Symbolism was one of the most influential trends in European art in the period 1880-1910. It was characterised by the desire to describe feelings and moods, a passionate pursuit of spirituality and a strong interest in mythologies. Symbolism was not a style, but rather an attitude and vision. It was in part a reaction to industrialisation and materialism that made artists focus on the richness within ourselves rather than on external realities. Visual artists, poets and composers inspired each other, and the interaction between the arts flourished.

Landscapes were an ideal subject for symbolists. The pulsating vitality of the sun, the rage of storms and the mystical twilight are familiar and recognisable experiences for everyone. Nature and its elements served as the raw materials that were shaped by the artists to express a certain state of mind.

From the Finnish perspective, 52 Souls - Symbolist Landscape is a continuation of the exhibition Illusions of Reality, which present international naturalism at the Ateneum Art Museum in the first half of 2011. 52 Souls also links Finnish art history with international trends. The exhibition is made possible thanks to close cooperation between Ateneum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the National Galleries of Scotland.

The exhibition will be on display in Amsterdam from 24 February to 17 June, in Edinburgh from 14 July to 14 October, and in Helsinki from 15 November to 17 February 2013.

A richly illustrated exhibition catalogue with articles by art experts was published by Mercatorfonds of Belgium in spring 2012. The catalogue is available in six languages - English, French, Flemish, German, Finnish and Swedish - and can be purchased from the museum shop at Ateneum for 34,50 euros.

52 Souls - Symbolist Landscape

Ateneum Art Museum Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki
Open: Tue & Fri 10am-6pm; Wed & Thu 10am-8pm; Sat & Sun 11am-5pm (closed on Mondays)
Tickets to the exhibition 52 Souls: €15/13, free admission for visitors under the age of 18
Tickets in advance: Lippupalvelu outlets and online shop, www.lippupalvelu.fi

Further information: Marja Istala Kumpunen, Communications Manager, tel. +358 (0)50 555 3551, mik@ateneum.fi


Ateneum's main partners are Helsingin Sanomat, HOK-Elanto and KPMG.