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Becoming an artist


Already as a schoolboy Eero Järnefelt studied at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society. His first paintings were small landscapes influenced by Hjalmar Munsterhjelm and Ferdinand von Wright. Two of these works were included already in the Art Society’s exhibition of 1881. In the same year he graduated from upper secondary school and began to consider a career as a public school teacher.

Following the advice of his father Alexander Järnefelt, however, Eero entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts to continue his art studies under the tutelage of his uncle Mihail Clodt. He was also taught by the distinguished art teacher Pavel Tsistyakov. Although Järnefelt would later consider his three years in St. Petersburg as a waste of time, his studies there nevertheless established a solid professional foundation. In addition, he was influenced strongly by Russian land­scape art and realism.

In autumn 1886 Järnefelt travelled to Paris and entered the Académie Julian, which was already popular among Finnish artists. He was especially interested in naturalism and the realistic open-air paintings that were current in French art. Nevertheless, the main work of his French period Wine Merchant Le Franc still reflects the strong influence that Russian art and literature had on him.

Although Järnefelt returned to Paris on a few occasions, his thoughts were already very much occupied by the themes of Finnish nationalism that became increasingly established in Finnish art as the 1890s progressed. By portraying the nature and people of his own land, Järnefelt found that he could be a natural lyricist and realist at the same time.