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Eero Järnefelt: Under the Yoke (Burning the Brushwood), 1893

 

Eero Järnefelt felt that he could best capture the Finnish nature and people in the historical province of Savonia. In 1893 the Järnefelts spent a summer at the Rannan Puurula farmhouse in Väisälänmäki, Lapinlahti. The tradition of slash-and-burn agriculture was still practiced in this area to the north of Kuopio. Already during the previous summer Järnefelt had expressed a desire to depict this heavy work that was carried out by “…wives and husbands in their rags and black with soot…” During the summer he drew sketches of the land and took photographs of the women and men at work.

The photographs were very important for his painting work to avoid having his “models” pose for days on end. The women and men came from the Rannan Puurula farmhouse, which was home to its owners along with ten farm-hands and eleven maids. The man in the foreground is Heikki Puurunen, the brother of the farmer, and at the back the farmer himself tends to the fire. The main character in the painting is nevertheless Johanna Kokkonen, a 14-year-old maid, as referred to in the original name of the painting, Under the Yoke, that was taken from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

 

See Under the Yoke (Burning the Brushwood) in the Google Art Project as Ateneum's gigapixel image.