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Ferdinand von Wright: The Fighting Capercaillies, 1886

 

Ferdinand von Wright (1822-1906)
Oil on canvas, 124 x 188.5 cm
Purchased 1887

A hazy Finnish forest clearing, a scene from living nature, and a composition based on the golden section - these are some of the features characterizing one of Finland's most famous paintings. In artistic circles, it was considered somewhat old-fashioned even at the time of its creation. Precise attention to detail, based on the natural and scientific study that underpinned the work of the von Wright brothers, was becoming less popular in favour of a more direct approach and broader brush strokes.

Ferdinand von Wright was old and suffering from paralysis by the time of this painting. He resided permanently in his home at Haminalahti where he had built his own little hideaway, called Lugnet (Peace.) He was happiest when left to himself, surrounded by his paintings, flowers and tame birds. However, in his works of art depicting the natural world, this normally mild-mannered hermit preferred action and excitement. Unlike his brothers, Ferdinand liked to inject narration and drama into his paintings of nature.

The Fighting Capercaillies has enjoyed phenomenal popularity with the Finnish people. This also helps explain the metaphorical meanings that have been found in the painting, in times of war as well as peace.  Even today, the painting ranks very high among Finland's most popular works of art. It is probably the most copied work of art in Finland, and the advent of electronic data transfer and digital picture processing have not diminished its appeal in any way.