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The Imperial Art Collection

 

The first works of art for the Imperial Palace in Helsinki were commissioned by Nicholas I around 1854–55. Depicting subjects associated with the Crimean War, these paintings were nevertheless first deposited in the building after Nicholas’s death in March 1855. The majority of works in the Imperial Art Collection in the Presidential Palace are thus from the reign of Alexander II 1855–1881. By 1897, the collection comprised 28 works by 19 artists. It was subsequently supplemented with seven paintings that had been purchased and originally placed in the imperial residence in Lappeenranta, the so-called Emperor’s House.

With the exception of Battle of Hanko Peninsula by the Russian painter Alexander Beidemann, all works in the collection are by Finnish artists. The policy was to acquire relatively new works by major artists in the realm.

Early purchases in the 1850s and 1860s were two landscapes by Werner Holmberg and two bird canvases by Ferdinand von Wright. Works by female artists were also being acquired at this time, such as Alexandra Frosterus-Såltin’s Savoyard Boy and Victoria Åberg’s Monrepos. During the reign of Alexander II in the 1870s, the collection was augmented with paintings by such artists as Hjalmar Munsterhjelm, Berndt Lindholm, Oscar Kleineh and Adolf von Becker. Later on works by Albert Edelfelt, Gunnar Berndtson, Väinö Blomstedt and Axel Gallén were added to it. In addition to paintings, the collection also includes three sculptures by Walter Runeberg, Johannes Takanen and Ville Vallgren.