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Late Symbolism

 

Research into Finnish Symbolism has focused primarily on the early years of the movement at the beginning of the 1890s. With the exception of research into some individual artists, the latter evolution of Symbolism has not been comprehensively studied in this country. This omission may be due to the prejudices of Modernism, according to which the period was lacking in artistic quality and interest. In writing about Sigurd Wetterhoff-Asp and Joséphin Péladan, for example, some critics have even referred to the “decline” of Symbolism.

Nevertheless, Symbolism continued in slightly different forms in Finland even after the country gained independence in 1917. Similarly, interest in theosophy and occultism remained strong, and numerous esoteric societies continued to be active in these decades.

One particular group who focused on Symbolism were the artists who organised a series of “free exhibitions” (Vapaa taidenäyttely or Fria utställning) in Helsinki between 1896 and 1903. Although the composition of this group varied, its leading light was very much Sigurd Wetterhoff-Asp. Other participants included Torsten Wasastjerna, Aleksander Federley, Alexander Barkoff, Wilho Sjöström and Divina Asp. Among sculptors, Georges Winter in particular has been all but forgotten by later generations.