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Ateneum's summer exhibition Music and Silence. Finnish Symbolism invites visitors to listen to art, emphasising the deep relationship between art and music that prevailed at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century. Its themes range from human and nature's voices and Symbolist music to the inner voice and silence, leading the visitor from sound, colour and light to darkness. There are some 80 works to be experienced, among them paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, decorative art, and material related to the history of music. The exhibition is curated by French art historian Laura Gutman-Hanhivaara.
Symbolist artists considered music to be the highest form of all arts for the way it touches our senses and imagination, and felt that their role was to create an emotional equivalent with the visual arts. Symbolist composers themselves believed that music was meant to bring a sublime and ecstatic experience to the listener.
In the exhibition, the visitor is invited to appreciate Finnish Symbolism in a sensitive way. Most of the works are from Ateneum's own collection, complemented by loans from other museums and private collections. They guide you from representations of the human scream towards the silence of tears, from light to darkness, from a physical perception of nature towards an intimate meeting with the inner self. When reaching the end of the exhibition, the visitor then walks back towards life and light.
A section in the exhibition is devoted to Symbolist music, in particular to Jean Sibelius' incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande, a play staged in Helsinki at the Swedish Theatre in 1905, and performed for another season in 1906. Works of art by composer Erkki Melartin on their part illustrate how this versatile artist expressed his perception of the world in a visual form.
There is also a "music room" showing e.g. tapestries by Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Väinö Blomstedt and Ville Vallgren's sculpture Echo (1887), with music playing in the background to help the visitor experience the Symbolist idea of dialogue between different forms of art. Record company Ondine has produced a CD of Symbolist music which is heard in the exhibition and replaces the traditional exhibition catalogue. It comes with a 32-page illustrated booklet, with an article written by the curator. The CD is available for purchase at the Ateneum bookshop and the museum's web shop.