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Mika Waltari and Artist Friends
Ateneum's exhibition in honour of the 100th anniversary of Mika Waltari's (1908–1979) birth sheds light on the author's passionate interest in the visual arts. The exhibition presents the work of five artists who were of importance to Waltari: altogether over 200 paintings from Eemu Myntti (1890–1943), Yrjö Saarinen (1899–1958), Otto Mäkilä (1904–1955), Mauno Markkula (1905–1959) and Aimo Kanerva (1909–1991). The public will now for the first time have a chance to see art from the author's own home. There is also plenty of material relating to Waltari's career in the exhibition, such as original manuscripts and book cover art as well as film posters and excerpts. The exhibition is curated by PhD Tuula Karjalainen.
The exhibition Mika Waltari and Artist Friends tells of what the visual arts can mean for another artist, a writer. Eemu Myntti, Yrjö Saarinen, Otto Mäkilä, Mauno Markkula and Aimo Kanerva were all forceful artists of profound feeling who were unconditionally committed to their work. The same passion defined Mika Waltari's own work as a writer. Waltari wrote about the work of these artists he admired, and bought their works for his home. He was also friends with most of them for several decades.
"During my creative years, my difficult years, and times of depression, art gave a great deal to me. It filled my emptiness and made my life again worth living, perhaps exactly because the modes of expression of art are completely other than those of literature." – Mika Waltari, 1977
The visual arts had a great impact on Waltari's writing, and his texts are highly visual. Waltari has said that he surrounded himself with art. For him, paintings were friends and companions. He was an active visitor to art exhibitions and museums, and Ateneum's exhibition will also show a mummy and sarcophagus as a reminder of the author's love for ancient artefacts and history.
Mika Waltari's oeuvre is a significant chapter of Finnish cultural history. Ateneum's exhibition reflects the various aspects of Mika Waltari's life. His works created their own visual world, particularly influential on Finnish book-cover art. There are also e.g. film posters, book posters and excerpts of films written by Waltari on view, as well as costumes designed for the Sinuhe ballet. Waltari's own voice can be heard on taped interviews, and his text lives on in the work of contemporary artist Charles Sandison (b. 1969) in Ateneum's main staircase.