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In 2008 it will be 120 years since Ateneum first opened its doors to the public. The anniversary exhibition presents one of the major artists of the Finnish Golden Age, Pekka Halonen (1865–1933). The exhibition features almost 300 works from Halonen's diverse and eventful career that spanned over 40 years. For this exhibition, Curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff has attained a dozen paintings that have never been on public display before.
This great exhibition taking up the second floor of the Ateneum Art Museum presents Halonen's complete eventful career in a new light, through different themes. Pekka Halonen began his studies in the Finnish Art Society drawing school, and was one of the first students in the newly completed Ateneum building. Halonen's artistic career took him abroad, first to Paris and later Italy. In Paris he studied under the artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) who inspired him to discover his own personal style of depicting nature. Gauguin encouraged Halonen to find his own roots. Halonen's art is indeed built on depictions of the Finnish nature and people. However, although Halonen chose his motifs among the people and landscapes of his home country, his art was closely tied to the international movements of the time.
The Finnish-speaking Pekka Halonen was one of the first talents to rise to the Finnish artistic scene from humble beginnings. Halonen did not concentrate solely on his career; his interests were diverse. The two most important things apart from his art were family and nature. In 1898 the Halonen family moved to the shores of lake Tuusula, where the artist built his gesamtkunstwerk, his studio home Halosenniemi. Halonen enjoyed life as the father of eight children, and his family's support also meant he could fully absorb himself in art.
Pekka Halonen was a conservationist and thus also radical for his time. Halosenniemi was a preservation area, where the balance of nature could not be disturbed. He was also an avid gardener, and the whole family had a share in keeping Halosenniemi as self-sufficient as possible. The strong, vibrant colours of the garden also influenced Halonen's art. A case in point are his tomatoes, featured in the exhibition.
The winter landscapes of Pekka Halonen carry an extra significance in today's world. They provide a chance to look into the past, at the frosty winters and deep snow which have lately become increasingly rare even in Finland because of global warming.
There is a book published along with the exhibition, providing a versatile look into the life and art of Pekka Halonen on more than 400 pages, with articles by both Finnish and French experts. It also includes a unique illustrated list of works, featuring 556 works of art by Pekka Halonen. The book is edited by the exhibition curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, and is available from Ateneum's web shop.