- About Ateneum
People and their landscapes
The art created during the so-called Golden Age of Finnish art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is characterised in part by the way it depicts the landscape and the human relationship to it. The landscapes in these works are depicted both from a distance and up close.
We experience the environment in different ways when it is depicted up close and when it is painted from afar. When the landscape is viewed from afar, the focus is on what the artist himself chooses to take in, whereas when viewed up close, what you experience is more random and momentary. These different approaches were originally described by the French scholar Michel de Certeau in his examination of how we experience urban spaces, but they can equally well be applied to how we experience natural landscapes. The difference between the levels of experience can be seen quite clearly when we compare, for example, two landscapes painted from a height by Victor Westerholm and Eero Järnefelt, Landscape from Åland and Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi, to two works by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Wild Angelica and Lost.
A difference in the way landscapes are depicted or viewed has also been made between the so-called naïve and sentimentalist approaches. This differentiation was originally made by the German poet and philosopher Friedrich von Schiller. Accordingly, a naïve poet (or artist) views himself and people as part of the natural whole, whereas sentimentalists see a difference between man and nature. The “naïve” way of experiencing the environment is in many ways tied to the way of depicting up close, whereas the “sentimental” way would seen to be related to depicting a landscape captured from afar. It is rather interesting that the differentiation between the naïve and the sentimental can be seen quite clearly in the way artists depict people. The common folk are depicted as part of nature, bound by the circle of life and whatever it provides them with. By contrast, the educated classes – including artists and their families – are depicted as surveying the land from a distance. This difference can be created using features that indicate status, such as books or dress, or by placing one group indoors and the other out in nature, as demonstrated in Albert Edelfelt’s paintings of his wife, mother and servants.
Works displayed in this room
Edelfelt, Albert: Old Woman with a Splint Basket, 1882
Kaukola Ridge at Sunset, 1889-1890
Christ and Mary Magdalene, a Finnish Legend, 1890
Portrait of the Singer Aino Ackté, 1901
Paris in Snow, 1887
Landscape from the Mediterranean, 1886 or 1891
Portrait of the Artist´s Mother Alexandra Edelfelt, 1883
Winter Day at Helsinki Market Square, Study, 1889
Gallen-Kallela, Akseli: Lost, 1886
Wild Angelica, 1889
Halonen, Eemil: Girl, 1908
Halonen, Pekka: The Short-Cut, 1892
Järnefelt, Eero: Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielisjärvi, 1899
Portrait of Baron Johan Philip Palmén, Vice Chancellor of the University, 1890
Westerholm, Victor: Landscape from Åland, 1896
Wiik, Maria: Out into the World, 1889
More information on the works and artists from the Finnish National Gallery Collections web service.