- About Ateneum
In addition to paintings of the Finnish people and the rugged landscapes of Koli, Eero Järnefelt’s name has always been associated especially with portraits. Indeed, portrait painting suited his artistic temperament very well. He was an objective and sharp-eyed observer, but at the same time he was a deep portrayer of people. His realistic approach combined with his solid technical prowess provided him with the ability to create high quality portrait art.
Järnefelt’s reputation as an accomplished and sought-after portrait artist was established already in the 1890s. The linguist August Ahlqvist and Finnish politician and journalist Agathon Meurman were the first to commission portraits from Järnefelt in 1889. The following year he painted a portrait of baron Johan Philip Palmén. All three are so-called milieu portraits in which the subjects are portrayed in their own natural surroundings, either at home or at work. From the 1920s onwards Järnefelt began to take photographs of his subjects in their own “milieus”, and sometimes his painted portraits were based directly on these photographs.
Already quite early in his career Järnefelt earned a reputation as one of the best portrait artists in the country; indeed, he came to compete with Albert Edelfelt in this field. Whereas Edelfelt sought a sense of elegance and splendour in his portraits, Järnefelt was more calm and restrained in his expression. He wanted to highlight the person and especially the personality while leaving out everything nonessential.
Alongside his official portraits he also painted many warm and affectionate portraits of his wife Saimi, their five children and other members of his family.