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Press release: In the Spirit of Symbolism - Symbolism in Finnish art


In the Spirit of Symbolism presents a special selection of art covering five exhibition rooms in connection with Ateneum’s collection display. The themes of this exhibition include religion and mysticism, the world of ideas and death. Featured artists include Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Magnus Enckell, Hugo Simberg, Väinö Blomstedt, Pekka Halonen, Ellen Thesleff and Ville Vallgren.

Symbolism featured in Finnish art from the 1890s to the late 1910s. However, the precise time that the period came to end is not easy to pinpoint, as Symbolism was not so much a style as it was a new way of conceptualising content. Nevertheless, many Symbolist artists adopted a style called Synthetism. Paul Gauguin was one of its key developers. Synthetism favoured strong outlines and fields of uniform colour.

Other artists expressed their visions by means of misty light and a limited colour spectrum after the French artist Eugène Carrière. The ornate and organic stylistic elements typical of Art Nouveau, including its plant and animal themes, were typical of the sculpture and design of this period.

Symbolism was not so much about using visual symbols or metaphors, although these were indeed employed from time to time. Instead, the movement was inspired by the Platonic concept of a world of ideas which the visible reality remotely reflects. The aim was, via the subject of the work of art, to present different ideas, thoughts, emotions and states of mind that in turn reflect the fundamental and timeless truths behind the visible world of the senses.


In the Spirit of Symbolism

Ateneum Art Museum Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki
Open: Tue & Fri 10–18; Wed & Thu 10–20; Sat & Sun 11–17 (closed on Mondays)
Tickets to the exhibition 52 Souls: €15/13, free admission for visitors under the age of 18
Tickets in advance: Lippupalvelu outlets and online shop, www.lippupalvelu.fi

Further information: Marja Istala Kumpunen, Communications Manager, tel. +358 (0)50 555 3551, mik@ateneum.fi


Ateneum’s main partners are Helsingin Sanomat, HOK-Elanto and KPMG.