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Väinö Blomstedt


Väinö Blomstedt (1871–1947) is best known for his Symbolist paintings. He converted from a realistic style of painting to Symbolism in the mid 1890s after meeting Paul Gauguin in Paris and falling under his powerful influence.

Väinö Blomstedt was born in Savonlinna into a civil servant’s family. He began his art studies at the Finnish Art Society drawing school in 1888, first under Fredrik Ahlstedt and then under Gunnar Berndtson in 1889-1891. Blomstedt visited Paris for the first time in 1891 and studied at the Académie Julian. At that point he painted in a realistic style, but gradually he adopted a more Synthetist painting style with stronger outlines.

In 1893 he visited Paris again but this time, he and his friend Pekka Halonen chose Paul Gauguin as their teacher. Gauguin remained in Paris for the winter of that year before moving permanently back to Tahiti. Gauguin’s character and teaching approach had a huge impact on Blomstedt: he stopped trying to imitate reality and instead adopted a decorative style, producing his first Symbolist works The Graveyard at Bourg-la-Reine (1894), Park Scene (1895) and Francesca (1897). In Sunset, painted the following year, he employs the metaphorical island theme used by many other Symbolist artists.

Blomstedt’s later output is characterized by a National Romantic approach and the use of Kalevala themes. He developed an interest in arts and crafts and book illustration, and worked for many years as a teacher, also at his old alma mater the Finnish Art Society drawing school.