Finland Arts

By | November 9, 2021

Finnish art, term for the art of the people of Finland. Rock carvings from prehistoric times have survived. a. have been discovered in hard-to-reach places in central and eastern Finnish forest and lake areas since the beginning of the 20th century and have been increasingly explored since the 1960s; From the Mesolithic and Neolithic there are figurative representations of animal heads.

Middle Ages

Finnish art of the Middle Ages spanned the period from around 1150 to 1527. It was strongly influenced by Christianization and Swedish rule.


Stone churches, which were built on the Åland Islands and in the southwest of mainland Finland since the end of the 13th century, mark the beginning of architecture. Their emergence is closely related to the simultaneous development on Gotland and the region around Lake Mälaren, but also to that in the Baltic States and northern Germany. Turku Cathedral (consecrated in 1300) stands out among the roughly 75 stone churches that have been preserved. She plays an important role in communicating European influences. Its history reflects the general development in the Baltic Sea region from the undemanding hall church to the hall church and finally to the large brick basilica. Most Finnish churches, however, are small in size and have a simple, unadorned design and are reluctant to follow the style patterns typical of the time. In addition to the small proportions, the building material used is granite and regional types, which are characterized by high brick facades with changing ornamental décor and groin vaults. One of the most splendid examples of this type is the church of Porvoo, which was built by the Rostock master builder in the 1450s Carsten Nübuhr was built. In the secular architecture the building of stone castles dominates. The most important example is the Turku Castle, built in the 1280s, which was converted into a fortress in the 14th century based on the model of the convent castles of the Teutonic Order. The castles of Viipuri (today Vyborg; 1293 ff.) And Hämeenlinna (since the end of the 14th century) also developed in a similar manner. The most modern defensive system of the late Middle Ages is represented by the Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna (1474 ff.), Which was built against threats from the east with its round towers.

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Sculpture and painting

The earliest evidence is that of southern Scandinavian masters around the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. Paintings made in the churches on the Åland Islands (especially in Jomala and Lemland). On the Finnish mainland, the painting began in the middle of the 14th century with ornamental representations on vaulted fields. In the 15th century, individual figurative representations followed on ceiling and wall surfaces, before the church rooms were equipped with more extensive picture programs from the end of the 15th century. Petrus Henriksson is particularly tangible who decorated the church of Kalanti in the 1470s. Rich late medieval ornamentation can be found in the churches of Lohja and Hattula. In the late Middle Ages, more and more naturalistic representations appear; at the same time, the primitive or naive style of painting appears (surprisingly late). All paintings were done using Secco technique. The figurative representations were influenced by southern Scandinavia and Gotland in the 13th and 14th centuries. The earliest local production, the works of the so-called Master of Lieto, dates from the beginning of the 14th century. At the beginning of the 15th century, Lübeck’s influence was predominant. The Barbara altar from the workshop of the master Francke (around 1410; Helsinki, National Museum, formerly in the church of Kalanti, originally probably in Turku Cathedral, where a Barbara altar was consecrated in 1412), the most remarkable winged altar of that time, comes from Germany, as is the growing demand for sculptures and winged altars in general The late Middle Ages were encountered with the purchase of works in the Nordic countries and on the European continent. The mystery cabinets with their detailed paintings that convey biblical narratives were imported from the Netherlands.

Renaissance and Baroque

The Reformation that began in the 1520s diminished the power of the church. The Lutheran Church had to make do with the church art it had acquired during the long Catholic period. The Reformation in Finland proceeded without theologically inspired iconoclasms. It was not until the 18th century that there was an open condemnation of medieval Catholic representations. In addition to changes in artistic taste, the poor condition of the works was the trigger for sharp criticism


During the Reformation and Swedish great power times (16th to 18th centuries), the focus in artistic and cultural life increasingly shifted to the responsibility of the king and the court. The castles of Gustav I. Wasa were expanded to include gun rondels and ramparts. Turku Castle became the Renaissance courtyard of John III in the mid-16th century . expanded. At the same time, the nobility built the first larger manors (Kuitia, Kankainen, Sjundby). Art flourished through the great power of the Swedish Empire. The high nobility conveyed innovations in the fields of architecture and interior design. Palladianism, which was conveyed via Holland, was evident in the country castles (e.g. the Louhisaari manors, 1655; Sarvilahti, 1670s). The expansion of the settlement made the need for churches grow. They were built based on the medieval longitudinal buildings made of wood. A type of church arose in Ostrobothnia in which the walls were reinforced with timbered beam constructions (including Tornio, 1684–86). J. de la Vallée . In the field of urban planning, v. a. regular, symmetrical floor plans when new cities are built (especially on the Gulf of Bothnia, e.g. Kristiinankaupunki, founded in 1649).

Sculpture and painting

The new church buildings were richly furnished with polychrome pulpits, altarpieces and epitaphs in the style of the Renaissance and later the Baroque. For example, in Turku Cathedral and in Mynämäki, monumental grave monuments of representatives of the high nobility and military leaders from the time of great power have been preserved. Wood carvers (e.g. Mikael Balt, † 1676) came from Stockholm, but the number of local artists also grew. The only monumental furnishings from the Reformation period are the Lutheran renaissance paintings in the church of Isokyrö (1560). Christian Willbrandt († 1677) continued this style in the old church of Pyhämaa (1667). In the work of Lars Gallenius (* 1665, † around 1750) in Tornio (1680s) the folk baroque style is in full bloom. The panel paintings represent the numerous portraits of pastors, but also the portrait collection of the Academy in Turku, founded in 1640. The first court artist of Finnish origin, Elias Brenner (* 1647, † 1717), earned a reputation as a miniature painter.

18th century


After the 2nd (Great) Northern War (1721) a phase of reconstruction began. In order to give the economy an upswing, government power was decentralized, but building regulations increased through the chief intendant’s office. Innovations spread through the rectory. In the 18th century, the building type of the cruciform church received a normative position throughout the country and brought, v. a. Realized by folk master builders, local and regional variants emerge (including type of double cross church in Eastern Finland; churches in Ostbottnien; wooden church from Petäjävesi, 1763–64). After the most famous folk architects Antti Hakola (* 1713, † 1774) and Matti Honka (* 1713, † 1774), Jacob Rijf (* 1753, † 1800) receivedas the first people’s master builder to be trained as an architect. From 1748 the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress of Helsinki, the most remarkable state building, was built. Manor houses and town houses were built based on Swedish models. One of the greatest innovations in secular building was the departure from the late medieval type of the so-called two-chamber house in favor of a floor plan dominated by a central hall. At the end of the 18th century, the neo-antique style (including the church of Hämeenlinna, 1798) and the neoclassical style (including the academy building in Turku, 1801-15) were turned to.

Sculpture and painting

The example of the royal palace in Stockholm was followed in the mundane interior. In the churches of Ostrobothnia, a heavy, dark-toned Baroque style was initially cultivated, which was later replaced by the lighter, lighter-colored Rococo style (mainly through the work of Mikael Toppelius, * 1734, † 1821). Church painting was represented in eastern Finland by Petter Lang (* 1728, † 1780), in the region around Turku by Jonas Bergman (* 1724, † 1810). The panel painting led to a blossomMargareta Capsia (* 1690, † 1759) with baroque portraits, Isak Wacklin (* 1720, † 1758) with paintings in the pure Rococo style and Nils Schillmark (* 1745, † 1804) with early classical work.

19th century

During the period of the autonomous Russian Grand Duchy (1809–1917), the art business and museums were institutionalized with the aim of streamlining the administrative system and promoting national institutions for art education (establishment of the Finnish Art Association in Helsinki, 1846, affiliated drawing school since 1848, opening of its own Collection in 1863, in the Ateneum in 1888; foundation of the Finnish Artists’ Association there, 1864; foundation of the drawing school in Turku, 1830).


L. Engel, a fellow student of KF Schinkel, conveyed the classicism of St. Petersburg. As the head of the artistic director’s office, CL Engel designed a center designed according to uniform neoclassical principles for the new capital Helsinki. Classicism, interpreted as a national style, spread through both secular and sacred buildings throughout Finland. Around the middle of the 19th century, historicism became predominant, with neo-renaissance (Theodor Höijer, * 1843, † 1910) being preferred in secular architecture and neo-Gothic (Georg Theodor Policron Chiewitz, * 1815, † 1863) being preferred in sacred architecture.


The pioneers of Finnish painting in the 19th century were the early romanticists Gustaf Wilhelm Finnberg (* 1784, † 1833) and Alexander Lauréus (* 1783, † 1823) as well as the Wright brothers (Magnus, * 1805, † 1868; Wilhelm, * 1810, † 1887;Ferdinand, * 1822, † 1906) as a representative of Biedermeier. Leading the way were active in the education of artists Robert Wilhelm Ekman (* 1808, † 1873), who had worked in Sweden and Italy and led the Drawing School in Turku, and the educated in St. Petersburg artist and teacher of art school in Helsinki Berndt Abraham Godenhjelm (* 1799, † 1881). They conveyed the ideas of romanticism and idealism. Many Finnish artists then continued their training in Düsseldorf, including: the first internationally successful Finnish landscape painter W. Holmberg . Karl Emanuel Jansson (* 1846, † 1874) dealt with the life of the common people in his work. In the works of Fanny Churberg (* 1845, † 1892), Berndt Lindholm (* 1841, † 1914) and Victor Westerholm (* 1860, † 1919) the transition from the romantically colored images of Düsseldorf realism to an ever stronger realism can be seen Parisian style. A. Edelfelt acquired the most important position in Paris who integrated salon painting, outdoor painting and impressionism into his realistic painting. Many of the Finnish artists who traveled to Paris went to Brittany in the late 1870s to paint. A notable proportion of the realists were women, including Helene Schjerfbeck (* 1862, † 1946), Maria Wiik (* 1853, † 1928) and Elin Danielson (* 1861, † 1919). The efforts of the Parisian representatives stimulated the search for the originality in the landscape and folk life of their own country, which supported the national movement, so that in the 1890s the partly symbolistically influenced and decoratively oriented national romanticism emerged (A. Gallen-Kallela , P. Halons , EN Järnefelt ). The striving for a deep emotional expression (in the broader sense the examination and exploration of Finnish identity) is shown by A. Gallen-Kallela’s depictions of the folk epic Kalevala, as are M. Enckell’s works, which are characterized by international symbolism. The symbolist imagery of H. Simberg conveyed a fairytale-like feeling.


The dominant trend in sculpture throughout the 19th century was classicism (Erik Cainberg, * 1777, † 1816; Carl Eneas Sjöstrand, * 1828, † 1906; Walter Runeberg, * 1838, † 1920). At the end of the century Robert Stigell (* 1852, † 1907)represented realism and V. Vallgren represented Parisian Art nouveau.

Finland Arts