Juho Rissanen and the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts


To the question of the Russian-Finnish relationships
in the second part of the 19th century
Among Finnish artists, whose education in a certain degree was firmly related to the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts, Juho Rissanen occupies a special place. Although he studied only for a short period at the studio of Ilya Repin (December 1897 — May 1898), his studying at the Academy became an essential stage in his formation and development as a master, and at the same time became one of the most exciting phenomena in the history of Russian-Finnish cultural relations.
As an artist and person, Juho Rissanen is of great interest for us. His life was inspiring and eventful, and the story about it could be an excellent basis for a screenplay of a film about a remarkable person possessed with a great creative idea, independent and following their way. Being recognised by art critics and art lovers, his paintings also tell us about his life.
So, it might be unfair to find out in the research works of our art-critics, devoted to the Golden Age of the Finnish Art that among the other names of the Finnish artists the name of Juho Rissanen is mentioned like the name of an ordinary artist, separated from others by commas. Unfortunately, the creative works of Juho Rissanen didn’t attract the attention of the art experts in our country. The only distinguishing feature in his works, identified by everybody, is ordinary people that he depicted in his paintings. But not only Rissanen portrayed the life around him. Finnish peasants and workers became the heroes of the pictures of Albert Edelfelt, Eero Jarnefelt and even Hugo Simberg, whose children carrying an angel in his eponymous painting, are the children of the ordinary workers. Appeal to people and its epic and the history of the homeland is one of the most distinctive features of the art of the II half of the XIX century — the period of growth of national awareness and the flourishing of the culture and the art of Finland. The folk theme that passes through all the creative works of Juho Rissanen, undergoing its evolution. Throughout his creative life, the artist searched the best and the brightest means to express his ideas. Finnish people are considered as an integral part of his personality because Rissanen came from the grassroots, precisely from the poorest social groups. His biography had a high impact on his creativity. In the interpretation of the images of the ordinary people, Rissanen was far from the prettiness and idealism of the artists working in line with the ideas of national-romanticism. When depicting people’s characters, he was more impartial than other Finnish artists.
Juho Rissanen was born in 1873 in Kuopio, in a family of a worker and maid. He lost his father, whose main vice was drinking, very early. When Juho’s father was returning home after one more feast, he’d frozen up and died. Rissanen’s triptych «Memories of childhood» (Art Museum, Budapest), seems to revive the shocking details of this moment of his life.
After having lost his father, he got to know very early with poverty and had to earn a living when he was very young. His first steps in his artistic education associated with the painting studio of the artist Victor Berg, where Rissanen not only studied but lived to be an apprentice of his teacher. At the same time, young Rissanen learned and finished the Sunday Artisan School in Kuopio (1888-1890) and the Elementary School of Crafts (1890 — 1892). In 1892-1893 he went on a trip to the Central and South Western Finland in search of work he received in Tampere in the studio of R.Ekberg. In 1894, he won the qualification of a professional home painter. In 1895 he arrived in Helsinki where he worked at the Hasselgren and Loof’s Studio and entered the Central School of Applied Arts (High School of Handicrafts) which allowed him to specialise as a decorator. In 1896, Rissanen decided to begin studying art on a regular basis. He entered the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society where he learned art from the famous artist Helen Schierfbeck. Here he got to know the creative works of the famous old masters. The paintings of Hans Holbein that also had a considerable impact on Helen Schierfbeck have a particular influence on Juho Rissanen.
But Rissanen was not destined to study at the Art School in Helsinki. After a few months, he had been expelled from the school because » he wasn’t able to comply with the normal order and the traditions of the school.»
The artist had to think about the way he had to do for a living, where he could get the means for his following studying and whom he could ask for his financial backup. He found a job; he also got somebody who funded his education. As an illustrator, Rissanen worked for some periodicals such as a comic magazine and a Christian Yearbook for Children. This financial support he gained in Helsinki, from the industrialist Antti Poihoonen. Arranging thus, his business, Rissanen continued studies at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society, but in Turku. He began his studies at the studio of the nationally known artist Victor Westerholm.
However, that was not enough for an ambitious young man. He realised that his creative potential needed a way out that’s why he went to St.Petersburg, the capital of the vast Russian Empire. Back then, paradoxically as it may sound now, for many Finns, St.Petersburg was a kind of a window to Europe. At that time, about 24000 of the Finns lived in the Russian capital. People of different professions and social status, from stove makers to honoured maids of her Imperial Majesty, formed the Finnish community at that time.
Naturally enough, the question of finding the funds for education had become the question of primary importance for Rissanen. In October-November Rissanen was coming to St.Petersburg to know about the conditions of admissions to the Academy of Arts. He took a bank loan. One of his warrantors became J.F.G. Aminoff, the governor of the province of Kuopio. The other his sponsors were Ferdinand von Wright, the famous artist and consul Birger Hallman.
As it has been mentioned, the stay in St.Petersburg and the studying at the Academy of Arts, was for Rissanen an essential stage of his creative development. Generally speaking, he didn’t have a regular art education, taking courses at different educational institutions and from various artists from time to time. Those Finnish artists who taught him (Helen Schierfbeck, Victor Westerholm and Albert Gebhardt) or whose creative works had an impact on him (Albert Edelfelt) studied in Paris and Dusseldorf. Even though the curriculum of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts undergone some changes and the atmosphere of the Academy had become more democratic, this educational institution remained conservative. The Academy was considered as a stronghold of the state police in culture and art education. Developing the subjects of the current educational tasks or diploma works, the artists paid the greater attention to contemporary life. They also changed their attitude in the interpretation of historical subjects, preferring the themes from modern life to those from ancient history or mythology. However, the general position of the Academy’s administration to the issues of the art remained the same, and the Academy was an institution with the strict order end elaborate rules and regulations. The students were given serious vocational training, and for the sake of the stringent requirements, the students had to suppress their individuality.
Taking the advice about his further studying from Albert Edelfelt, Rissanen headed to St.Petersburg. He had no definite idea of where to go. Besides St. Petersburg, Rissanen had the idea to go to Stockholm. Nevertheless, Eledfelt, a true patriot of Finland didn’t advise him to go anywhere because, in his opinion, Finland has its art school. He expressed the idea that it might be better for Rissanen to continue his education at the School of the Finnish Art Society. However, Rissanen felt not comfortable to go back there as it had already been expelled from there. The reason for his exclusion seemed to Edelfelt insignificant: Rissanen fell asleep at the class of Helen Schierfbeck. He promised to write to Victor Westerholm, who lived in Turku at the time and ask him to take Rissanen to the local art school. He gladly spent a short time of his studies, but still, he was remembering Helen Schjerfbeck and wanted to return to her studio. Besides that, the friends of Rissanen convinced him that yet, he needs to study abroad. He was provided with necessary funds.
Before his trip to St. Petersburg Rissanen visited Albert Edelfelt and told him that hi did decide to go to Russia to study from Ilya Repin. Mildly rebuking the young artist, maestro said to him that he is as stubborn as all the residents of the province of Savo. Nevertheless, he wrote a letter of recommendation to Repin.
Despite having the lack of arts education, Rissanen came to the Academy as a person with developed views on life and opinions on aesthetic. The two letters of Juho Rissanen to Ferdinand von Wright have come to our days. One of them is dated November 1897. In this letter, the artist describes his impressions from his arrival to St.Petersburg, from St.Petersburg itself, and from the settling in the new place and dealing with his household problems. Arriving by train to the Finland Station, the future student of the Academy of Arts went to look for housing. He rented a room in the apartment near the Academy of Arts where lived a Polish family. It was located at the 14th line, house 57, apartment 3. Generally, he liked his housing, although the room was quite cold. After he had arranged his business with his accommodation, he went to see the city. Nevsky Prospect made a great impression on him: the artist was taken by its fantastic architecture and amazing public strolling through the street. The young ladies neatly and richly dressed drew the attention of the young traveller. After the domestic problems have been solved, the other issues were needed to be tackled. The first one was the organisation of his studying at the Academy of Art. Rissanen had a letter of recommendation from the Finnish Art Society, which he was going to show Repin himself. In this case, Albert Edelfelt had played the vital role.
By that time, this brilliant Finnish painter, who was like a role model for his compatriots, had managed to establish himself in St.Petersburg and to make good connections in the business and art worlds. The young talented artist was introduced to Sergey Diaghilev who showed great interest in Scandinavian art. Later on, a few exhibitions of the Finnish and Russian artists were organised with his assistance. Diaghilev liked the works of the young artist. The next goal that Rissanen was going to achieve was the acquaintance with Ilya Repin. The master praised the originality of the paintings of Rissanen, his shining talent and agreed to take Rissanen to his studio as a senior student. However, Repin insisted on doing the assignments that did all the students. It was anatomical drawings as well as drawing and painting from a live model. One more formality Juho Rissanen needed to do: to obtain the permission for his education from the vice-president of the Academy of Arts, count I.I. Tolstoy. There were no particular problems with this. Tolstoy was favourable to the young Finn, completely trusting the opinion of I.E.Repin.
The second letter of Rissanen to Ferdinand von Wright was written in December 1897. In this letter, he describes the beginning of his education at Repin’s studio. As it’s clear from the general tone of the message the young artist was excited about all the new things that he had got to know at the Academy. The Academy’s curriculum was traditional.
Students had to pay their attention to the painting of nude and dressed models. That day Ilya Repin was supervising his students and giving them advice while they were working. The master liked the work of Rissanen. After the painting of this work, the students began to paint a dressed model. It was a female model in a beautiful blue dress. In the opinion of Rissanen, Repin was a very cheerful and friendly person, and what was the most appealing to the young Finnish artist, was that Repin spoke Finnish a little. It was significant for the young Finn because he didn’t know the Russian language. Repin advised him to contact Anna Lipponen, the Finnish student who studied at the freshman classes of the Academy and who spoke Russian. Repin liked how Rissanen worked. For Rissanen, this fact was crucial because of the appraisal of such a great master as Repin was motivated him to be a more hardworking person.
While living in St.Petersburg, Rissanen perfected his skills not only in the Academy of Arts. He often visited the Hermitage Museum where he studied the creative works of the old masters and, most importantly, he bought the reproductions from the pictures created by classics. This collection of copies, which was initiated in the Northern capital, then grew up to very very large size and the number of postcards and photos had reached several thousand. Here, in our city, at the Academy of Arts and the Hermitage Museum, the ticket to a long creative life was given to Rissanen, and from here, having acquired the knowledge in the art, he came back to Finland and then went to Europe and America.
Rissanen studied diligently, and soon he was awarded the monthly prize of 25 rubles from the Imperial Mutual Aid Fund for the Finnish students. Little by little, he started studying the Russian language with the help of Marti Berg, who worked at the State Secretariat of the Finnish Ministry, and Lady Ursin. Later on, he changed his apartment, moving from the 14th line to Italianskaya street, wherein the house №15 he rented the apartment № three together with a Finnish law student.
In St.Petersburg, Rissanen saw a lot of new things. His life was vibrant and exciting. He tried to know as much as possible. The Academy students had special cards, which gave them free access to museums and theatres. Those cards looked like the student cards that are used by students nowadays. There was a curious incident which had happened to the young artist. Walking along the Nevsky Prospekt and approaching Catherine’s Garden, Rissanen had seen an Orthodox priest. He was captivated by the unusual appearance of the father and followed him for a long time. The priest drew his attention to Rissanen and then after some time turned to the nearest policeman. The policeman asked the surprised Finn to show his documents. After examination of his student card signed by the Grande Prince and, I.E. Repin, and also learned what the matter was, he took off his cap and bowed to Rissanen.
There was another case. Seeing the City Duma Tower on Nevsky Prospect, Rissanen decided to climb on it at all costs to overlook the view of the city. He was immediately brought in to the police station. With great difficulty, Rissanen explained that he wanted to see how large St.Petersburg was. The sincere and honest look of the young Finn took the policemen by surprise. Then they accompanied him when he was heading to the Duma Tower. Not wasting a single minute, Rissanen made many sketches of Neva banks. Many of his drawings were used for painting the finished artworks.
Even though Rissanen liked studying at the Academy, he didn’t remain in St.Petersburg to complete his academic course. During the autumn and winter of 1897-1898, he was sick a lot. Although outwardly he looked healthy physically, the difficult period of his childhood when he was starving and working a lot, affected him. Doctors advised him to go home to Finland because there is a healthier climate. Repin regretted Rissanen’s departure because he wished to have more such talented and diligent students like this young Finn.
Most importantly, what Rissanen learned from his stay in Russia were progressive democratic ideas, in particular, the concepts of Leo Tolstoy about people’s education. In addition to this, the personal contact with people who gave him a creative charge played an essential part in his life. The life in Russia inspired Rissanen to go further and to raise his art to a global level. To have his creative art reached the world level, Rissanen thought that only the development of his career as a career of a Finnish artist would lead him to the top level of the world art. In his opinion, he needed to be focused on the Finnish national traditions in his art.
In his future life, Rissanen had to travel a lot moving from place to place. During these travels, he always tried to learn, absorb something new and look for the only right form for the expression of his ideas.
Using the examples of Renaissance masters, he studied the technique of fresco painting In Italy. He admired the measure of generalisation, the sublime imagery, precision of lines and clarity and completeness of characters, in other words, those features which were characteristic for the classic of Renaissance art.
In France, where he lived in the second half of the 1920s — first half of 1930s, he made good connections with Maurice Denis and the artists of his circle. He paid a great deal of attention to the symbolism of Deni’s paintings and liked his broad brushstrokes. At the same time, he was far from avant-garde movements which were characteristic of fine art in the first half of the 20th century (cubism, expressionism and other modernist movements).
The central theme of his art — is the life of an ordinary person. As a descendant of the family of commons, he loved ordinary people. In his pictures, he tried to show the diversity of their lives, depicting particular episodes of their everyday life focusing on the life of specific characters. At the same time, his art is far from being straightforward and educational. The artist didn’t tend to point at somebody who, in his opinion was responsible for the current social problems. There are quite a few lyrical pictures that he created in the different periods of his life, such as «A Girl», «An Old Woman», «A Girl Sitting by the Sea», «A Man warming his foot on the hearth», «Watch Trade». «A Fortune Teller», «A Folk Healer». At the same time, the artist could create the artworks with the epic atmosphere: » A woman sifting the seeds», «A woman weaving a ribbon», the frescos «Blacksmiths», «Builders». The path to people’s the future well-being, Rissanen saw in the developing of their national culture. The foundation of any national culture is the language of its people. In those days, the vast majority of intellectuals who lived in Finland spoke and wrote mostly in Swedish. Most of them were people of high society. Rissanen never wanted to study this language. In particular, letters to Albert Edelfelt, Rissanen wrote only in Finnish, and Edelfelt had to answer him also in Finnish, though he spoke fluently in Swedish and his family had Swedish aristocratic roots.

Although the artist was close to ordinary people, whose problems everyday life he took to his heart, his ideas about the improvement of people’s wealth weren’t destructive. The fate of his nation, its culture and prospects were the things the artist was thinking throughout his life. Nevertheless, he didn’t consider a revolution as the only option for changing the situation for the better in his country. What’s more, a kind of status quo or equilibrium in society were the factors which, in his opinion, could be a better choice for people. That’s why he couldn’t understand why, in 1918, when Finland gained its independence, the civil war started. Indeed, the strength and power of the Finnish people, as he believed, in its unity, solid cultural basis and the harmony of all classes of society.
When travelling around the world, the artist never forgot about his homeland. He lived a long and very fascinating life. Finnish people are grateful to him. After his death in 1950, his ashes were transported from Miami. It was the place remote from Finland. Then his remains were reburied in Kuopio.
For us, his creative experience is exciting and valuable in many ways. On the one hand, his original approach in depicting the life of ordinary people attracted the attention of public and art critics. On the other hand, the artist created an epic image of an average man, and, in this case, the democratic ideas of Russian intellectuals and especially Lev Tolstoy were influential for him. Importantly, Russian and Finnish people are neighbours, we have a lot in common in our history. Nevertheless, whatever these moments are, good or bad, we should always aim for mutual understanding and cooperation.
Bibliography
1. Безрукова М., «Искусство Финляндии. Основные этапы становления национальной художественной школы», М., Изобразительное искусство, 1986.
2 Безрукова М., «Скандинавская и финская живопись из музеев СССР», в журнале «Юный художник», 1990, № 10.
3. Безрукова-Долматовская М., «С.П.Дягилев и Финляндия. К 100-летию выставки русских и финляндских художников». В сборнике «Проблемы развития зарубежного искусства». Материалы XI научной конференции в память профессора М.В.Доброклонского СПб, 1998.
4. Лисовский В.Г. «Академия художеств», Санкт-Петербург, 1997
5. «Мир искусства. К столетию выставки русских и финляндских художников 1898 года».” Palace editions”, 1898.
6. Суворова Л. «Финские академисты». В сборнике «Петербургские чтения 1998-1999», с. 472-475. СПб, 1999.
7. Stocker Clara “Paitaseta – Juho Rissanen elama”
8. Valkonen, Markku.Kultakausi, Porvoo, 1995
9. Vanderdoe, Kirk. “Northern Light. Nordic art at the turn of the century”. Yale University Press, New Haven, London.
8. Juho Rissanen ja suomalainen kansa. Juho Rissanen and the Finnish people.
Kuopion taidesmuseo 10.12.1997 – 8.3.1998
Atheneum 2.10 – 27-12.1998

Eero Jarnefelt and the Imperial Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg.

 

Eero Jarnefelt and the Imperial Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg.

To the question of the Russian-Finnish artistic relationship during the second half of the 19th century

Russian-Finnish cultural and artistic relations have a long and fascinating history that dates back to ancient times. The Finns still lived on the banks of Neva before the founding of our city. Since 1809, the time of the joining Russia to Finland, the closer and more purposeful contacts began to occur. For many Finns, St. Petersburg became the second homeland. In the 1880s, more than 24000 Finns lived in St.Petersburg that was the second city after Helsinki by the number of Finns residing there. The Finns presented nearly in all the social groups of St.Petersburg’s residents: from the factory workers and servants of aristocratic families to the ministers and Maids of Honour of the Empress. In his Sound of the Time, Osip Mandelshtam wrote: «I’ve always vaguely felt the special importance of Finland for a resident of St. Petersburg. A lot of people have always come to Finland to think over something because it was impossible to do that when staying in St.Petersburg.» He believed in the importance of Finland for St.Petersburg.
The Imperial Academy of Arts didn’t also keep apart from the Finnish-Russian cultural relations that became an objective reality in the second half of the 19th century.  The Finns have always preserved cultural traditions in their country. Since 1708, painting and drawing were included in the curriculum of the University of Helsingfors (Helsinki). Many arts educational institutions emerged at the time when Finland was a part of Russia. Later on, these institutions played an active role in the culture of Finland at that time. Apart from being an irreplaceable component of the program of the Helsingfors University, painting and drawing were also studied at the Finnish Art society (since 1848), where was founded an art school which started working in Helsingfors (Helsinki) and later in Abo (Turku). The vast majority of talented artists, whose creative works made a significant impact on the Finnish art at that time, had become the graduates of these schools. However, The Finnish Society of Artists didn’t have enough funds to organise the teaching at the highest level, that’s why many Finnish artists polished their artistic skills studying abroad.
For many artists who were improving their artistic skills, St. Petersburg Academy of Arts wasn’t the only educational institution where they could achieve their goals. Artists from Finland could also gain professional experience in Germany and France as well. Nevertheless, many distinguished Finnish painters, sculptors and architects chose St. Petersburg and the Academy of arts for the development of their skills. They stayed for a different time at the Academy, but the relations between St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts and Finnish artists was not limited to the education of students only. In addition to this, the Finnish students participated in many exhibitions, which were organised at the Academy. Many Finnish artists received the honorary titles of the academicians and the medals for their progress in art.
In August 1826, A.Olenin, the President of the Imperial Academy of Arts, received a circular from the Department of Education on the occasion of the Senat’s Decree «On the order of relations with Finland», according to which «The commission for Finnish affairs» was abolished and the State Secretariat had been introduced. In other words, the cultural development of Finland was becoming the business of the Finns themselves solely.
A. Armfelt who was a member of the Finnish Arts Society, organised in 1846, had become the State Secretary of St. Petersburg’ branch. On his proposal, the one-year-old son of Alexander II, Alexander Alexandrovich was assigned as its high patron. The avant-guard of the Russian political and social elites (Count Rumyantsev and Prince A.Gorchakov, in particular) contributed to the cultural autonomy of Finland.
Officially the Imperial Academy of Arts didn’t control the artistic life of Finland. What’s more, for Finnish artists, «its aesthetic principles and the spirits of the imperial court were extrinsic to the views modest lifestyle of Finnish artists»1. At that time, contemporary western art gave them a better motivation to draw their attention to the real life. The relations between the Academy and Finnish artists developed to provide the orders for portraits and landscapes, organise exhibitions and sales of painting and continue their education abroad. Academy made the significant contribution in celebration of the anniversary of the Finnish Art Society.
Not all Finnish artists completed the full course on arts at the Academy and received the diplomas; it depended on the goals that they set. And only Hugo Bakmanson (1860-1953) — the student of the Finnish Cadet Corps, and the officer of Life-Guards Izmailovsky Regiment, the student of P.Chistiakov and P.Kovalevsky, in November 1899 graduated the Academy with the painting called A Guide.
Among the Finnish artists who were awarded the title of academician, Albert Edelfelt whose work brought the fine arts of Finland to the international level occupies a leading position. He was a unique person for his creative energy. Edelfelt worked in different genres of painting: he painted the official formal portraits, created the pictures on historical subjects and the subjects from everyday life and lyric landscapes as well. In 1878, he was elected a free honorary member of Academy. In 1881, for his picture «Funeral of a child», he was elected an academician in 1879. Since 1895 onwards, Edelfelt was a full member of the Academy of Arts. He got an order to portray Emperor Nicholas II and the invitation from the vice-president of Academy of arts, count I. Tolstoy to participate among the 20 artists in the coronation ceremony of Nicholas I.
The development of Russian-Finish relations has been characterized by the periods of climaxes and lulls. In the 1870s, relations between the two countries were very close. This fact was due to the completion of the construction of the Russian-Finnish railways, which made a positive impact on the facilitation of the process of selling artworks of Finnish artists. The second «peak» of the intensity of cultural and artistic relations between Russia and Finland falls, oddly, to the end of the1890s. The most outstanding event of these years was the exhibition of Russian and Finnish artists held in 1898 at the Baron Stieglitz’s school of Arts and Industry with the active assistance of S.Diagilev and A.Edelfelt. V.Blomstedt. A.Edelfelt. M.Enkel, A.Gallen-Callela, A. Gebhardt, P. Halonen, E. Jarnefelt, B.Lagerstam, V.Valgren as well as the members of the Mir Iskusstva art society were among the participants of this memorable event. In the same year, this exhibition was transferred to Munich.
Although the opinions of the experts about this exhibition were divided, it contributed to the mutual enrichment between the cultures of our countries. However, some of the art-critics didn’t react positively to the pictures presented at the exhibition. Vladimir Stasov was one of them. On the one hand, the paintings of A.Gallen-Kallela caused his particular dislike, on the other hand, the canvas of Eldelfelt «A laundress» was named as one of the best works of the exhibition and was highly appreciated for the implementation of its idea. It was highly evaluated in monetary terms (3000 roubles). It was the most expensive of the paintings presented at the exhibition. Now this work is in the collection of the State Hermitage.
In 1899, was enacted the Manifesto limiting the rights of Finland. It caused the storm of outrage among the progressive Russian intellectuals and the residents of Finland as well. What’s more, it created the damage to the artistic relations. Finnish artists had to refuse from the collaboration with Sergey Diaghilev. Nevertheless, the interest to the art of our Nothern neighbour didn’t fade: it increased dramatically. Sergei Diaghilev regularly published in the magazine «Mir Iskusstva» (The World of Art), the reproductions of the works of Finnish artists, reviews and articles devoted to the art and architecture of Finland. The cultural relations between Russia and Finland continued.
A vivid illustration of this process is the biography of Eero Jarnefelt, one of the outstanding Finnish painters.
To understand the origins of his creative work it is necessary to look into the past, following the history of his family. The family roots of the Jarnefelts originate from the German family of Keldank, the representatives of one of its branches moved to Finland in the 18th century and made his home in Savo that is in Karelia, Finland. Eero’s grandfather worked as an assistant to the chief of the local police. He lived in the Hovila estate, in Tomajarvi, was married to the daughter of Johan Molander, the Bishop of Porvoo. They have eight children: four sons and four daughters, among whom, Alexander, the father of Eero was the youngest. After he had died prematurely, his estate was auctioned, and his widow with children moved to Kuopio, where they lived with their relatives in a difficult financial situation.
Aurora Jarnefelt wanted her sons to become civil servants, promote Finnish culture and oppose the increasing russification of Finland. Only Alexander, the youngest of her songs, implemented the desire of his mother. After graduating from the Finnish Cadet Corps in 1853, he continued his education at the Artillery Academy of St.Petersburg, where he studied with Nikolai Klodt von Yurgensburg, with whom he had friendly relations. Alexander met the younger sister of Nikolai Klodt Elizaveta. The young people fell in love and got married. For the mother of Alexander, this marriage was unexpected. She always warned his son to have nothing to do with Russians and hoped that would have a daughter-in-law from Finland.
The ancestors of Eero Jarnefelt from mother’s side — the Klodts — came from Italy. The representatives of one of the branches of this family took up their residence in Estonia in the middle of the 16th century.
They purchased the Castle of Jurgensburg (this fact explains the origin of the second part of their surname — Klodt von Jurgensburg). The family moved to Russia at the beginning of the 19th century, and, ultimately, became Russified.
The uncle of Elizaveta von Klodt — Peter Klodt was a famous Russian sculptor, the author of bronze horses placed on the Anichkov Bridge, the monuments to I. A Krylov in the Summer Garden and Nicolas I in Isaakievskaya Square. Konstantin Karlovich(1807-1879), Elizaveta’s father, was also a distinguished person: he was a famous general and the first wood engraver in Russia. He taught at the Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg. He had the children who possessed the talent for arts. Mikhail was a well-known artist, and a professor of Academy of Arts, his sister Olga was an artist who taught drawing. A cousin of Elizaveta, son of Peter Klodt Mikhail was also a well-known artist.
Elizaveta Konstantinovna and Alexander Jarnefelt married on December 22, 1857. They had nine children, and all of them displayed their artistic talents.
It is likely that the talent for art came from the mother’s family, and the mother’s views on art influenced her children. Two of her children became artists, as well as many members of their family. As already mentioned, Alexander Jarnefelt, was a rigid man of principles and honour. But it is far from the complete characterisation of his personality. He had an aptitude for literature and music, and his letters give the evidence of this. In the notes to his children, Alexander emphasised the idea of the importance of education and the development of human’s capabilities. His letters give us the evidence of his role as a father and mentor, but they tell us about the love for his children.
The first years after their wedding, the Jarnefelts lived in St.Petersburg. Then they had to move to Pulkovo because Alexander served as an officer-topographer in the Nikolaevskaya Military Academy. By the time when Eero (or Eric, as he was called in his family) was born in Vyborg in 1863, he already had his two brothers — Kasper and Arvid. At the beginning of her married life, Elizaveta talked to her children in Russian while Alexander — in Finnish. Nevertheless, Elizaveta started learning Finnish just after she had married Alexander. The parents would speak to each other only in Finnish, while in other Finnish aristocratic families, Swedish was the preferred language. When living in Vyborg, the eldest boys had learnt Finnish in a short period, and Eero had never learnt Russian because he had a Finnish nurse. Unless the mother of Eero had acquired the language of her new motherland, she and Eero had never had their common language to talk. This fact had the significant influence on their relations that weren’t as close as the ones with Casper or Arvid.
In 1870 the family moved to Helsinki, where Alexander was appointed as a senior officer-topographer. It meant closer ties with the Finnish-speaking circles of society, and Finnish had become the language of communication between mother and children as well. Later on, Elizaveta helped her children as a translator: in particular, she helped Casper who translated into Finnish Russian fiction. She also helped Arvid when he wrote «My Parents’ Novel» in three parts. The development of the Finnish language and culture was also the primary goal of Alexander Jarnefelt. As for Eero, he had no interest in studying at school. In the fifth grade, inspired by his brother Casper, he became interested in painting. Eero admired by the artworks of Hialmar Munsterjelm, the teacher of Casper, whose influence one can see in his early artworks. Eero and Arvid were taught since 1874 at the Finnish Art Society drawing school, at the classes of Frederic Ahlstedt. Contrary to Eero’s interests and the character of his talent, he graduated from the school as a top-level student with the highest grades.
Alexander Jarnefelt had the plans for his sons. He wanted them to make their careers as civil servants and to care for the prosperity of their country. It might be for these ideas of his parents, Eero would like to become a teacher after graduation from the school. Surprisingly, his father shared his passion for the art. All brothers: Casper, Arvid and Eero were equally talented, and it was almost impossible to compare the level of their talent just by analysing their early artworks.
Nevertheless, Alexander was able to recognise in Eero’s artworks all the qualities that in his opinion were so necessary for a representative of the art of the young nation. Patriotism, courage, justice, sociable character all these personality traits were presented more in Eero than in other sons of Alexander. Alexander was firmly convinced that following a personal calling is not the best choice for the personality. Albert Edelfelt was the person, whose patriotism and worldwide fame made a significant impact on Alexander’s thought when he was choosing a career path for his sons. It was the time when Finnish artists gained international fame and recognition. The fundamental idea in the creative activity of Eero Jarnefelt was the idea of the rise of Finnish art at an international level and the promotion of the Finnish culture.
In 1883, Eero Jarnefelt went to St.Petersburg to continue his education at St.Petersburg Academy of Arts. Most of the Finnish artists at that time studied at Paris where Albert Edelfelt and Akseli Gallen Kallela had already lived for a few years. For Eero Jarnefelt, St.Petersburg was a natural choice for many reasons, one of which was that his uncle Mikhail Klodt von Jurgensburg had been a professor of the Academy of Arts. When studying at the Academy of Arts, Eero lived in the family of his uncle, Mikail Klodt. As for Eero himself, he hadn’t been the source of any financial problems for his uncle whose expenses were moderate.What’s more, living with his relatives, Eero didn’t feel lonely at first. For Alexander Jarnefelt, whose four sons and three daughters were studying at for different educational institutions at that time, the practical aspect of the education of his children was as crucial as acquiring theoretical knowledge.
Eero neither liked St.Petersburg, nor the official educational system that was at the Academy of Arts where he was studying at that time.
However, the years he spent at the Academy was the period of the emergency and flowering of the art of the group called The Itinerants to which joined his uncle. Mikhail Klodt was among the first artists who signed the Manifesto of The Itinerants. Together with C.Vorobyov and A.Bogoliubov Klodt took part in the organisation of the Landscape Painting Class in the Academy of Arts. Vorobyov, Bogoliubov and Klodt made up the rules of the Landscape Class. These artists promote the landscape painting as a genre which, in their opinion, is not inferior to other genres. Moreover, it is capable of the expression of the complex ideas which drew the close attention of the liberal intellectuals at that time.
«Mikhail Konstantinovich Klodt was a famous landscape artist of the second half of the 19th century, the artist who possessed a notable artistic personality. He left us many amazing realistic landscapes, excellently painted and expressed his genuine love for his motherland and to nature. He was able to show the relations between humans and their environment, not separating them from each other. Not only did he have the talent for arts but he was also a nice person. He was respected for his honesty, honour and strong civic stance. All these personality traits are not of the primary importance for many people nowadays. As it was mentioned above, he was one of the first artists who joined The Itinerants art society, at the same time, defending the young artists of democratic orientation from the reactionary administration of the Academy. In 1873, he refused to sign the document, forbidding young artists to participate in the temporary exhibitions organised by The Itinerants. In 1874, Klodt signed a letter of protest against the slanderous accusation of Vasily Vereschagin, the outstanding Russian artist of battle scenes in connection with his refusal from his title of a professor.
At the same time, he was well-known for his independent behaviour among the Itinerants. He openly expressed his opinion about the landscapes of Arkhip Kuindzhi exhibited at the Itinerants’ exhibition in 1879. The Itinerants blamed him for his attempt to consolidate his position at the Academy. In response to this unfair accusation, the artist resigned from The Itinerants art society, reserving the right to be exhibited at the exhibition of this association. The critics from the Itinerants Art Society responded immediately, albeit in a mediated form.V.V.Stasov, the leading propagandist of the democratic ideas of the Itinerants, has also changed his attitude towards Jarnefelt. For example, he highly appreciated the painting of Jarnefelt A Large Road in Autumn (1863).
However, generally having a good opinion of the picture Jarnefelt’s picture At the Plow in Malorossiya, he recognised a small defect, making a wrong impression about the painting: the hair of the ox was too carefully painted.
Eero Jarnefelt had to live in this artistic environment. What was his life in St.Petersburg? In his letter to his brother Arvid, Eero described it as «rather dull». The lectures at the Academy during the day, drawing in the evenings and, in addition to this — playing music — that was the daily routine of Jarnefelt. The influence of the academic system we can see in his numerous studies of trees. The ideas about reforming the contemporary Russian society were essential to him. These topics were often discussed in the drawing room of their house where gathered his family, friends and like-minded people.
Surprisingly, in his diary, Eero Jarnefelt never mentioned any Russian artist by their name, with the exception of Sergey Diaghilev with whom he discussed the issue related to Lev Tolstoy. Visual arts had never been the subject of his topics. Here it is what he writes on the occasion of his visit to St.Petersburg in 1897: «A lot of memories of my youth are coming to my mind. However, they are so sad because these memories are about the time wasted and youth lost. Why do people see the light in their lives so late? This disappointment might happen because of their overconfidence which prevents them from being humble and ready to focus on the higher truth only. Nevertheless, some people understand the real meaning of truth from the very beginning. The only power makes some of them move away from the edge of defeat — this is their willpower. Those who come to this, see no alternative way.» Then Jarnefelt mentions «the amazing Hermitage», as well as Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt and Dutch landscapes as the authorities that every artist should follow.

When finishing a brief historical overview and analysis of the facts of Jarnefelt’s biography, raises the question: in what a degree St.Petersburg, in general, and his studying at the Academy of Arts, in particular, have influenced him? Some researchers (mostly Finnish) are of the opinion that this influence wasn’t significant. On the other hand, there is the information that Jarnefelt was closely associated with the Itinerants’ art society and with Ilya Repin himself. The first experts’ opinion is in favour of the former view (see above). The comments of Jarnefelt himself are in favour of the second opinion. Probably, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The evidence given by Jarnefelt about his life in St.Petersburg as «dull» shouldn’t be interpreted too ambiguously and straightforward. For the first time, Jarnefelt came to St.Petersburg in 1883. He stayed there until the year of1886. If you recall the biography of Mikhail Klodt, it was the years which had been coming before the difficult period in his life. In 1880, he left the Itinerants'(Peredvizhniki) movement. In 1886, in connection with his illness, he was transferred to an out-of-staff position, and in 1894, he was finally dismissed from the Academy of Arts. During these years Klodt underwent financial hardships. Perhaps the atmosphere in his uncle’s house affected Eero’s memoirs that are imbued with the feelings of sadness and despair. Another factor, which affected his opinion, was the atmosphere of St.Petersburg, its culture, traditions and the lifestyle of the people living there. The atmosphere of the official Academy was alien to him, but needless to say, many progressive and intelligent people didn’t come to terms with the rules and regulations of the Academy. When studying at the Academy, Eero Jarnefelt took a dislike to endless lessons and classes: lectures, painting, long-lasting studies of nature. He might think that for a young artist, there wasn’t much creativity in these activities. At the same time, it is known that his uncle, as a head of the landscape class at the Academy, highly rated landscape as a genre of painting. He considered a landscape not as a study of nature, but as a finished work of art which has its concept. Following this idea, Jarnefelt demanded of his students making detailed sketches of the places they depicted. And only after this initial stage should they begin to work on their final versions of the landscapes using oils.
It would help Jarnefelt in the future. Importantly, like Albert Edelfelt and other Finnish artists, Jarnefelt gave the highest priority to realism in art. The tendency to express reality realistically was characteristic not only for the Russian but European art as well. The idea of the realistic depiction of the world around us was promoted by the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, whose ideas found significant support among Finnish artists. French Impressionism was one of the aspects of this realistic trend. Albert Edelfelt, Eero Jarnefelt and other Finnish artists were under the influence of the Impressionism. After his graduation from the Academy of arts in St.Petersburg, Jarnefelt went to Paris to perfect his painting skills.
We can agree with the Finnish researcher of the biography of Jarnefelt that the Russian culture, in general, had had a profound influence on the artist. What’s more, it was due to the family traditions and reading Russian books. Importantly, Jarnefelt in his creative works didn’t promote progressive ideas in a straightforward way like the Itinerants (Peredvizhniki); his art was deprived of the acute social orientation. By creating his artworks, Jarnefelt didn’t mean to preach or call to take action against something. The picture The Forest is being Burnt» (1893, Soviet art critics called it Forced Labour) is the only one where there are social and accusatory motives. Maxim Gorky suggested some moments in this picture illustrate the idea of social injustice. There is another opinion about the main idea of this work. For the Finnish art historian S.Sinisalo, the main idea of this picture is that it excellently illustrates the idea of the French artist Bastien Lepage of the symbolic relations between humans and nature. Nevertheless, Jarnefelt is, first of all, a lyrist. The close relations between humans and nature that is the crucial moment in his landscapes. This aspect of his creative works has more in common with the main idea expressed in the paintings of Mikhail Klodt. Jarnefelt was the most prominent Finnish artist who created the realistic paintings. Not only the precision in depicting the nature of his motherland and the life of Finns are the intrinsic part of his artworks, but the glorification of his country and people who live in it can we see in the paintings of Jarnefelt. As an example, we can use such pictures as «July afternoon»,(1891), «Washerwomen on the shore» (1889), «Returning home» (1903), » The portrait of Matilda Vrede» (1896) The formulation of Aksel Gallen Kallela about his stand in life can be considered as applicable to the life and creativity of Eero Jarnefelt: «I can always reach the point where my country could be satisfied with my accomplishments, but my ambitions call me to go forward: everything or nothing, the first or last. This my view of the world, and I want to carry it through my life.» The idea of the high civil service to his nation, his people, this probably is the essential idea that Eero Jarnefelt drew from the Russian culture and spiritual life. This idea is valid up to the present. It brings together the cultures of the two nations — Finnish and Russian.
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The links to the related sites:
• http://finland.ice-nut.ru/finland07502.htm
• http://www.phespirit.info/pictures/finland/g005.htm
• http://www.fennoscandia.ru/scan/30030401.html