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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