Friday, July 18, 2014

Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Lake View
oil on canvas
size unknown
Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland

Lake View was painted at his lakeside studio in Ruovesi. The loose brushwork and strong colours of the background and particularly of the sky are offset by the meticulous detail of the slender young branches in the foreground.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish painter who is best known for his illustrations of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. His work was considered very important for the Finnish national identity. He was born in Pori, Finland in a Swedish-speaking family. His father worked as police chief and lawyer. At the age of 11 he was sent to Helsinki to study at a grammar school, because his father opposed his ambition to become a painter. After his father's death in 1879, he attended drawing classes at the Finnish Art Society.

In 1884 he moved to Paris, to study at the Academie Julian. In Paris he became friends with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt. In 1894, he moved to Berlin to oversee the joint exhibition of his works with the works of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. In 1895, he received a telegram that his daughter had died from diphtheria. This would prove to be a turning point in his work. While his works had previously been romantic, after his daughter's death he painted more aggressive works.

For the Paris World Fair in 1900, he painted frescoes for the Finnish Pavilion, and this work secured his stature as the leading Finnish artist. In 1909, he moved to Nairobi in Kenya with his family, and there he painted over 150 expressionist oil-paintings and bought many east African artefacts. But he returned to Finland after a couple of years, because he realized Finland was his main inspiration. In 1918, he and his son took part in the fighting at the front of the Finnish Civil War. Later, he was invited to design the flags, official decorations and uniforms for the newly independent Finland.