Axel Haartman - Ali Munsterhjelm - Santeri Salokivi

14 Sep 2018  20 Jan 2019

The autumn season at Turku Art Museum showcases the very best work of three artists, Axel Haartman (1877–1969), Ali Munsterhjelm (1873–1944) and Santeri Salokivi (1886–1940), with the main focus on the 1910s. In addition to being fellow artists, they were the principal adherents in Turku of a new, broad style of colourist painting that evolved from impressionism and postimpressionism. The trio of artists earned nationwide fame for the bright and colourful palette that they used in their search for a new direction for Finnish art, which at the 1908 international autumn salon in Paris had been criticised as outdated and dull.

It was in Turku that the trio painted their most modernist and stylistically boldest works. The early years of the century was a time of profound social change and budding urbanisation in Finland. The shift in art involved not only colour, form and technique but also the subject of art. Drawing on their Parisian experiences, the trio recorded the world around them, the contemporary moment. New themes in their art included views of streets and parks, and back in Turku the Cathedral and Aurajoki river offered a counterpoint to Paris and views along the Seine. Munsterhjelm specialised in urban motifs and cultural landscapes, Haartman preferred still lifes, portraits and landscapes, while Salokivi was at his best in portraits and character studies as well as urban views. Geographically the exhibition ranges from France, Spain and Italy to Turku. The works on show also include canvases by all three artists that predate their conversion into advocates of the new style of painting.

Haartman and Munsterhjelm, who were roughly the same age, had a joint exhibition at Turku Art Museum as early as 1908, while Munsterhjelm and Salokivi both featured in a group show in Turku and Helsinki in 1912, when they displayed their French-influenced paintings. Munsterhjelm and Salokivi moved to Helsinki in the 1920s, while Haartman, after living some time in the capital, returned to Turku in the early part of the same decade. He served as director of Turku Art Museum 1923–1953 and lived in neighbouring Naantali in a studio house called Casa Haartman.

The close to a hundred works on show are on loan from public as well as private collections. A special mention is due to works from Haartman’s colouristic period, most of which are on loan from Casa Haartman. Most of them have never been publicly exhibited before.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of special guided tours. The first will be on 22 September, when Marja-Terttu Kivirinta talks about Winds of Modernism and Shades of Rainbow. On 13 October Mikko Laaksonen will conduct a tour and a walk under the title Ali Munsterhjelm – Painter of Puolalanpuisto Park and Banks of Aurajoki River. On 10 November Ulrika Grägg will talk about Axel Haartman, and the series will end on 12 December with a curatorial tour by Christian Hoffmann. Please note that all tours are in Finnish.