Saturday, November 07, 2009

Helena Westermarck (exhibition)

Helena Westermarck (1857-1938)
Amos Anderson's Art Museum, Yrjönkatu 27

From the Museum's presentation:

"Finnish artist Helena Westermarck's paintings, literary oeuvre and social conscience indicate a rare gift. Few have paved the way for women in the late 1880s in Finland with such versatility and steadfastness than Westermarck through her life's work. As a painter she was radical for her time: depicting maids and servants naturalistically, to the utter dismay of some. Helena Westermarck was faced with the dilemma of having to choose between painting and writing. As time passed, the writer in her took the upper hand. Her considerable literary production encompasses art historical essays as well as women's rights and other social issues.

Westermarck is not as well-known as her closest colleagues the so-called "painter sisters" – e.g. Helene Schjerfbeck or Maria Wiik – who studied art at home and in Paris in the 1880s. For many, Westermarck is better known as an author and advocate for women's rights. Most of her works belong to private collections and are thus seldom exhibited rarities.  The exhibition at Amos Anderson Art Museum is therefore a rare opportunity to familiarise oneself with Westermarck's moving depictions of people and landscapes.

Some sixty of her oil and water colour paintings will be displayed, among them the striking Abyssinian, a study of a model painted in Paris in the 1880s, as well as her most polemical painting An Important question (later known as the Ironers). The exhibition also presents paintings by her contemporaries, e.g. Gunnar Berndtson and Albert Edelfelt who painted subject-matter related to Westermarck´s Ironers. Her relation to the so-called "painter sisters" is elucidated with paintings from Brittany and Paris by Helene Schjerfbeck and Maria Wiik and others."

Fine art in the traditional realistic vein, genre scenes, portraits, showing a new consciousness in the contents but not in the form. Westermarck was an artist all her life, but in later life she focused more on writing and political action. Her brother was the father of Finnish sociology, Edvard Westermarck.

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