Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beda Stjernschantz (exhibition at Amos Anderson Art Museum)

Beda Stjernschantz: Lasinpuhaltajat / Glasblåsarna / Glassblowers (1894), oil on canvas, K. H. Renlundin museo. Click to enlarge.
Beda Stjernschantz | 1867–1910. Amos Andersonin taidemuseo | Amos Andersons konstmuseum | Amos Anderson Art Museum, Yrjönkatu | Georgsgatan 27, Helsinki. 14 March – 31 August 2014
    Curator: Itha O'Neill
    Oil paintings, watercolours, pencil drawings, charcoal drawings.
    Visited on 24 Aug 2014.

Itha O'Neill (ed.): Beda Stjernschantz 1867-1910. Ristikkoportin takana / Bakom gallergrinden [Beyond the Gate Grid]. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2014. Bilingual in Finnish and Swedish. Large format, fully illustrated, 302 p.

Official introduction: "The first ever solo exhibition on the Symbolist artist Beda Stjernschantz (1867–1910) opens to the public on 14 March 2014 at the Amos Anderson Art Museum."

"The exhibition is part of the museum's series of classics that showcases overlooked artists. Beda Maria Stjernschantz is one of the foremost Symbolist artists in Finland, but poor health and financial hardship had dire consequences for her artistic output, which remained small and fragmented. Through a broad survey of her art and newly discovered letters and notes, we are now able to gain deeper insight into the work of one of the most underrated artists in Finnish art history."

"The exhibition highlights lesser-known aspects of Stjernschantz's work such as her landscape paintings and botanical drawings, not forgetting key pieces such as Glassblowers (1894), Everywhere A Voice Invites Us... (1895), Aphorism (1895), Irma (1895–1896) and Pastorale (Primavera, 1897). Comprising some sixty paintings and twenty or so drawings, the exhibition covers nearly all aspects of Stjernschantz's work: early drawings of torsos and plaster casts from the Art Society's Drawing School, figurative and tonal paintings from when she studied at Gunnar Berndtson's private academy, the Synthetist painting she adopted in France, as well as her lifelong interest in mythological subjects, timelessness and spirituality."

"By the first decade of the 20th century Colourism had become the dominant trend in painting, and it became difficult to reconcile these new artistic concepts with Stjernschantz's Symbolist ideals and ascetic palette. Stjernschantz eventually came to be considered passé as an artist. In 1906, she was admitted to the Nummela sanatorium in Röykkä for a period of three months. Having pulmonary tuberculosis, she isolated herself in order to be able to paint undisturbed. In a last effort, she created the distinctly Symbolist works Autumn (1908) and Winter (1908, later lost) that are part of her suite on the seasons – a synthesis of her entire view on art – that she had begun a decade earlier with Pastorale (Primavera, 1897)."

"The exhibition is accompanied by the publication of the first monograph on Stjernschantz, with art historical essays by Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff PhD, Riikka Stewen PhD, Juha-Heikki Tihinen PhD, Edyta Barucka PhD, Marja Lahelma MA, and Bart Pushaw MA. The bilingual (Finnish, Swedish) catalogue is published by the Finnish Literature Society."
(Official introduction)

AA: It is surprising to learn that this is the first solo exhibition of Beda Stjernschantz /'ʃæ:rnskants/, key works of whom are among the most distinctive in Finnish art.

Stjernschantz developed to mature mastery along with her fellow Symbolists and friends Magnus Enckell and Ellen Thesleff. They all studied in Helsinki and Paris and were deeply influenced by Italy. Enckell and Thesleff won recognition. Stjernschantz was marginalized, fought disease and died by her own hand, but the spiritual force of her art remains undiminished.

Symbolism flourished in Finland at the same time as art nouveau and national romanticism. Like the Swede Hilma af Klint, another contemporary who was not fully understood in her own time, Stjernschantz paid a lot of attention to plants and was inspired by the natural, winding forms of their stalks, leaves and flowers.

Stjernschantz was an excellent realist painter, but in her vision there is always also a sense of another, spiritual reality which is what it is really all about.

We witness the artist's development from early realism and vigorous colour to a stark reduction of the external and a growth of an inner personal vision. We enter a realm of allegory and dream. An emblematic work is The Gate Grid (Ristikkoportti) to which the name of the exhibition catalogue refers.

Certain key works are lost, for instance two of the four seasons, but they, too, are covered via relevant sketches.

The book to the exhibition, the first Beda Stjernschantz monograph, has been edited with love by Itha O'Neill. The reproductions give a good impression of the evolution of Stjernschantz's subtle colour world.
Beda Stjernschantz: Ristikkoportti / Gallergrinden / The Gate Grid (1892). Private collection. Photo: Amos / Kari Siltala. Click to enlarge.

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