Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Donor’s Works. Old Masters at Amos Anderson Art Museum (an exhibition)

Sigrid Schauman: Porträtt av Amos Anderson, 1958, oil. (Not in the exhibition)
The Donor’s Works. Old Masters at Amos Anderson Art Museum | 13.11.2015–23.6.2017. Curated by Synnöve Malmström.

The book to the exhibition:
Synnöve Malmström (ed).: The Donor's Works. Old Art in the Collections of the Amos Anderson Art Museum. Kirjokansi: Amos Anderson Art Museum Publications no. 101. Printed by: Livonia Print / Riga, Latvia. 187 p. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2015.
    The book is available only in an English edition.

The official introduction:

"The Amos Anderson Art Museum is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary by showing its founding donor’s favourites – Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Flemish art from the Renaissance up to the 19th century. The collection reflects Amos Anderson’s interest in religious art, and many of the works once graced the walls of his home on Yrjönkatu Street in the heart of Helsinki. Four years after Anderson’s death in 1965, a museum bearing its donor’s name was inaugurated in his former residence and office building."

"The Donor’s Works exhibition is showing forty paintings and sculptures by old masters on the Museum’s fifth floor and in the chapel. Some of the works on display have recently undergone art-historical and technical analysis. The research came up with some new dates and new artist attributions, and also some surprizing revelations when the works were X-rayed and the images studied with conservators. Old artworks are often difficult to study, since they may have deteriorated over the centuries or damaged sections may have been repainted. The results of the research will be published in English to accompany the exhibition. The exhibition’s curator and the editor of the publication is Amos Anderson Art Museum Curator Synnöve Malmström."

"Amos Anderson (1878-1961) made his fortune in the newspaper and publishing business. He was a warm and attentive socializer and a lover of art and culture. He was particularly interested in the art, music and rituals of the Middle Ages, and also contributed to the restoration of numerous medieval churches. In 1927, he had a private chapel, with an organ, built in his home. His intensely religious worldview and his fascination with Catholic traditions were reflected in his interest in Italy. It is thanks to him that the Finnish Institute in Rome was founded.

AA: There are now three important Finnish art collectors' collections from roughly the same period on display in Helsinki - the collections of Sigurd Frosterus, Leonard Bäcksbacka, and Amos Anderson. The two first ones are closely related and complement each other, sharing an interest in many of the same artists.

Amos Anderson the businessman was a true patron of the arts, and his foundation Konstsamfundet and his legacy have a lasting fruitful value in many ways. His personal collection of old European art now on display, though, is not that of a refined connoisseur. It does reflect his personal interests: he was deeply religious and especially attracted to the Madonna and Child theme. He was also in love with Italy and collected Italian landscapes.

This collection is not of first rate interest; it tends to be rather marginal. But from this less than exciting starting-point the museum has performed a high quality job of research, restoration, exhibition, and publication. It pays to read the well edited catalogue to the exhibition which provides a rich background to the works.

The chapters of the catalogue are case studies to the diffent forms, genres and types on display, written by experts: the glass painting, the Stabat Mater, the Crucifixion, Madonna and Child, Ecce Homo, Caritas, The Adoration of the Shepherds, Saint Anthony's Vision, animal studies, Italian landscapes, veduta paintings, Noli me tangere, and the Black Madonna of Montserrat.

There is also a complete catalogue of the acquisitions of non-Finnish art by Amos Anderson ca 1920-1950 and posthumous acquisitions 1963-1967.

The exhibition is on the fifth floor, and it is essential to climb a bit higher to the Amos Anderson private chapel and organ room with more key religious paintings, a glass painting, and a huge old choral book.

The aesthetically most satisfying entity is in the living-room on the fifth floor. There is a selection covering a century of Finnish art: Sulho Sipilä, Santeri Salokivi, Walter Runeberg, Oscar Kleineh, Hélène Schjerfbeck (Christ Figure in gouache, Göta in oil), Victor Westerholm, Albert Edelfelt, Eero Järnefelt, and Magnus von Wright, (and the Italian-Austrian A. L. Terni).

There are also Finnish sculptures by Viktor Jansson (Aallotar / The Mermaid, the model for the sculpture at Kappeliesplanadi) (in the organ room), Gunnar Finne (A Woman Washing Her Hair), and Johannes Haapasalo (Standing Girl), all expressing a delight in the nude beauty of the female form.

The last wall after rooms full of religious paintings and Italian landscapes is dedicated to galant French Rococo prints of humoristic erotic encounters which seem to form a continuity although they stem from various artists.

On the grand piano of the living room there is a series of signed photographs of actors and singers: Birgit Kronström, Nicken Rönngren, Tollie Zellman, Arna Högdahl, Mona Mårtenson, Lea Piltti, Tore Segeleck, Sylvelin Långholm, Anders De Wahl, Mia Backström, Inga Tidblad, Pauline Brunius, and Yrsa Cannelin. Amos Anderson was an avid theatre-goer and a patron of Svenska Teatern, and he also supported performers with grants. We recognize famous film stars among them.

A combination of spirituality and sensuality seems to be characteristic of the collector's interests. Even in the Madonna images selected there is a strong current of sensuality.

The body is the temple of the soul in these images.

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