15.9.2017–7.1.2018 NÄYTTELY/TAPAHTUMA PÄÄTTYNYT
Tyko Sallinen (1879–1955) was a famous forerunner of Finnish modernism and expressionism who is best known for his landscapes and paintings of people, particularly of his first wife, Helmi Vartiainen, known as Mirri.
His brush reached the height of its expressiveness in the 1910s, when Sallinen’s works caused the first controversies in Finnish modernism. The debate continued well into the next decade, when one of his works that attracted public displeasure was The Fanatics. Drawing its inspiration from a mass celebrated in the Nauvo Church, the work was painted by Sallinen in Turku in the summer of 1918 following the Finnish Civil War.
Originally trained as a tailor, Sallinen was in the 1910’s the enfant terrible of Finnish art who disregarded the conventions and aesthetic ideals of the older generation of artists. Influenced by new French painting, his works offended and scandalised audiences by their candid and primitive style. This applied especially to his genre pictures, whether portraits or scenes of fanatic crowds. By contrast, his landscapes were often reductive almost to the point of abstraction.
The use of vigorous and fresh colours in the early years was later replaced by a more subdued and earthy palette, but Sallinen’s language of form retained its powerful expressiveness. Starting in 1909, Sallinen’s most innovative and creative period lasted just over ten years, during which he introduced and produced a body of expressionist art that rivalled anything seen internationally.
The path of this great pioneer of Finnish art was littered with difficulties: bitter debates about his paintings, divorce, quarrels with older colleagues, and finally voluntary exile to the United States in 1912–1913 to work as a newspaper illustrator in a Finnish colony. The works that Sallinen made during his time in the USA are not very well known, and most of them that made their way to Finland are today part of the collection of Turku Art Museum. Received as a donation from America, the drawings are now on display for the first time after a break of nearly twenty years.
The exhibition consists of just under a hundred works from 1905–1942, and it is produced in collaboration with HAM Helsinki Art Museum. The previous extensive show of the artist’s work at Turku Art Museum was Sallinen’s memorial exhibition nearly 60 years ago in 1958. This exhibition is accompanied by a publication presenting Sallinen’s life and art, written by Dr Tuula Karjalainen, as well as a programme of events that includes special thematic guided tours of the show.
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