The Kalevala as seen by today’s artists

Ateneum Art Museum curator Riitta Ojanperä instructing tour guides about Robert W. Ekman’s Väinämöisen soitto (1866).

Ateneum Art Museum curator Riitta Ojanperä instructing tour guides about Robert W. Ekman’s Väinämöisen soitto (1866).

To celebrate 160 years of the Kalevala the Finnish National Gallery (also called the Ateneum Art Museum) launches an extensive exhibition of over 200 works from almost sixty artists, all inspired by the national epic.


The exhibition introduces the many faces of the Kalevala. The national epic has appealed to visual artists for generations since it was first published. Organised by Ateneum Art Museum’s chief curator Riitta Ojanperä, the exhibition shows paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs from the 1850s to the late 20th century. Featured artists include R.W. Ekman, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Heikki W. Virolainen and Wäinö Aaltonen.

The historical part of the exhibition has a variety of themes, with rooms displaying the artists’ views of Väinämöinen, Kullervo and Aino as well as the birth of the world and the river of Tuonela. The characters and subject matter of the epic represent themes and myths that have a strong universal appeal.

The Kalevala Society commissioned ten visual artists and ten contemporary composers to interpret the Kalevala from a twenty-first century perspective. These works make up a separate part of the exhibition.

  Kalevala exhibition in the
Finnish National Gallery:

27 Feb-9 Aug 2009.

ANT Gallery exhibition
until 28 Feb
Museokatu 25,

Visitors can also see handmade wooden boats designed and built for the occasion in Paanajärvi, a small village in Russian Karelia (Vienan Karjala).

Elsewhere in the city, the ANT Gallery presents a modern view of Kalevala imagery with the exhibition Fist Full of Ash. Paintings, graphics and iron sculptures by six Finnish contemporary artists and Russian Kalevala expert Igor Baranov provide a fresh take on the 160-year-old epic. Baranov’s talents came to public notice in Finland last year through his etching and gouache works.


Susan Fourtane – HT 

Martti Kainulainen – Image


About Susan Fourtané

As a citizen of the world, Susan began her search for her place in the world back at the beginning of the year 2000. After many travels looking for her place in the world, her soul found that place in Finland in September 2006. She has been living in Helsinki ever since, where she combines fiction and non-fiction writing with Philosophy studies and teaching.
This entry was posted in Exhibitions, Helsinki Times, Published Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s