In Finnish art history, the Finnish Swedes are well represented. The period known as the golden age of Finnish art began in the second half of the 19th century and is considered to have lasted until about 1920. Many of this era’s best known artists were Finnish Swedes: Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela (born Axel Gallén), Hugo Simberg and the von Wright brothers are just some of these.
Today, Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is one of Finland’s most internationally renowned artists, in part thanks to a very rewritten retrospective exhibition in London in 2019.
Other Finnish-Swedish female artists have also exhibited posthumously in large and esteemed exhibitions; among them are, for example, Ellen Thesleff (1869-1954) and Sigrid Schauman (1877-1979).
The internationally most famous author of Finnish literature, Tove Jansson, was basically an artist and painter. Her magnificent frescoes Fest i stan and Fest på landet, created for a restaurant in 1947, have been permanently displayed for a number of years at the Helsinki Art Museum HAM.
Today, Finnish Swedish artists move freely within the national art scene, where emphasis is rarely placed on the mother tongue. Exhibitions in galleries and museums generally have all texts available in both Finnish and Swedish, and it is the artistic language that should be spoken rather than the artist’s linguistic background or biography.
Finnish-Swedish art is promoted by the funds and foundations that maintain institutions and award scholarships. For example, the foundation Pro Artibus runs the gallery Sinne in Helsinki and the Elverket gallery in Ekenäs, while Svenska Konstsamfundet is behind the museum Amos Rex, which opened in the center of Helsinki in 2018 and immediately became a public success. Several of the foundations and trusts also award residence and studio scholarships.