Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (26 April 1865 – 7 March 1931) was a Finnish painter who is best known for his illustrations of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic (illustration, below). His work is considered very important for the Finnish national identity. He changed his name from Gallen to Gallen-Kallela in 1907.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela
Akseli Gallen-Kallela
Born26 April 1865
Died7 March 1931 (aged 65)
Known forPainting
MovementRomantic nationalism, Realism, Symbolism


Gallen Kallela The Aino Triptych
The Aino Myth, triptych, 1891

Gallen-Kallela was born Axel Waldemar Gallén in Pori, Finland in a Swedish-speaking family. His father Peter Gallén worked as police chief and lawyer.[1] Gallen-Kallela was raised in Tyrvää.[2] At the age of 11 he was sent to Helsinki to study at a grammar school, because his father opposed his ambition to become a painter. After his father's death in 1879, Gallen-Kallela attended drawing classes at the Finnish Art Society (1881-4) and studied privately under Adolf von Becker.

In 1884 he moved to Paris, to study at the Académie Julian.[3] In Paris he became friends with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt, the Norwegian painter Carl Dörnberger, and the Swedish writer August Strindberg.

He married Mary Slöör in 1890. The couple had three children, Impi Marjatta, Kirsti and Jorma. On their honeymoon to East Karelia, Gallen-Kallela started collecting material for his depictions of the Kalevala. This period is characterized by romantic paintings of the Kalevala, like the Aino Myth, and by several landscape paintings.[4]

In December 1894, Gallen-Kallela moved to Berlin to oversee the joint exhibition of his works with the works of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Here he became acquainted with the Symbolists.

In March 1895, he received a telegram that his daughter Impi Marjatta had died from diphtheria. This would prove to be a turning point in his work. While his works had previously been romantic, after his daughter's death Gallen-Kallela painted more aggressive works like the Defense of the Sampo, Joukahainen's Revenge, Kullervo Cursing and Lemminkäinen's Mother.[4]

On his return from Germany, Gallen studied print-making and visited London to deepen his knowledge, and in 1898 studied fresco-painting in Italy.


Joukahainen's revenge
Joukahainen's Revenge, 1897, Turku Art Museum

For the Paris World Fair in 1900, Gallen-Kallela painted frescoes for the Finnish Pavilion. In these frescoes, his political ideas became most apparent. One of the vipers in the fresco Ilmarinen Plowing the Field of Vipers is wearing the Romanov crown, and the process of removing the vipers from the field was a clear reference to his wish for an independent Finland.

The Paris Exposition secured Gallen-Kallela's stature as the leading Finnish artist.[5] In 1901 he was commissioned to paint the fresco, Kullervo Goes to War, for the concert hall of the Helsinki Student's Union.[5] Between 1901 and 1903 he painted the frescoes for the Jusélius Mausoleum in Pori, memorializing the 11-year-old daughter of the industrialist F.A. Jusélius. (The frescoes were soon damaged by dampness, and were completely destroyed by fire in December 1931. Jusélius assigned the artist's son Jorma to repaint them from the original sketches.[6] The reconstruction was completed just before Jorma's death in 1939.)

Gallen-Kallela officially finnicized his name to the more Finnish-sounding Akseli Gallen-Kallela in 1907.

Gallen-Kallela Museum in winter
Kallela Museum

In 1909, Gallen-Kallela moved to Nairobi in Kenya with his family, he was the first Finnish artist to travel south of the Sahara, and there he painted over 150 expressionist oil paintings and bought many east African artefacts. But he returned to Finland after a couple of years, because he realized Finland was his main inspiration. Between 1911 and 1913 he designed and built a studio and house at Tarvaspää, about 10 km northwest of the centre of Helsinki.[7]

In 1918, Gallen-Kallela and his son Jorma took part in the fighting at the front of the Finnish Civil War. When the regent, General Mannerheim, later heard about this, he invited Gallen-Kallela to design the flags, official decorations and uniforms for the newly independent Finland. In 1919 he was appointed aide-de-camp to Mannerheim.

From December 1923 to May 1926, Gallen-Kallela lived in the United States, where an exhibition of his work toured several cities,[8] and where he visited the Taos art-colony in New Mexico to study indigenous American art. In 1925 he began the illustrations for his "Great Kalevala". This was still unfinished when he died of pneumonia in Stockholm on 7 March 1931, while returning from a lecture in Copenhagen, Denmark.[4]

His studio and house at Tarvaspää was opened as the Gallen-Kallela Museum in 1961; it houses some of his works and research facilities on Gallen-Kallela himself.[9][10]


Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Kullervo Cursing - Google Art Project
Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Kullervo Cursing, 1899, oil on canvas


Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Boy with a Crow - Google Art Project

Boy and Crow, 1884, oil on canvas

Gallen akkajakissa

Old Woman With a Cat, 1885, tempera on canvas

Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Démasquée

Démasquée, 1888, oil on canvas

Gallen-Kallela Parisienne 1888

Parisienne, 1888, oil on canvas

Gallen-Kallela Aino

Study for Aino triptych, pastel, 1889

Gallén-Kallela - Marie Gallén auf der Kuhmoniemi-Brücke - 1890.jpeg

Marie Gallén at the Kuhmoniemi-bridge, 1890, oil on wood

Gallen Kallela The Aino Triptych-2

Aino Myth, 1891, second panel of triptych, oil on canvas

Vy fran norra kajen

View from North Quay, 1891, oil on canvas


Shepherd Boy from Paanajärvi, 1892, oil on canvas

Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Les Rapides de Mäntykoski

Mäntykoski Waterfall, 1893, oil on canvas

Aleksi Gallen-kallela

Self-portrait, 1893, drypoint

Gallen Kallela Symposion

Symposium, 1894, oil on canvas


Inspiration, 1896, woodcut

Akseli Gallen-Kallela - Pilvi tornit (1904)

Sky, 1904, oil


The Fratricide, 1897, tempera on canvas

Gallen Kallela Lemminkainens Mother

Lemminkäinen's Mother, 1897, tempera on canvas

Gallen-Kallela - Tuonelan joella

By the River of Tuonela, study for the Jusélius Mausoleum frescos, 1903, tempera on canvas


The Lair of the Lynx, 1906, oli on canvas

Gallen Kallela Ad astra

Ad Astra, 1907, oil on canvas

Postage stamp (1930) depicting Woodchopper by Akseli Gallen-Kallela


  1. ^ Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 5.
  2. ^ "Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931). A Passion for Finland". Musée d'Orsay. 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  3. ^ Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 6.
  4. ^ a b c Reitala, Aimo (1997). "Gallen-Kallela, Akseli (1865 - 1931)". 100 Faces from Finland – a Biographical Kaleidoscope. Biographical Centre of the Finnish Literature Society. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 12.
  6. ^ Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 37.
  7. ^ Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 38
  8. ^ Martin, T. & Pusa, E. 1985, p. 39.
  9. ^ "Gallen-Kallela 150 years". Gallen-Kallela Museum. Gallen-Kallela Museum. 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  10. ^ Ringbom, Sixten (1996). "Gallen-Kallela, Akseli (1865 - 1931), painter, graphic artist, designer". Grove Art Online. Oxford Index. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  11. ^ Nationalgallery.org.uk


  • Akseli Gallen-Kallela, De magie van Finland, Groninger Museum, NAI Uitgevers, 2006, ISBN 90-5662-524-1
  • Martin, T. & Pusa, E., Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1865-1931 / Erja Pusa [translation: John Derome]. Tarvaspää: Gallen-Kallela Museum, 1985. OCLC 29071282

External links


Akseli is a Finnish given name. Notable people with the name include:

Akseli Anttila (1897–1953), Finnish-born Soviet major general of the Red Army

Akseli Brander (1876–1958), Finnish agronomist, educationist, farmer and politician

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931), Swedish-speaking Finnish painter

Akseli Hirn (1845–1906), Finnish minister

Akseli Kokkonen (born 1984), Norwegian ski jumper

Akseli Lankinen (born 1997), Finnish volleyball player

Akseli Pelvas (born 1989), Finnish footballer

Coat of arms of the Republic of Karelia

The coat of arms of the Russian Republic of Karelia is crossed in three equal parts with the colors of the flag of Karelia on a shield with a profile of a rampant black bear. The golden frame of the shield comes into stylized image of a fir tree on the left and a pine tree on the right. In the upper part of the shield there is an octagonal star (doubled cross) of gold. The arms were created by Yu. S. Nivin.

The current coat of arms of Karelia has much resemblance with the coat of arms of the independent Republic of Uhtua, the national symbol of East Karelia created by Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The main difference is that the bear was holding a billhook. The shield had the traditional Varangian colours and there were polar lights above of shield.

Golden Age of Finnish Art

The Golden Age of Finnish Art coincided with the national awakening during the time 1880–1910. Themes during the period were often influenced by Kalevala and were visible in visual arts, literature, music and architecture of the time. Central figure of the time was Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Other notable figures were Pekka Halonen, Albert Edelfelt, Jean Sibelius, Eino Leino, Helene Schjerfbeck, Eero Järnefelt, Emil Wikström and Eliel Saarinen.

Finnish art became known also in Europe at Paris 1900 World Fair, where Finnish pavilion was one of the most popular pavilions.

Jorma Gallen-Kallela

Jorma Gallen-Kallela (22 November 1898 in Ruovesi – 1 December 1939) was a Finnish artist. He followed in the footsteps of his father, the famed artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

After the destruction of his father's frescoes in the Juselius Mausoleum in Pori after the death of his father in 1931, Jorma used his father's sketches to recreate the artwork.Jorma Gallen-Kallela spent part of the Winter War as a lieutenant. While inspecting a downed plane of the Soviet Air Force on the second day of the war, he was shot dead while saving the life of captain Adolf Ehrnrooth.

Juselius Mausoleum

Juselius Mausoleum (Finnish: Juseliuksen mausoleumi) is one of the most famous sights in Pori, Finland, located at the 1884 opened Käppärä Cemetery. It is the only mausoleum in Finland and was completed in 1903.


Karelianism was a late 19th-century cultural phenomenon in the Grand Duchy of Finland and involved writers, painters, poets and sculptors. Since the publishing of the Finnish national epic Kalevala in 1835, compiled from Karelian folk lore, culture spheres in Finland became increasingly curious about Karelian heritage and landscape. By the end of the 19th century Karelianism had become a major trend for many works of art and literature in Finland. In the movement Karelia was seen as a sort of refuge for the essence of "Finnishness" that had maintained its authenticity across centuries. The phenomenon can be interpreted as a Finnish version of European national romanticism.

The painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Louis Sparre are usually mentioned as the founders of the movement. They were soon joined by the sculptor Emil Wikström, the writers Juhani Aho, Eino Leino and Ilmari Kianto, the composers Jean Sibelius and P.J. Hannikainen, the architects Yrjö Blomstedt and Victor Sucksdorff, and many others. Later, towards the Second World War, some of the ideas of Karelianism were taken over by an irredentist movement aspiring to create a larger Finland. Thus some of the ideas put forward by Karelianism were used as a motivation to the proposal of a Greater Finland, a single state encompassing many Finnic peoples.

Kirpilä Art Collection

The Kirpilä Art Collection (Finnish: Taidekoti Kirpilä, Swedish: Konsthemmet Kirpilä) is an art museum in Helsinki.

The museum contains the art collection of medical doctor Juhani Kirpilä (1931-1988) and is located in his former home, an apartment in Helsinki. It opened in 1992 and contains Finnish art from the 19th century to the 1970s. Among the artists represented in the collection are Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Ellen Thesleff, Eero Nelimarkka, Åke Mattas, Wäinö Aaltonen and Kain Tapper. The museum is owned and maintained by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.


Kolho is a village in the city-municipality of Mänttä-Vilppula in Finland.

During the Finnish Civil War, in winter 1918, the Finnish air force used Kolho as a base. Kolho has influenced a number of Finnish artists ranging from Eero Järnefelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela to Pentti Saarikoski and also was the site of the worst church boat accident in Finnish history. Kolho played a role in the rise of the Finnish paper industry together with the neighbouring Mänttä community. More recently Kolho is known for its natural environment and is a summer resort destination.James Vehko (aka Jalmari Vehkomäki), the designer of the first Ford's metallic automobile chassis, was originally from Kolho.

Kullervo Rides to War

Kullervo Rides to War (Finnish: Kullervon sotaanlähtö) is a painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela from the year 1901. He painted the subject in tempera painting (89 × 128 cm) and as a mural (355 × 687 cm) which is located in the music hall of Vanha ylioppilastalo of Helsinki University. The painting was donated to the Students' union by O. Donner.The theme for the painting is from the Kalevala, national epic of Finland. Kullervo sits on a white horse ready to ride to war, to take revenge on his uncle Untamo. He is followed by a dog or a wolf.

Gallen-Kallela traveled to Siena, Italy, where he saw the frescoes by Simone Martini in the Palazzo Pubblico. Martini's Equestrian portrait gave Gallen-Kallela inspiration for the setting of Kullervo.

Lake Keitele

Keitele is a rather large lake located in Central Finland. With the area of 493.59 km² it is the 9th largest lake in the country. The lake is divided into three regions, Ylä-, Keski-, and Ala-Keitele, of which Keski-Keitele is the largest. Water in the lake is clear and in excellent condition. The towns of Äänekoski and Viitasaari are located on the shores of Keitele.

The northernmost part of the lake is called Ylä-Keitele. A big part of Ylä-Keitele belongs to Natura 2000 protection program due to its clear water and natural condition.

A leading figure in modern Finnish painting, Akseli Gallen-Kallela first worked at Lake Keitele, in summer 1904. This Lake Keitele landscape is his third and most elaborate depiction of the lake, and he exhibited it in Helsinki that same year. The painting is signed with the Swedish form of the artist's name; in later years he used the Finnish form, as above, by which he is best known today. This painting now hangs in the National Gallery, London.

The lake is mentioned prominently in James Church's 2006 novel A Corpse in the Koryo.

Lemminkäinen's Mother

Lemminkäinen's Mother (Lemminkäisen äiti) is an 1897 Romantic nationalist painting by Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The painting illustrates a passage from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century.

The painting illustrates a poem where hero Lemminkäinen has died and his mother has dredged the pieces of her son's lifeless body from the river of Tuonela and sewn them together again. She is shown with the body in pietà style, waiting for the bee, a messenger of the god Ukko, to bring her honey from the gods to bring her son to life again.

Onni Okkonen

Onni Okkonen (20 August 1886 – 18 May 1962) was a Finnish art historian based at the University of Helsinki.

Okkonen was born in Korpiselkä in Karelia and earned his Ph.D. in 1914. He was appointed professor of art history at the University of Helsinki in 1927, a position that he held until 1945. His main research interests were Finnish art and Italian Renaissance art. His works include an overview of the history of Finnish art, Suomen taiteen historia (1945), which was translated into English in 1946, as well as monographies on Wäinö Aaltonen, Juho Rissanen and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. He was also active as an art critic for the newspaper Uusi Suomi, as well as a fiction writer and painter.

He was chairman of the Kalevala Society from 1937 to 1942 and a member of the Academy of Finland from 1948 to 1956.

He is buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.

Oskar Kallis

Oskar Kallis (Tallinn, November 23, 1892 – Yalta, 1 January 1918) was an Estonian artist, one of the main representatives of the Estonian national romanticism.

Kallas studied in 1907 and 1913 to 1916 in the studio of the artist Ants Laikmaa, and in 1912-1913 studied design at the Estonian Artist Society (Eesti Kunstiselts). He participated in 1917 in the establishment of the artistic association Vikerla. He was particularly influenced by the Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, he devoted himself especially in his short career to the illustration of the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, creating about 40 works. He also designed ethnographically styled furniture and textiles. He died of tuberculosis in the Crimea in 1918.

Pori Art Museum

Pori Art Museum, (Finnish: Porin taidemuseo, Swedish: Björneborgs konstmuseum) is a museum of contemporary and modern art in Pori, Finland. It was established in 1979, mainly by the efforts of professor Maire Gullichsen (1907- 1990), co-founder of the furniture company Artek.Pori Art Museum has several art collections as well as changing exhibitions.The museum is located in the centre of the city by the river Kokemäenjoki. The building is an old weigh house that was designed by architect C. J. von Heideken (1832–1888). It was originally built in 1860 and renovated for museum use in 1979–1981 by the design of architect Kristian Gullichsen. The latest extension of the museum was completed in 2000. The exhibition area is about 800 m2. The museum does also have a library, picture archive, shop and a café.

Pori Art Museum's two main collections are the collection of Maire Gullichsen Art Foundation and the Pori Municipal Collection. Maire Gullichsen Art Foundation collection consists mainly of Finnish art from the late 19th century to the 1980s.

The main focus of the Pori Municipal Collection is on 20th-century art together with 19th-century Finnish artists as Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931) and Victor Westerholm (1860–1919).

The collections have works by many notable international artists, including names like José Bedia Valdés, Ian McKeever, Leonhard Lapin, Yan Pei Ming, Georges Rousse, Yoko Ono and Dennis Oppenheim.


Saunassa (Finnish: In the Sauna) is an 1889 oil painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. It was painted in Ekola's croft in Keuruu. Gallen-Kallela gave his work to Knut Tilgmann, whose brother gave it to Ateneum in 1922. Gallen-Kallela didn't like the picture and thought was it was unfinished.


The Gallen-Kallela Museum, located in Tarvaspää, Espoo, Finland and built between 1911 and 1913 was a home and studio for Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The atelier building Tarvaspää has been a museum since 1961.

The Defense of the Sampo

The Defense of the Sampo (Sammon puolustus) is an 1896 Romantic nationalist painting by Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The painting illustrates a passage from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century.

The scene portrayed is taken from the 43rd song of the epic, where the hero Väinämöinen, seen wielding a sword, has stolen the precious artifact Sampo from the evil witch Louhi, and she, having taken the form of a giant bird, is trying to reclaim it. The battle for the Sampo is also given a deeper connotation as a battle for the soul of Finland.


Tyrvää (Swedish: Tyrvis) was a municipality in the Satakunta region, Turku and Pori Province, Finland. It was established in 1439 when the Tyrvää parish was separated from the parish of Karkku. In 1915, the market town of Vammala was separated from Tyrvää, and in 1973, Tyrvää was consolidated with Vammala. In 2009, Vammala became a part of the newly established town Sastamala.

The administrative center of the Tyrvää municipality was located north of Vammala, by the lakes Rautavesi and Liekovesi.

Tyrvää is known of the prominent Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who was raised in Tyrvää, and the medieval St. Olaf's Church. The twin tower Tyrvää Church was built in 1855.


Väinämöinen (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈʋæinæˌmøinen]) is a demigod, hero and the central character in Finnish folklore and the main character in the national epic Kalevala. His name comes from the Finnish word väinä, meaning stream pool. Väinämöinen was described as an old and wise man, and he possessed a potent, magical voice.

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