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Bequeathed and donated collections

Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka Collection

Ellen Thesleff: Thyra Elisabeth.
Ellen Thesleff: Thyra Elisabeth, 1892. © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Leonard (1892–1963) and Katarina Bäcksbacka’s (1894–1976, née Tichonowa) art collection is the museum’s most important donated collection. To display it, the city built the Art Museum Meilahti in 1976. Master of Arts Leonard Bäcksbacka and his wife Katarina Bäcksbacka assembled the works for the collection.

Ingjald Bäcksbacka and Christina Bäcksbacka Collections

Viggo Wallensköld: Winter, 2008. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Working beside his father from a young age, Ingjald (1925–1978) became the leader of Taidesalonki after Leonard Bäcksbacka’s death in 1963. He also continued assembling art for the collection. Ingjald Bäcksbacka had a significant role in organising Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka’s donation, which he prepared at the beginning of the 1970s for many years before it was officially donated to the city in 1976.

After Ingjald Bäcksbacka, his daughter Christina Bäcksbacka continued running Taidesalonki ­– one of the oldest galleries in Helsinki – from 1978 to 2020. According to Christina Bäcksbacka’s wish, the collection her grandparents assembled was separated into one body of work and the collection’s later additions into another under the name of the father and daughter. The collection was founded in 2018, and all works donated by Christina Bäcksbacka since 1980 were transferred to it.

Elsa Arokallio Collection

Magnus Enckell: Concert.. © Photograph loan, Ateneum

Elsa Arokallio (1892–1982) was an architect who bequeathed her art collection to the City of Helsinki. Received in 1983, the collection includes Arokallio’s works and sketches as well as works by Alwar Cawén, Tuomas von Boehm, Marcus Collin, and Magnus Enckell.

Gösta Becker Collection

Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl and Jug (Breton Girl), 1881. © HAM/Hanna Rikkonen

Gösta Becker (1890–1949) was a specialist in internal medicine who, in addition to his research work and medical practice, was an art enthusiast and collector of visual arts and antiques. The collection includes paintings by Hugo Simberg, Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Eero Järnefelt, Pekka Halonen, and Helene Schjerfbeck; several sculptures by Wäinö Aaltonen; and prints by Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Ellen Thesleff. Additionally, the collection includes several glass, silver, brass, tin, and porcelain dishes as well as rococo and Gustavian furniture. The collection comprises a total of 193 artworks and objects. 

Otto W. Furuhjelm Collection

Jan Gerritsz van Bronckhorst: Bathsheba, 1650s. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Lieutenant General Otto W. Furuhjelm’s art collection was donated to the City of Helsinki in 1883 for its museum-to-be. This collection, consisting of 58 artworks, was transferred from the Helsinki City Museum to HAM Helsinki Art Museum in 2015. The collection includes Italian, Dutch, and Polish art from the 17th to the 19th century.

Raimo and Maarit Huttunen Collection

Marja Pirilä: Camera obscura / Otto, Tampere, 2002. © Anna Taival

The works in Raimo and Maarit Huttunen’s donated collection represent Finnish artists in painting, printmaking, and photography from the 1990s and 2000s. The collection’s works have been chosen with a personal touch and unconventional view. The most marginal phenomena of Finnish art have been considered in the acquisitions – often acquired from young and promising artists – which well supports HAM’s acquisition policies. The collection includes approximately 300 works.

Ilmi Immeli Collection

Werner Åström: Ironer, 1944. © Museokuva

The museum received Ilmi Immeli’s (1897–1995) donation to its collections in 1995. The collection comprises four artworks from August Sigfrid Keinänen, Berndt Lagerstam, Juho Rissanen, and Werner Åström.

Alice Kaira’s donations

Alice Kaira: Love, 1982. © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

Painter Alice Kaira’s (1913–2006) donated collection is formed by two donations received in 1986 and 1995. The collection comprises 52 paintings and drawings, the latter including several self-portraits.

Aune and Elias Laaksonen Collection

Elin Danielson-Gambogi: Interior, undated. © HAM/Hanna Rikkonen

Aune (1906–1984) and Elias Laaksonen’s (1903–1972) collection was bequeathed to the city in 1984. The donation was received in 1985. The collection includes paintings by Fanny Churberg, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Maria Wiik; and prints by Rembrandt and Renoir. In total, the collection comprises 48 works.

Aune Lindberg Collection

Maria Wiik: Portrait of a Woman, 1897. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

The donated collection of Aune Lindberg, M.Sc. (Economics), comprises five paintings she bequeathed to the City of Helsinki in 1982. The donation was received in 1984. The collection includes works by Anna Holmberg, Johan Knutson, Maria Wiik, and Kaapo Wirtanen as well as one work by an unknown artist.

Anitra Lucander donation

Anitra Lucander: Composition (undated). © HAM/Maija Toivanen

Painter Anitra Lucander (1918–2000) donated her works to the City Art Museum in 1982. The collection includes Lucander’s paintings, drawings, and prints, comprising 96 works in total.

Sune Orell Collection

Ragnar Ekelund: Suburban Street, 1915. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Master of Arts Sune Orell’s collection was included in the museum’s collections in 1990. Consisting of 35 works, the collection comprises works mainly by Finnish artists from the beginning of the 20th century, such as Jalmari Ruokokoski, Verner Thomén, Ragnar Ekelund, and Alvar and Ragni Cawén. The Sune Orell Collection adds to the Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka’s collection donated in 1976 because Orell’s collection includes several sketches of the Bäcksbacka Collection’s works.

Iris Roos-Hasselblatt Collection

Verner Thomé: Montyon Square, Marseilles, 1909. © HAM/Hanna Rikkonen

The collection was assembled by Emil Alarik Hasselblatt (1874–1954) who worked his whole life in the Helsinki University Library, eventually retiring as senior sub librarian. The heirs of his wife, assistant librarian at the Helsinki University Library, Iris Roos-Hasselblatt, donated the collection to the City of Helsinki in 1973 according to Roos-Hasselblatt’s wishes. The city received the collection in 1974. The collection consists of seven artworks by Harald Brun, Verner Thomén, and Magnus Enckell.

Katriina Salmela-Hasán and David Hasán Collection

Leena Luostarinen: Chinese Child, 1995. © Museokuva

Katriina Salmela-Hasán (1944–1995) and David Hasán’s (1947–1997) collection was donated to the City Art Museum in 1998. Comprising more than 300 works of mostly Finnish contemporary art collected mainly in the 1980s, the collection is a great cross section of the period’s art – a Finnish private collection well representing the most popular artists of its time.

Christian Sibelius donation

Christian Sibelius: Harbour Scene, undated. © HAM/Sonja Hyytiäinen

The works left behind by artist Harry Christian Sibelius (1910–1951) were donated to the museum’s collections in 1985 by the artist’s siblings Rita Sibelius and Marjatta Ahlström. The collection includes 22 works, most of which are charcoal and pencil drawings.

Martta and Reino Sysi Collection

Oscar Kleineh: Landscape in Moonlight, undated. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

The Martta and Reino Sysi Collection was donated to the art museum’s collections in 1993. The collection of 52 works is significant in quality, adding to the art museum’s collections regarding 19th century art in particular. The collection includes works by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Oscar Kleineh, Jalmari Ruokokoski, Victor Westerholm, and Albert Edelfelt.

Other collections

Hilda Flodin Plaster Sculpture Collection

Hilda Maria Flodin: Young Woman, undated. © Helsinki City Museum

Sculptor Hilda Flodin’s (1877–1958) plaster sculpture collection was transferred from the Helsinki City Museum to Helsinki Art Museum in 2018. The collection comprises 47 sculptures focusing on animal limbs and human body parts in particular. Providing a cross section of the artist’s sculptural works, the plaster sculpture collection highlights not only her practices adopted in Paris but also her works from the end of her plastic era.

Harkonmäki Collection

Jarmo Mäkilä: Return, 1986. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

Matti Harkonmäki (b. 1935) sold his collection to the Helsinki City Art Museum in 1991. The collection was mainly assembled in the 1980s, comprising works mostly from that decade. Harkonmäki supplemented his collection especially with social realism from the 1970s, adding political and ideological features to the collection. The collection includes works by Marjatta Hanhijoki, Irina Krohn, Henry Wuorila-Stenberg, and Jarmo Mäkilä.

Accessions collection

Elina Ruohonen: Global Race I, 2019. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

HAM’s evolving collection is the museum’s largest in number. New works for the collection are acquired within the appropriation included in the museum’s budget. The collection is mainly enhanced with Finnish contemporary art, but some foreign works have been acquired from the exhibitions the museum organises, for example. Additionally, some older art is occasionally added to the collection to supplement the museum’s donated collections. As a separate body of work, the evolving collection includes Jan Olof Mallander’s collection acquired in 1990.

Artworks at schools

Yrjö Ollila: Children Playing, 1914–1915. © HAM/Sonja Hyytiäinen

The school collection includes works acquired by schools or donated to schools through the Taidetta kouluihin (“Art for Schools”) association. The collection includes some art-historical gems of Finnish art, such as works by Tyko Sallinen. Works acquired for schools were added to the art museum’s collection in the 1980s after the gradual comprehensive school reform. From this, the museum started managing the collections and maintaining them according to adequate criteria.

J.O. Mallander Collection

Jan Olof Mallander: Poetry Collection, 1976. © HAM/Hanna Rikkonen

Comprising approximately 160 works, the art collection assembled by artist and art critic Jan Olof Mallander (b. 1944) was acquired by the City Art Museum in 1990. Throughout the years 1971–1977, Mallander held the Halvat Huvit gallery on Huvilakatu Street, aiming at displaying phenomena deviating from the mainstream. The collection was formed through Mallander’s personal contacts, relations, and interests, and it includes works by Mallander. The collection was assembled in the 1970s and 1980s, representing the era’s avant-garde and non-commercial ambitions.

Timo Sarpaneva Collection

Timo Sarpaneva: Heart 3557, 1953. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

The collection, comprising 38 glass artworks by designer and sculptor Timo Sarpaneva (1926–2006), was transferred to the Helsinki City Art Museum’s collections in 1995. The collection includes glass objects and sculptures.

Finnish Savings Bank’s Art Collection

Göran Augustson: Untitled, 1988. © HAM/Hanna Kukorelli

In the mid-1990s, the Government Guarantee Fund deposited the collection belonging to the Finnish Savings Banks to various regional art museums. In Uusimaa, the collection was placed at HAM. The right of use was transferred to the museum and the works became part of the museum’s collections. The collection’s other parts have been deposited into other regional art museums around Finland. Each regional art museum received those works that the region’s savings banks had acquired for the collection.