Eero Nelimarkka (1891–1977) was one of the most celebrated artists in Finland from the 1930s onwards. The exhibition at HAM focuses on young Nelimarkka’s early works from the 1910s and 1920s, which were inspired by modern art movements in Paris and the international art scene there. The show includes over 50 paintings, along with sketches and letters from Nelimarkka’s journeys to Paris.

One of the key themes in Nelimarkka’s early work are character studies, including poignant pictures of children and an extended series of self-portraits. The viewpoint is modern and intimate, almost mysterious. These intense paintings also depict everyday objects and interiors, often enlivened by a human figure turned away from the viewer.

The choice of themes is also expressive of the world of a person in the process of building his identity.

During the 1910s and 1920s, Nelimarkka studied art and quite deliberately aimed at making a career for himself as a painter. Trips to Paris in 1912 and 1920 were important for his development, as were studies under Eero Järnefelt at the University of Helsinki’s art studio. Like other artists of his generation, Nelimarkka searched for new forms of expression that would sometimes show up in his output as sudden changes. In the beginning of the 1920s, the reductive approach he employed in the 1910s developed into a painterly style that once again made no effort to disguise the traces of brushwork.

Eero Nelimarkka: Miss Kekäläinen, 1916 © Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen

The exhibition is curated by Dr Riitta Ojanperä and it is part of a series showcasing research in Finnish art. The series is based on the Bäcksbacka Collection, which forms the core of the art collection at HAM. The exhibition was produced in collaboration with the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vaasa, where it will be on display from 15 June to 7 October 2018. The exhibition is generously supported by the NELIMARKKA FOUNDATION.

The exhibition will be accompanied by screenings of Eero Nelimarkka – per aspera ad astra, a new documentary film written and directed by Riitta Nelimarkka. One of the exhibition galleries features works by Nelimarkka’s artist friends and fellow artists. They all come from the Bäcksbacka Collection at HAM.