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Leonard and Katarina Bäcksbacka Collection

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. Leonard Bäcksbacka founded the art gallery Taidesalonki, established in 1915, which became one of Finland’s most important galleries and leaders in the field of art. The long-term work for Taidesalonki lay the foundations for the art collection. From the very beginning, Taidesalonki’s core has been to support young artists and maintain good relations with the artists. The gallery’s artistic approach has remained consistent over time, with a central focus on picturesque and representational paintings based on the power of colours.

An active collector, Leonard Bäcksbacka dealt with art for nearly five decades. The collection was carefully considered and assembled, and Leonard Bäcksbacka had strong faith in the collection’s artists. Eventually, Bäcksbacka began to consider the idea of displaying the collected works publicly. After his death, Bäcksbacka’s heirs decided to offer the collection to the City of Helsinki. Katarina Bäcksbacka continued to grow the collection after her husband’s death. The collection was further enhanced with some works by Finnish sculptors. The Bäcksbacka collection provides a comprehensive and high-quality cross section of Finnish art at the beginning of the 20th century, also reflecting Bäcksbacka’s conception of what was important.

The collection mostly consists of Finnish artworks from the 1900s, many of them considered as gems of Finnish art. The artists, such as Tyko Sallinen, Marcus Collin, Jalmari Ruokokoski, and Ellen Thesleff, are among the most significant artists of our art history. In addition to Finnish art, the collection includes French art from the 1930s and 1940s. Originally comprising 448 works, the collection was complemented with an additional donation of 57 of Marcus Collin’s pastel illustrations for Aleksis Kivi’s The Seven Brothers in 1977.