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Gunnar Finne: The Tree of Knowledge, 1937. You may not use this photo for commercial purposes. © Photo: Helsinki Art Museum

Tiedonpuu / The Tree of Knowledge

Artist Gunnar Finne

Nervanderinkatu 9, Etu-Töölö, Helsinki

The building in Nervanderinkatu 13, designed by Väinö Vähäkallio, was originally built for Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu, a famous comprehensive school. Today it houses the National Board of Antiquities and Historical Monuments. Vähäkallio and Gunnar Finne had already worked together before on, for instance, the decoration of EKA cooperative’s headquarters on Hämeentie. Finne’s comprehensive approach and skill in reconciling sculpture with architectural spirit brought him numerous commissions for decorating buildings.

“The Tree of Knowledge” relief is to be found on the sides of the building’s main entrance. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of the art of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In an archaic style, the relief depicts the cycle of life: a child climbs up the tree of life towards his parents. An owl, the symbol of wisdom, perches solemnly near the tree top. Scenes from different stages of life are depicted beside the tree. On the opposite side, a less restrained relief depicts groups of young people playing games and practising sports.

The work was completed in 1937 and it is cut in stone. It doesn’t belong to the collections of the Helsinki Art Museum.

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