Ateneum Art Museum Presents Illusions of Reality – Naturalist painting photography and cinema 1875-1918

The Ateneum Art Museum presents Illusions of Reality – Naturalist painting, photography and cinema 1875-1918 on view through 15.05.2011.

Ateneum in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam will present a major exhibition entitled Illusions of Reality – Naturalist painting, photography and cinema 1875-1918. The exhibition explores the many sides of Naturalism – an important movement in Finnish art as well – through various themes. Alongside paintings, lesser known photographs and early films will be exhibited.


Eero Järnefelt: Under the Yoke (Burning the Brushwood), 1893. Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Central Art Archives / Hannu Aaltonen

Naturalism was an international movement The centre of which was Paris. In addition to the Nordic countries, it was popular in such countries as Hungary, Russia and the united States. The exhibition presents works on loan from 31 museums, including the Scottish National Gallery and the Musée d’Orsay, as well as from private collections in the USA. Famous names on display include Jules Bastien-Lepage, the great role model for Naturalist art, as well as Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret and Émile Friant.

The exhibition also presents major works of Finnish art, including Conveying the Child’s Coffin (1879) by Albert Edelfelt, Boy with a Crow (1884) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Under the Yoke (1893) by Eero Järnefelt. These works of art, so familiar to Finns, will now be exhibited in their international context.

In the rapidly industrialising Europe of the late 19th century, Naturalism became one of the dominant movements in painting, literature and theatre. The themes of the paintings included the realities of contemporary society and the everyday lives of ordinary people. These themes were drawn from the hot topics of modern life. Labourers, farmers, the affluent middle classes – all layers of society served as subjects.

Naturalist works of art tell stories and contain messages for their audiences. The purpose of Naturalist art was also to instruct and entertain, just like the cinema in subsequent years. Indeed, the large paintings that were realised with photographic precision attracted great popularity among the general public at the time. The paintings were displayed in exhibitions and museums, but also in public buildings. The works of art are full of details that reveal their story piece by piece, helping audiences to understand their message. They also bring the world of yesterday and its human fates closer to contemporary audiences.

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