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Albert Edelfelt: Finland at the tip of the brush

With this exhibition devoted to Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905), the Petit Palais pays homage to one of the glories of Finnish painting. Presented until July 10, 2022 with the assistance of the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, around a hundred works trace the career of this artist and show how he largely contributed to the recognition of Finnish art in the end of the 19th century.

A. Edelfelt, Virginie, 1883 Huile sur toile Joensuu Art Museum, Arla Cederberg collection, Finlande
A. Edelfelt, Virginie, 1883 Huile sur toile Joensuu Art Museum, Arla Cederberg collection, Finlande

Born in Porvoo in 1854, on the southern coast of Finland, Albert Edelfelt is the son of an architect of Swedish origin. He received his first artistic training in Helsinki, then benefited from a state subsidy allowing him to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Wishing to pursue a career as a history painter, Edelfelt like many artists at that time undertook a trip to Paris to launch his career and settled there.

 A. Edelfelt, Devant l’église, Finlande, 1887 Huile sur toile Helsinki, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery © Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen
A. Edelfelt, Devant l’église, Finlande, 1887 Huile sur toile Helsinki, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery © Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

He joined the prestigious School of Fine Arts and in 1874 entered the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme. Very quickly his style, initially historicist, evolved by drawing inspiration from the innovative trends of the Parisian milieu. In 1875, Edelfelt met Jules Bastien-Lepage, a great representative of naturalism.

A. Edelfelt, Vue sur Haikko, 1899 Huile sur toile Helsinki, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Collections Antell © Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen
A. Edelfelt, Vue sur Haikko, 1899 Huile sur toile Helsinki, Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery Collections Antell © Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

His painting offers a new vision, now mixing impressionism and realism. Critics and the public acclaim him and praise his portraiture. In 1886, the painter chose to immortalize Louis Pasteur, great glory of the time, who had just discovered the vaccine against rabies. The portrait, a veritable allegory of Science in progress, met with resounding success at the Salon and enabled it to acquire great renown.

 Albert Edelfelt, Portrait de Louis Pasteur, 1886, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) Martine Beck-Coppola
Albert Edelfelt, Portrait de Louis Pasteur, 1886, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) Martine Beck-Coppola

A great patriot, he used his notoriety in the fight for Finland's independence from the influence of the all-powerful Russia, which echoes contemporary news...

Through his political and aesthetic commitment and his international stature, he established himself as a model for the young generation of Finnish artists, including Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck and Magnus Enckell.


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