The Modern Woman and Dialogue at the Ateneum

*Blog collaboration with Ateneum

The exhibitions the Modern Woman and Dialogue opened at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki. These exhibitions are on display from 10th February until 27th March 2022, after which the Ateneum Art Museum will close for several months due to air conditioning renovations.

Read this article in Finnish here


The Modern Woman exhibition at the Ateneum tells about the 20th century modernism with the help of art made by Finnish women. The exhibition features works by the following artists: Hilda Flodin, Sigrid af Forselles, Gunvor Grönvik, Eila Hiltunen, Lea Ignatius, Helmi Kuusi, Laila Pullinen, Essi Renvall, Sigrid Schauman, Helene Schjerfbeck, Elga Sesemann and Ellen Thesleff.

It was interesting to note that many of these artists did more than just art in their lives, such as working as a teacher, artisan, and critic, as their biography told. Hilda Flodin’s determined look in her self-portrait 120 years ago served as an encouraging example for today’s artist as well.

The Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, February 2022
The Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, February 2022

The portraits painted by Sigrid Schauman showed Schjerfbeck-like generosity, which made it easy to avoid portraying the aging of the face making the person look ageless. Or even like a dead skeleton, as in Schauman’s self-portrait.

Schjerfbeck’s paintings were particularly surprising, as they still contain something new. At least for me, who did miss Schjerfbeck’s gala exhibition at the Ateneum art museum a few years ago. For example, I had not noticed before that the well-known black self-portrait from 1913 contained the artist’s name written with no style in sticky letters at the top of the picture. Schjerfbeck’s red-spotted self-portrait, in turn, made me wonder why an Indian bindi had been placed on her lower lip instead of her forehead.

Artist Helmi Kuusi was a completely new name for me. Maybe because traditional graphics has never been my way of making pictures. But her works were delightful, as they had the feel of those old black-and-white photographs, but still had more warmth and depth than photographs in general.

Elga Sesemann was also a new name for me and the exhibition featured oil paintings painted by her generously with a palette knife. Sesemann’s self-portrait from 1946 had also ended up as the cover image to the Modern Woman’s paperback book published by Ateneum.

Lea Ignatius’ work Helle (Heat) from 1974 still glowed in its frames on the wall of the Ateneum, 48 years after its completion and 22 years after the artist’s death. I also suddenly thought I had found the QR code in Ignatius’ work Sampo II, even though that technology was not in use at that time in 1976. Personally, I used the QR code in my latest live art exhibition in 2020.

Attached below is a short video of these Ateneum’s exhibitions The Modern Woman and Dialogue, which will be on display in Ateneum from 10th February to 27th March 2022.


The second exhibition at the same time on the top floor of the Ateneum Art Museum is the joint exhibition of Elina Brotherus and Hannele Rantala. These artist friends have more age difference than a mother and a daughter, but that doesn’t seem to be a nuisance. It was refreshing to see how Brotherus showed her middle finger to normalcy.

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Read more about travel and art, Helsinki and Finland from INDIVUE – Trip to Finland

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