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Scandinavia is a region associated with modernity: modern design, modern living and a modern welfare state. This new his

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Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
1 Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism
2 1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age
3 1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision
4 1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life
5 1950–1970 – Postwar Modern
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Modernism in Scandinavia

Modernism in Scandinavia Art, Architecture and Design


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2017 © Charlotte Ashby, 2017 Charlotte Ashby has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN:  HB: 978-1-4742-2431-4 PB: 978-1-4742-2430-7 ePDF: 978-1-4742-2433-8 ePub: 978-1-4742-2432-1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Ashby, Charlotte, author. Title: Scandinavian modern : art, architecture and design / Charlotte Ashby. Description: New York : Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Identifiers: LCCN 2016029731| ISBN 9781474224307 (paperback) | ISBN 9781474224314 (hardback) Subjects: LCSH: Modernism (Art)--Scandinavia. | Design--Scandinavia– History–19th century. | Design--Scandinavia--History–20th century. | BISAC: DESIGN / History & Criticism. | ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945). | ART / History / Contemporary (1945-). | ARCHITECTURE / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945). | ARCHITECTURE / History / Contemporary (1945-). | HISTORY / Europe / Scandinavia. Classification: LCC N7008.5.M64 A84 2017 | DDC 709.48/0904– dc23 LC record available at Cover design by Louise Dugdale Cover image © Bloomberg / Getty images Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd.

Contents List of Illustrations  vi Introduction 1

1 Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism 11 2 1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age 49 3 1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision 89 4 1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life 133 5 1950–1970 – Postwar Modern 171 Bibliography  Index 



List of Illustrations Plates 1 Johan Christian Dahl, Winter at the Sognefjord, oil on canvas,

1827. 2 Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Boy with a Crow, oil on canvas,

1879–81. 3 Gerhard Munthe, Villa Leveld, Lysaker, watercolour,

1898–99. 4 J. F. Willumsen, Jotunheim, oil on canvas, zinc and enamel

friezes, original frame, 1892–93. 5 Frida Hansen, The Milky Way, tapestry, 1898. 6 Ásgrímur Jónsson, Mount Tindafjöll, oil on canvas,

1903–04. 7 Helene Schjerfbeck, The Seamstress (The Working Woman), oil

on canvas, 1905. 8 Edvard Munch, The Sun, Murals for University of Oslo

Assembly Hall, 1916. 9 Sigrid Hjertén, Studio, oil on canvas, 1917. 10 Alf Rolfsen, Working Norway: From the Drift Nets

to the Forests of the East, fresco, Oslo City Hall, 1938–42. 11 Alvar Aalto, Villa Mairea, Noormarkku, 1938–39.

List of Illustrations


12 Richard Mortensen, Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud, oil on

canvas, 1944. 13 Asger Jorn, Mural, central section, Aarhus High School,

ceramic, 1952–70. 14 Norwegian Exhibition, Milan Triennale, 1953, Domus,

no. 300, 1954. 15 Nína Tryggvadóttir, Eruption, oil on canvas, 1964. 16 Synnøve Anker Aurdal, Space and Words, tapestry, 1977.

Figures 1.1 Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Christian Grosch, University of

Oslo, Oslo, 1838–52. 12 1.2 Amalia Lindegren, Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage, oil on

canvas, 1860. 22 1.3 August Malmström, Norse Revival Vase, Gustavsberg, 1872. 28 1.4 Helgo Zettervall, Lund Cathedral Restoration, Lund,

1860–1902. 31 1.5 Theodor Höijer, Ateneum Building, Helsinki, 1884–87. 35 1.6 Ferdinand Meldahl, Parliament House, Reykjavik, 1879–81. 37 1.7 Pietro Krohn, Heron Service, Bing & Grøndahl, 1888. 43 1.8 Martin Nyrop, Main Pavilion, Nordic Industrial,

Agricultural and Art Exhibition in Copenhagen. Lithograph by Karel Sědivý, Illustreret Familie-Journal 1888. 46 2.1 Martin Nyrop, Copenhagen City Hall, Copenhagen,

1892–1905. Illustreret Tidende, vol. 34. no. 51. 1893. 51


List of Illustrations

2.2 Richard Bergh, Nordic Summer Evening, oil on canvas,

1899–1900. 61 2.3 Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren, Hermann Gesellius,

Finnish Pavilion, Paris World’s Fair, 1900. 68 2.4 Thorvald Bindesbøll, Silver Beakers, A. Michelsen, 1900. 71 2.5 Gustavsberg AB, Minerva range, produced 1866–92. 78 2.6 Eliel Saarinen, Railway Station Competition, first-prize entry,

Arkitekten, 1904. 85 2.7 Eliel Saarinen, Helsinki Railway Station, 1904–14. 87 3.1 Ragnar Östberg, Stockholm City Hall, Stockholm, 1902–23. 92 3.2 Map of the Malmö Baltic Exhibition, 1914. 97 3.3 Edvard Munch, History, Murals for University of Oslo

Assembly Hall, 1916. 103 3.4 Einar Erlendsson and Einar Jónsson, The Einar Jónsson

Museum, Reykjavík, 1916–23. 114 3.5 Lorentz Ree and Carl Buch, The Vigeland Museum, Oslo,

1921–24. 116 3.6 Einar Jónsson, Rest, plaster, 1915–35. 118 3.7 Martti Välikangas, Puu-Käpylä, Helsinki, 1925. 121 3.8 Simon Gate, Paris Trophy, Orrefors 1922. 126 3.9 Kay Fisker, Danish Pavilion interior, Paris 1925. Featuring

globe lamp by Poul Henningsen, 1925. 130 4.1 Gunnar Asplund, Paradise Restaurant, Stockholm

Exhibition, 1930. 137 4.2 Sven Markelius, Living Room, Apartment 7, Hall 36,

Stockholm Exhibition, 1930. 139 4.3 Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson, Oslo City Hall,

1931–50. 144

List of Illustrations

4.4 Nora Gulbrandsen, Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson,

Oslo City Hall Coffee Service, Porsgrund, 1950. 149 4.5 Guðjón Samúelsson, Church of Hallgrímur, Reykjavík,

1937–85. 152 4.6 Lennart Segerstråle, Finlandia Fresco, Bank of Finland,

1938–44. 163 5.1 Aarne Ervi, Tapiola Central Tower, Espoo, 1959–61. 176 5.2 Arne Jacobsen, SAS Copenhagen, 1956–60. 192 5.3 Siri Derkert, Östermalmstorg Metro Station, carved

concrete, 1965. 200 5.4 Peter Celsing, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1966–76. 207




candinavia is a region associated with modernity: modern design, modern living and a progressive welfare state. At the same time individuals from the region are only sparsely represented in most art histories of Modernism, and then largely as isolated geniuses. This new history of Modernism in Scandinavia allows us to reconsider our expectations of Modernism. It presents a Modernism made up of many different figures, impulses and visions, containing both familiar and unfamiliar elements. It places the individuals who have achieved international fame, such as Edvard Munch and Alvar Aalto, in the wider context of the cultures of which they were part. This history offers a better understanding of both the rich art and design history of the Nordic region and how Modernism, as an art historical label, must expand to encompass the varied nature of the Modernisms of different times and places. The Nordic countries lie in an interesting position in relation to the established story of Modernism, which revolves around traditional art centres such as Paris. Depending on whether we look at art, architecture or design, we find the Nordic countries either very far from or very close to the ‘centre’ of the story. I use the term story here, because any history of Modernism is at least as much a history of the narratives, myths and rhetorics that people have used to understand and respond to it as it is a story of artists and designers. The mythologizing of mid-century ‘Scandinavian Design’ internationally is a prominent example that will be discussed (McFadden 1982; Halén and Wickman 2003; Fallan 2012). The breakthrough of Modernism in Nordic painting in the 1880s and 1890s is another story that has received scholarly attention outside the Nordic countries (Gunnarsson 1998; Jackson et al. 2012). These two stories, however, remain strangely separate. What were all the designers and architects doing while the artists were transforming Parisian Modernism into something new and distinctive? What then happened to all the artists in the mid-twentieth century, when ‘Scandinavian Design’ was taking the world by storm? This division between fine and applied arts is misleading, but it persists in part because of the enduring power of those stories, those two ‘Golden Ages’ of the fin-de-siècle and the 1950s. This book does not seek to deny the importance of these two cultural moments, but to embed them more fully



in their wider context and look at what happens when art, architecture and design are considered alongside one another. This is particularly important because the decades in question, from the 1890s onwards, were marked by a commitment to integrating art with everyday life. The scope of the book, which focuses on the eight decades between 1890 and 1970 and ranges across the five Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, does not seek to be exhaustive. I have taken the decision to build the book around a set of case studies, rather than attempt an encyclopaedic overview of the multiple figures across each field. This choice is based on my experience teaching this material over a number of years and my own recollections of wrestling with survey texts in which each unfamiliar name is accorded their own paragraph or two before the next piece of unfamiliar information is introduced. The effect of such arrangements is, I believe, one in which the first-time reader struggles to see the woods for the trees, however significant and apposite each tree in that wood is. I believe it is when individual objects (trees) are considered in greater depth that the penny drops and a more effective picture of the culture (the wood as a whole) can be grasped. That is: a coherent picture of change over time and a sense of the key ideas relating to modernity, history and identity that shaped the development of Modernism in the region. A history made up of detailed explorations of individual objects, art works and buildings offers important opportunities to consider the complex interplay of materials, form, artist/designer intensions, audience and reception. The bibliography will ameliorate some of the disadvantages of this selective approach, directing readers to further reading and recent research by both Nordic and non-Nordic scholars, with priority given to English-language sources. In an effort to prioritize the readability of the text, the titles of institutions, societies and manufacturers will all be given in English, place names will be given in their English variants where these exist and Oslo will be referred to as Oslo throughout, rather than tackling the various name changes the city went through. The Icelandic convention of referring to people by their first names, rather than last, will be observed. The case studies chosen have been selected to open up the relatively unknown world of Nordic art, architecture and design and allow for both a sense of overview and a window into the broad array of factors shaping culture in the region. I have attempted to strike a balance between a ‘greatest hits’ selection of works of well-established significance and being wilfully iconoclastic: no one wants the first book on Scandinavian art they buy to ignore Aalto and Munch. The wider context of social and cultural history within which the selected works appear will help defuse any ideas of natural, innate, Nordic genius. The history presented here is a tapestry of multiple histories and Modernism as a similar accumulation of impulses, events, discussions



and objects. This perspective will allow readers to respond critically to the lionizing narratives that surround the success of mid-twentieth-century Nordic architecture and design. The case studies have been selected to give a sense of the wider cultural forces shaping the period as well as the surrounding infrastructure of influential cultural institutions, the professionalization of art and design practice and the markets within which works were produced. I have attempted to maintain a balance of coverage across the different Nordic nations and across art, architectural and design case studies. The number of case studies per chapter diminishes over the course of the book, to allow for the development of greater depth as we proceed towards greater familiarity with the cultures in question. Various threads are set up to allow the reader to make connections across the chapters. For example, building types, the city hall and the home, bring to the fore how architectural ideas resonate from one period or place to another, what changes and what remains the same. Another key thread is the contribution of women practitioners. This reflects both the prominence of Nordic women in the arena of the arts and a structural thread to chart how the position of women practitioners changed, or did not change, over the period. Each chapter also includes a focus on the presentation of Nordic art and design at major exhibition events, which foregrounds the efforts made to shape public attitudes about and by means of art and design. Nations and their roots in the past, performed by means of the revival of historical forms and techniques in contemporary work and the conservation of old buildings, resurface in each chapter as a persistent dimension of Modernism. The number of examples is necessarily selective and guided by my own interests as a scholar and as an individual. Particularly in the field of design, where the range of object types is potentially vast, I have restricted the scope to the more traditional fields of the applied arts: textiles, ceramics, glass and home furnishings. This is done in an effort to sustain resonances between the chapters, rather than exclude product design or vehicle design from the canon. Alternative histories could very well be woven out of alternative cross sections cut. It is my hope that this text will make the field of Nordic art and design more accessible to outsiders and prompt further work by both Nordic and non-Nordic authors to explore these multiple histories further.

Modernisms Modernism in the Nordic countries is marked, as it is everywhere, by its own particular trajectories and ebbs and flows. As the transfer of knowledge and ideas



between nations accelerated towards the end of the nineteenth century, new forms of modernity became possible. Ideas that in the cultural centres of Britain and France might be regarded as happening in a particular chronological order could be adopted all at once or in different configurations by artists and designers encountering them afresh. In this way, new Modernisms were forged from the simultaneous adoption of the latest as well as supposedly outdated ideas and the fusion of these imported ideas with domestic traditions and concerns. The interrelationship between modernity and tradition, the past and the future, was not unique to the Nordic countries. It is characteristic of Modernisms in all times and places, though this relationship was downplayed in early histories of the movement that emphasized forward progress and technical innovation (Pevsner 1936; Greenberg 1961). Each generation of artists and designers considered here were taught by the generation before and grounded in a history of their own practice that they continued to draw on in different ways. Across the Nordic region, and again this is not unique, the nation and references to national tradition continued to be important to artists and designers who understood their work as making a contribution to national culture. Nations themselves, as social, political and cultural constructs, are a product of modernity (Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983; Smith 2008). The nation, with its gaze to the past, maintains a necessary but paradoxical relationship with Modernism’s gaze to the future. Crucially, a nation needs a vision of its past in order to envision its future, and the process of nationbuilding is therefore necessarily oriented in both directions (Nairn 1997, 1–6). Modernism, however, is not solely oriented towards the future. With its emphasis on change, it necessarily also included a sense of loss and the desire to preserve or recover aspects of the past deemed to be valuable and still relevant (Foucault 2002, 400–407). Through this book, we will consider the role of art, architecture and design in mediating societies’ and the individual’s experience of past, present and future. In recent decades much work has been done across the humanities to break down the inflexible paradigm of a single Euro-centric story of Modernity, within which Modernism operates. ‘The core of multiple modernities lies in assuming the existence of culturally specific forms of modernity shaped by distinct cultural heritages and sociopolitical conditions’ (Eisenstadt 2002, 1). The idea of ‘modernities’ allows for a greater acknowledgement of plural experiences of Modernism, across a broader chronological and geographical range. This approach does away with the sense of a core ‘primary’ Modernism and a series of subsequent more or less ‘tardy’, more or less ‘complete’ Modernisms that followed it. It is valuable in facilitating an exploration of different manifestations of Modernism on their own terms (Brooker and Thacker 2005; Santos and Ribeiro 2008). At the same time, it should not



obscure the fact that perception of a culture’s tardiness and incompleteness in relation to ideas of Modernism originating elsewhere may well still have played a formative role in that culture’s experience of Modernism. The architectural historian Sarah William Goldhagen has noted the persistence of the lingering influence of the traditional, dominant story of Modernism. She has suggested that we consider Modernism, not as a single model based on style, periodization, movement or individual intentions, but as a discourse (Goldhagen 2005). This model regards architectural Modernism as something emerging and evolving across the broad field of architectural production, buildings, drawings, competitions and texts that sought to engage with the challenges posed by the modern world. What this perspective offers is an examination of how buildings, materials and forms acquired cultural meaning, outside of an established narrative of progress and innovation. This approach can be extended across the arts and opens the door to a story made up of multiple narratives and fragments. Through each case study, we see the contribution of a single object to the evolving narrative of Modern art and design. The relationships between objects, the resonances they establish, make up a story comprised of multiple actors: materials, forms, patterns, techniques, ideas, texts and images and the human actors themselves (artist or designer, patrons and critics). This perspective is guided by Actor Network Theory, which has been influential in recent years, particularly within design history (Latour 2005; Fallan 2014, 66–78). This approach moves beyond emphasis on a single individual as the originator of meaning to consider the networks of factors or multiple actors within which ideas and practices evolved. Within this book, I have tried to sketch out some of the range of factors that contributed to the meanings invested in a single art work, object or building. Writing history is always a process of walking a fine line. On one hand, lies the goal of a clear, comprehensible narrative that excludes extraneous detail to allow the key ideas to shine through. This is accompanied by the danger of fundamentally distorting the story in pursuit of clarity. On the other hand lies the desire for the accurate representation of the untidy reality of how things are made, the networks of actors involved and multiple further clarifications, among which all sense of what is going on can become hopelessly lost. My approach here, through the case studies, is an attempt to negotiate this balance.

The Nordic Region The decision to present an intertwined history of this region, made up of five separate countries, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, is based



on two factors. First, the close historical and cultural ties that made these neighbours mutual points of reference in the formation and development of their national cultures. Second, it is a desire to explore the reception history of these cultures, which in an English-language context have tended to be regarded as a unified whole. Incidentally, I will be sticking to the term ‘Nordic’ to describe the region, rather than the term Scandinavian, which is established English usage, but which does not properly include Finland and Iceland. This regional focus is not without its problems. Germany to the South or Russia to the East could equally be said to partake in a wider ‘Northern European’ cultural sphere, rich in mutual influence. The fascination of architects and designers with English Arts and Crafts theory and the artists’ pilgrimage to Paris was common across Europe more broadly. Mass emigration from the Nordic countries to American also set up a conduit of engagement with emerging American currents of Modernism. But though it would be pointless to isolate the Nordic countries from their wider European and international context, they remain bound together by more than mere proximity. The local/colonial history of the region set up webs of relationships between Norway and her former colonial masters, first Denmark and then Sweden, and between Iceland and Denmark. Finland similarly maintained a complex relationship with Sweden, of which she was formerly a part, both seeking to shrug off Swedish influence while still regarding it as an important conduit for modern ideas. Norway’s National Romantic movement from the early nineteenth century made it a model for national revivals in Finland, Iceland and Sweden. Cultural interrelationship was explored in events like the Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition in Copenhagen in 1888 and the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914, which will be considered as case studies. Professional and personal relationships were also maintained at meetings of Nordic architects and among Nordic artists in Paris (Röstorp 2013). Iceland is very much the smallest of these nations and coverage of Icelandic material is weighted to reflect the gradual development of an independent art and design culture over the period of this study. The historical starting point for the events covered in this book is the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars that shook up the political landscape of Europe in the early nineteenth century. The results of the peace treaties that concluded this conflict saw a major re-drawing of territorial boundaries in the Nordic region. Norway, which had been subject to Danish rule since the formation of the Kalmar Union in 1397, was handed over to Sweden, though Denmark kept the traditionally Norwegian colonies of Iceland and Greenland. Sweden, in turn, lost the Grand Duchy of Finland, which had been part of Sweden since the twelfth century, to Russia (Griffiths 2004, 7–31). This rearrangement of boarders had significant repercussions in terms of evolving national identities. The two ancient kingdoms of Denmark and



Sweden felt the losses of territory keenly. Cultural achievements would be one way of recovering prestige. For Denmark this loss was exacerbated through the nineteenth century by further territorial losses to Germany, to the south (Jespersen 2011, 21–25). Though Sweden acquired territory, in the form of Norway, it had to seize it by force, as the Norwegians attempted to take the opportunity to declare independence on the 17 May 1814 (Yilek 2015). This frustrated bid for independence spring-loaded the nationalist movement in Norway. The absence of political opportunities directed nationalist efforts into the cultural sphere. Cultural nationalism, in the form of the recovery of national heritage and the invention of a new national culture, therefore happened earlier in Norway than elsewhere in Europe (Falnes 1968). In Finland too, her new identity as a Russian territory precipitated the development of modern Finnish national identity. Unlike in Norway, the transfer to a new authority was peaceful and the Russian Tsar undertook to maintain the Swedish rule of law and the use of the Swedish language in the Grand Duchy (Jutikkala and Pirinen 2003, 287–298). Nonetheless, as the century progressed, the logic of a Swedish-language culture operating in a Russianruled state came under pressure. Finnish-language cultural nationalism began to have a stronger appeal, based on a Romantic association between land, people and mother tongue. Iceland did not prosper under Norwegian and Danish rule. Economic devastation caused by volcanic eruptions, climate change and crop failures was exacerbated by a disadvantageous trade monopoly controlled by Denmark. Such were the hardships that the population of Iceland declined between 1703 and 1801 from 50,358 to 47, 852 (Jón 1993, 97). The very small size of the Icelandic population had a necessary impact on culture. The lack of a prosperous middle class of any size to provide patronage meant visual and material culture was dominated by folk artists and craftsmen and, for those few who could afford it, imported objects. The modernization of Iceland’s fishing fleet through the nineteenth century gradually increased prosperity and provided capital for further development (Jón 1993, 111). In general, the Nordic region benefited from the peace and prosperity that marked Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Growing populations and cities lead to demand for the agricultural products and building timber that lay at the heart of the economies of the Nordic countries. Economic organization, in the form of savings banks and co-operatives and later commercial banks, provided the capital for growth across the region. Similarly, population growth and the concentration of this population in the developing towns and cities created the social factors that drove cultural development.



Contents overview The book is divided into five chapters arranged chronologically:

Chapter 1: Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism This chapter will establish the foundations for the advent of Modernism in the region. Case studies will range from Johan Christian Dahl’s National Romantic painting, Winter at the Sognefjord (1827) through the engagement with national history in Helgo Zettervall’s restoration of Lund Cathedral though the 1860s and 1870s and Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Boy with a Crow (1884). The case studies allow for the introduction of the institutional landscape: the founding of the Academies or of other schools of art and design and the professional societies that emerged through this century. In the applied arts the major manufacturing companies, Gustavsberg and Bing & Grøndahl, serve as an example of emerging opportunities for professional designers and early attempts to integrate the needs of art and industry. A major theme will be the flow of national and international ideas and expertise from within and outside of the region and the parallel pulls of modernization and national awakening necessitated by the political pressures of the nineteenth century.

Chapter 2: 1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age This chapter will explore a period considered within most art historical studies to be a Golden Age or the breakthrough of Modernism. The case studies presented here will give a window onto the rich creativity and experimentation of the period, as the foundations established in the nineteenth century provided opportunities for innovative forms of cultural production. The nation and modernity intertwine as themes across the fine and applied arts as experiments with new art and design ideologies and new forms and materials produced a distinctive contribution to European Modernism. The selection of case studies will include some iconic and some lesserknown works. Among the ideas behind the selection, there is the intention to foreground the work of women artists and designers and of cross-overs between the fine and applied arts. Art textiles and ceramics will be contrasted to more prosaic historicist design that would continue to dominate the domestic



market. The home will be introduced as a recurring subject through the book by the case study of Gerhard Munthe’s villa at Lysaker, Norway (1898–99).

Chapter 3: 1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision This chapter will explore the return to Classical forms that characterized the period between the expressive experimentation of around 1900 and the advent of Modernism and Abstraction in the 1930s. Rather than suggesting a return to order and a break with what went before, the case studies will emphasize the continued pursuit of a synthesis between the national and the modern in the form of a pursuit of a resolution to the question of what modern art and design should look like. This will also be an opportunity to consider the factors shaping the historiography of Modernism. The new phenomenon of the museum dedicated to a single artist as a cultural hero will be considered in relation to the developing art cultures of the region and the tensions between the role of national artist and the international art world. Cast studies such as Edvard Munch’s murals for University of Oslo (1916) and Sigrid Hjertén’s Studio (1917) will highlight the continuation of process of marrying Modernist idiom with local and personal meaning.

Chapter 4: 1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life This chapter will examine the period where modern design was introduced to the general public through major domestic exhibitions, in particular the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition, as well as through printed sources. Case studies such as the new housing exhibits in the Stockholm Exhibition suggested the need for a new way of living and public projects continued efforts to provide art for the people. In the same period figures such as Sven Markelius and Alvar Aalto were part of international Modernist circles, through their membership of CIAM (Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne). International critical responses to their work, particularly Aalto’s, laid the foundation for the particular attention paid to Nordic architecture and design in the postwar period. The build up to and trauma of the Second World War and its effects on the production of art will be a key theme towards the close of this chapter.



Chapter 5: 1950–1970 – Postwar Modern This chapter will focus on the triumph of Modernism in the Nordic countries and on its reception abroad. The dual aspects of this focus will be, on the domestic front, the identification between a Modernist idiom and various dimensions of the postwar reconstruction, the welfare state and the collectivist ideology of the period. On the international front, the myth-making surrounding the marketing of ‘Scandinavian’ Design will be considered against the background of the Cold War. Case studies have been selected to explore the limitations and endurance of the mythologizing of the Modernism of this period, through consideration of the variety of practices within it and the factors precipitating and inhibiting its universal acceptance. The fine-art case studies included again highlight the divergences and ongoing relationships between the overlapping fields of fine art and design and help us to problematize what is understood as Modernism.

1 Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


his first chapter focuses on the foundations needed for the birth of Modernism in the Nordic region. This includes a growing public for art and the emergence of a network of institutions, schools and societies for promoting cultural development in their respective countries. This institutional landscape, the founding of Academies or other schools of art and design as well as the professional societies that emerged through the course of the nineteenth century, provided the context for the training and practice of artists, architects and designers through much of the twentieth century. In relation to the applied arts, a couple of major manufacturing companies will be introduced to illustrate the emerging opportunities for professional designers and the early stages of attempts to bring art into industry. A major theme across this chapter, and indeed across the whole book, will be the flow of national and international ideas and expertise from within and outside of the region. The culture of the nineteenth century will be seen to be marked by parallel impulses of modernization, that is enthusiasm for new ideas and new techniques and technologies, and national expression, that is adapting these new approaches to suit and reflect local needs and identities. The political upheavals of the early nineteenth century, outlined in the Introduction, and the subsequent pressures to define and maintain national identity can be seen reflected across the arts. Culture was a central element in creating and maintaining shared identities. As societies changed, and the towns and cities grew and distances between the Nordic countries and the outside world began to shrink, the arts offered an arena for reaffirming ties to the past, as well as celebrating current and future achievements.



Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Christian Grosch, University of Oslo, 1838–52 The main building of the University of Oslo, by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781–1841) and Christian Heinrich Grosch (1801–65) is an example, as an institution and as a design, of the urge towards the development of national cultures in the Nordic region (Figure  1.1) The building represents a fusion of practices that might be regarded as both new and traditional, modern and conservative. Grosch was a dominant figure in Norwegian architecture through the first half of the nineteenth century, becoming the city architect for Oslo in 1828. His career was intimately tied to this period in the building of Norwegian public and cultural life, as new Norwegian institutions were founded following the break from Denmark. Schinkel was the pre-eminent German architect of the nineteenth century, with an international reputation. He acted as a consultant on the project, reviewing and substantially redrafting Grosch’s original plans (Seip et al. 2001, 141–153). Grosch trained at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. This was the oldest Academy of Art in the Nordic region. It had been founded in 1738 by King Christian VI, who was motivated by the desire to have trained Danish artists and architects at his disposal,

FIGURE 1.1   Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Christian Grosch, University of Oslo, Oslo, 1838–52.

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


rather than remain dependent on foreigners to fulfil his cultural ambitions. The teaching was based on the French Academy model emphasizing the cultural authority of Greek and Roman antiquity. Art students worked on draughtsmanship, copying from plaster casts of antique sculpture and finally progressing to drawing from live models. Architectural teaching was similarly dominated by the study of classical antiquity. All students and staff at this time were male. Up until 1818 there was nowhere in Norway that could provide professional training in the art and design. Training was undertaken either abroad or in a trade context with apprentices learning from master painters, carpenters or builders. The Royal School of Drawing in Oslo was founded in 1818 with the aspiration that it would become a full-blown Academy of Art, like that in Copenhagen. This proved to be beyond the resources of the small nation at this time, but it provided preliminary training in technical and artistic drawing and a foundation for future developments (Fallan 2016, 14–18). Grosch’s father, Heinrich August Grosch, was originally from Germany and had trained as an artist at the Copenhagen Academy in the 1790s. He became one of the first instructors at the School of Drawing in Oslo in 1819 (Vibe 2009). In 1820, his son Christian Grosch, who had studied under him in Oslo, won a scholarship to go and study at the Copenhagen Academy. Despite the 1814 break with Denmark, the majority of Norwegian artists and architects continued to be drawn to Copenhagen to complete their professional training for much of the nineteenth century. The Royal Norwegian Society for Development, which funded Grosch’s scholarship, was an example of the societies founded at various times across the Nordic countries to promote social, cultural and economic development. It was founded in 1809 and its activities ranged from improving agricultural productivity to the founding of University of Oslo (Collett 2009). Particularly in the emergent nations of Norway, Finland and latterly Iceland, there was a concrete sense of a need for an organized and co-ordinated response to the challenges of nation-building. Grosch returned to Oslo from Copenhagen in 1824 and was well-placed to offer his services to the newly expanding Norwegian state. Though not yet independent, new national institutions were being set up and required new buildings. Grosch designed a large number of important civic buildings and churches, including the Stock Exchange (1826–28), the National Bank (1826–30) and the National Hospital (1826–42) (Seip 2009). His work on the university main building was undertaken between 1838 and 1854. The university had been founded in 1811 by King Frederik VI of Denmark. It was known as the Royal Frederik University until 1939 and represents another impulse to achieve intellectual and cultural independence from both Copenhagen and Stockholm. The function of the building as a Norwegian seat of higher learning embodied the ambitions that the Norwegian intelligentsia



had for their nation. The university was founded to provide the civil servants, teachers, doctors and clergymen that the new nation would need. The sober Greek classical style exemplified their aspirations that Norway could take part in and contribute to the world of European learning and culture (Seip et  al. 2001, 145). The visual language of the facade and the formal layout of the interior were based on the international language of Classicism taught by the Copenhagen Academy. At the same time, the building represented an engagement with new architectural thinking coming out of Germany, particularly regarding the relationship of architecture to national identity. The contracting in of Schinkel’s expertise, mandated by parliament, was a reflection of both the perceived importance of the building and the limitations of the skills and knowledge yet available within Norway. The arrangement was brokered by another architect, Hans Linstow (1787–1851), who had established contact with Schinkel while on a state-funded study tour connected to his work designing the new Oslo Royal Palace. Grosch’s plans were sent to Schinkel in 1838. Turning to Germany as a source of new thinking and expertise made sense for a Norwegian architect working on developing an architectural culture for the emerging Norwegian state. Norway’s political position in a reluctant union with Sweden, after centuries of Danish rule, meant that both near neighbours carried associations of cultural and political domination that an increasingly separatist new nation could well find unsuitable. Germany’s energetic nationalist movement in the long build up to German unification was a source of inspiration for Norwegian nationalists. The German lands were an important area for the development of theories of nationhood. In particular, those tied to language and culture such as the work of Gottfried Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt and Friedrich Schlegel, which were influential across the Nordic region and Eastern Europe (Lane 2000, 8–13; Bilenky 2012). Germany’s rapidly developing industrial base, growing cities and growing intellectual dominance in Europe made it an important source for new ideas across the Nordic countries. A series of architectural treaties had been published in Germany through the nineteenth century which argued various positions on the question of what style was best suited to the expression of nineteenth-century culture and German identity (Hübsch 1992). Through the course of this debate a number of influential associations were forged that emphasized an understanding of architecture in which materials, construction and ornament should reflect and reinforce the identity of the building, its function and its location. The idea of location or site was understood in geographical terms and called upon architects to be responsiveness to local climate, typography and traditions. It was also considered in more ideological or psychological terms, so that a building

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


should respond to its place in a particular national context: it should in some way be appropriately Norwegian or German. This brings us to the idea of a National Style. Style is a slippery term and has its origins in this period and in the birth of art history as a discipline (Preziosi 2009, 115–148). It sought to categorize cultural production through identifying primary characteristics, in a manner based on contemporary scientific method. In art history these principles came to signify primarily the visual, so in broad terms the Classical style could be identified by attributes such as symmetry, horizontal emphasis, balance and classical details in the form of columns, pediments and so on. This broad classification could be further broken down into different period styles and an array of art historical literature emerged to tabulate these (Schafter 2003). The term ‘style’ has its limitations in contemporary use because of this reductive emphasis on what something looks like as a means of placing it in a pre-established story of art or design. An emphasis on style would place the university building on the basis of its formal language, particularly the main facades, in relation to the history of European Classicism. In such a reading many of the nuances about this particular project would be lost. At the same time we cannot discard the concept of style because it remained the dominant lens through which art, architecture and design was understood and discussed through the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century. The meaning of the term evolved and slipped back and forth between being a shorthand for visual characteristics, usually with a reference to past historical periods, and a broader sense, encompassing the overall ethos of the design inside and out. When we approach the end of the century and the search for a ‘new style’, this latter definition carried increasing weight. Through the nineteenth century the main building materials in the Nordic countries shifted from wood towards brick, at least within the towns. Admiration for the language of Classicism, however, meant that these brick buildings were almost always clad in gypsum and plaster that was moulded and painted to look like stone. The university buildings were arranged around three sides of square, with the main building in the centre and identical flanking pavilions to either side. They were constructed in brick, with the exception of the main portico. The focus point was the central portico of the main building, behind which a grand processional staircase led up into the main hall of the university. The buildings were united by means of their pale colour of their plaster cladding, the regularity of pilasters and columns arranged across the facades and the uniform horizontals of the buildings’ cornices and courses. The basement level was scored with deep grooves in imitation of the giant blocks of stone used in the rusticated lower floors of ancient classical buildings. One dimension of evolving discussions of style in the nineteenth century was the consideration given to materials. Schinkel was among the German



architects interested in returning to ancient practices of building in stone, rather than brick with plaster facades. This related to the nineteenth-century anxiety that contemporary culture did not measure up to the standards of the past, where architecture and the arts was more noble and enduring. The quarrying, dressing and carving of stone was, however, very expensive and beyond the budget of the University of Oslo. Schinkel however recommended that the main portico of the university building be executed in Norwegian marble in order to both reflect the dignity of the building and make it more Norwegian. Though this would still drastically increase the cost of the project, the idea was welcomed as one that would promote the re-opening of Norwegian marble quarries and benefit the Norwegian building industry overall. In the end the slightly cheaper option of Norwegian granite was used, quarried from outside Oslo (Aslaksby and Hamran 1986, 6). The use of native Norwegian stone in the columns of the main portico is a significant feature within the design and served an ideological purpose in addition to an aesthetic one. The use of native materials, particularly stone, with its associations with the landscape and literal bedrock of the nation made it a powerfully symbolic material. It also spoke of an explicit connection to contemporary debates on the use of stone taking place across Europe, making it a statement of both national identity and awareness of international trends (Ringbom 1987). In 1842, Grosch himself had travelled to Germany and had been introduced to the practice of casting sculptures and architectural ornament in zinc. Zinc ornament did not address concerns about the imitation of stone forms in plaster, but it was at least lighter and less likely to fall off the building as a result of frost damage. The capitals for the columns and pilasters were purchased from the Moritz Geiss firm in Berlin (Aslaksby and Hamran 1986). The main portico thus represents a fusion of techniques and materials, innovation and tradition. Schinkel’s hand can also be seen in the arrangement of the processional space through the main portico. The staircase occupies a substantial proportion of the central building. It directly reuses the form of the ceremonial staircase Schinkel built for the Altes Museum in Berlin in the period 1823–30. The process of ascending the main flight of stairs from outside the building and then proceeding beneath the colonnade up the twin half turn staircases to the galleried walkway above was an intentionally theatrical experience. Its aim was to underline the solemn nature of the university’s undertaking as a site of national education. The visitor is literally and metaphorically elevated and the surrounding classical columns as well as the view out onto the university square performs the institution’s function of bringing classical learning to Norway. The cultural optimism and ambition embodied in the University of Oslo building reflected the growth of an empowered middle class who sought to position themselves in relation to a modernizing Europe. The institutions and

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societies that drove national development across the region were located in the towns and cities, particularly in the capital cities. This context of urbanization is one of the reasons for the rising importance of landscape painting as a genre. The urban middle classes provide much of the patronage for fine and applied art, just as they drove the founding of national institutions such as the Royal School of Drawing and the university. Landscape painting in particular offered them a way to affirm their connection to the nation, even while they looked to Europe for new ideas, technical solutions and business models. Landscape painting remained a key genre across the Nordic countries well into the twentieth century.

Johan Christian Dahl, Winter at the Sognefjord, 1827 The Norwegian painter Johan Christian Dahl was a central figure in establishing native landscapes as a subject of art in the Nordic countries and in imbuing them with not just topographical, but National Romantic meaning. National Romanticism is the term used for the cultural movements associated with Norway and later the other Nordic countries in which the tenets of nineteenth-century Romanticism fused with explicit nationbuilding programmes to pursue artistic expression in a national vein (Falnes 1968; Lane 2000, 1–16). Romanticism, in this sense, can be summarized as a focus on the evocation of psycho-emotional effects on the individual, be they experiences of love, terror, wonder or spiritual transcendence. It represents a counter-current to the positivism and rationalism of much nineteenth-century thought. The label National Romanticism is also used across Eastern and Central Europe, though less commonly in Western Europe. This raises the issue of the very real limitations of art historical labels, where different terms come into use for similar ideas in different places. The Romanticism within the Gothic Revival movements and later within Arts and Crafts, for example, overlaps considerably with the ideology of National Romanticism. Similarly, the concern for a connection with national history and a non-classical heritage that marks the Gothic Revival and concerns relating to vernacular traditions, materials and techniques found in the Arts and Crafts movement can also be traced in works and projects labelled National Romantic. References to these labels have been retained because they still function as a shorthand to connect individual works to a wider context of more or less similar examples. Dahl began his life-long engagement with the Norwegian landscape as a subject while working in Rome in the 1820s. This apparent contradiction demonstrates the conceptual nature of these landscapes as evocations of



a place, rather than records of particular times and sites. Though sketching directly from nature was to play an important role in the development of this genre, it was the idea of Norway, its landscape, its people, its history, its essential character, that Dahl sought to encapsulate and communicate. This geographical distance of Rome and later Germany from Norway raises an important idea for any consideration of national identity. It was through leaving the nation that a crystallized sense of it was achieved. Similarly, it was the international context of culture and international politics following the Napoleonic Wars that drove the development of nationalisms. Without ‘the foreign’ and ‘the other’ there is no need for the concept of the nation. It was through the encounter with other peoples and places that ideas of national essence and national character could be developed. There are many significant theories regarding the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, but whether it is industrialization and the destabilization of tradition (Gellner 1983) or the rise of a middle class and a shared identity created through the printed word (Anderson 1983), the modern nation had to be defined (Hutchinson and Smith 1994; Smith 2008). Typically a set of amorphous positive values were ascribed to the people (brave, artistic, spiritual) and was accompanied by a more concrete value of difference (not Danish, not Swedish, not Russian etc.). Dahl studied at the Copenhagen Academy from 1811. Danish artists, coming out of the Academy, were at this period developing a school of painting focused on a fusion of the Danish landscape and a spirit of harmonious Classicism that has become known as the Golden Age of Danish painting Gunnarsson 1998; Berman 2007). In Copenhagen, Dahl also had the opportunity to study the emerging discipline of Scandinavian archaeology. National history and the mark of the past left on the landscape were to become important themes in Dahl’s work. Dahl did not remain in Copenhagen nor did he return to Norway, except for visits. His artistic and intellectual ambitions demanded close contact with larger and more developed cultural milieu and client bases (Bang 1987; Friborg and Dahl 1999). He built his career in Dresden from 1818 onwards, eventually becoming a professor at the Dresden Academy. Here he also established his friendship with Caspar David Friedrich, an established German Romantic landscape painter. Friedrich developed his own Romantic visual language in which landscape became a vehicle for the individual’s striving for contact with God, with the spirit of the nation and with his own soul (Guratzsch et al. 2002). We can see elements of this in Dahl’s Winter at the Sognefjord, 1827 (Plate 1). The low viewpoint suggests that we, as viewers, stand on the same promontory as the great stone menhir, at some distance from it, contemplating the view before us. The landscape is vast and bleak, in the grip of winter. On the opposite shore, the looming mountains dwarf the hamlet of wooden cottages that cling to its snow-clad foothills above the fjord. Mankind’s

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


existence here is implicitly fragile and requires continuous strenuous effort. At the same time, the wooden houses are a natural part of the landscape, barely discernible from  the other patches of trees, grasses and rocks that emerge  from beneath the snow. The people, in the sense of the peasants who live here, are portrayed as an intrinsic and enduring part of this landscape. The stone menhir also speaks of another form of human presence in the landscape: the ancient pagan Viking culture that occupied these lands in the past. This offers a counterbalance to the wilderness and poverty that could be read into the scene. The stone is mysterious, its exact purpose unknown, but it carries associations of pre-Christian Gods and ancient greatness. Where we stand, with the artist, before the stone, we enjoy the privileged view of being able to see and understand all this. We are invited to see and understand the majestic beauty of the scene, captured in the blush of the dying sun of a short winter’s day catching the tip of the menhir and turning the clouds pink. At the same time as this, we are awed and rendered humble by the glowering menace of the mountain side where it is cast into shadow. Dahl creates and communicates a vision of an explicit and significant connection between the power of nature, the people and the national past. These are the key ingredients in National Romanticism, with the fourth key ingredient  being the artist himself, and his projected audience, the modern Norwegian. Nationalism as a project and as a philosophy is Janus-faced because a nation must have a past, from which it has come, and a future towards which it must strive. Within nationalism the past becomes an intimate and active feature in the creation of the nation’s present and future (Nairn 1997). This striving to position the self in relation to place and history was a natural extension of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment project to know and understand the world. But it was given an increasingly anxious imperative as the pace of change accelerated through the nineteenth century. Winter at the Sognefjord embraces the threatening and unknowable nature of the world at the same time as it reassures us as to the presence of enduring truths: the nation, its past and its future. Dahl’s work had an evangelical goal. His exposure to the latest European schools of thought regarding painting, philosophy, politics and the emerging disciplines of archaeology, ethnography and art history ignited his art with a greater purpose. The context for his thinking was German Romantic theories of nationalism, which have already been alluded to. Within this framework nations were identifiable by means of national languages and national cultures. Cultural achievements, be they in art, literature or music, served as evidence of a strong and distinct national culture. Dahl’s paintings sought to celebrate the distinct Norwegian landscape as a means of promoting a re-evaluation of Norwegian culture. This celebration acted as a response to the framing of the



Norwegian landscape as harsh and inharmonious in contrast to the hegemonic Arcadian pastoral landscapes of the South that dominated traditional ideas of beauty. This shift towards a celebration of a Northern aesthetic of dramatic contrasts, characterized as Gothic, is a feature of the national movements of the Nordic countries and similarly Germany and Great Britain. In part, it was a refutation, common to many Northern and Eastern European nationalisms, of the long cultural dominance of the Mediterranean Classical tradition (Herder 1785), though, as we shall see, the Classical was never fully ousted from a position of cultural significance. Dahl’s landscapes often included monuments like the menhir or examples of vernacular architecture that alluded to a heritage other than the Classical. His conception of the nation fused people and landscape, past and present. He  was instrumental in setting up the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Antiquities to document and save Norway’s material cultural heritage. In  particular, he was responding to the demolition, as parishes grew in size, of ancient stave churches, some of which dated back to the twelfth century. The society was established in 1844 and within four years had nearly 900 members, which gives an indication of the vitality of the national movement and the growing recognition of the importance of national heritage to the nation-building project. Dahl’s paintings contributed to the development of this perception, as did his book on early Norwegian architecture (Dahl 1837). Through a closer examination of Winter at the Sognefjord, it is also possible to gain a greater understanding of the art world at the time. Dahl’s many paintings of the Norwegian landscape were based on sketching expeditions back to Norway. The paintings themselves were executed in his studio back in Dresden. The sketch on which Winter at the Sognefjord was based was dated 19 August 1826, undertaken on Dahl’s first Norwegian expedition the previous year. There is, therefore, a balance struck between the real, in the sense of the accurate depiction of the landscape and nature, and the ideal, as composed and polished in the painter’s studio. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the emphasis on direct engagement with nature grew in importance. The painting was bought by a Dr Crusius in Leipzig who already owned a seascape by Dahl (Bang 1987, 182–183). Though now in the national collection of Norway (since 1977), the extent to which it is ‘a Norwegian painting’ needs to be considered in this light. Dahl was a Norwegian and a patriot and the subject was explicitly Norwegian, yet the painting was executed, critically received and remained in the context of the German art world for decades. It reached a Norwegian public only through publication and not until the 1890s (Aubert 1893). The transnational history of nationalism and ideas of the North needs to be considered when reflecting on why a German was drawn to purchase multiple works by Dahl. Dahl’s Norwegian scenes appealed to collectors across

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


Europe. The search for enduring values, for an identity that transcended the vicissitudes of a modernizing world drove intellectuals and artists towards an engagement with the past. Dahl’s landscapes would, to non-Norwegians, still speak of the wildernesses in which old ways of life persisted and the exotic mysteries of the mythic North. Romanticism and nationalism can seem like philosophical currents that run directly counter to Modernism’s emphasis on the international and the future and yet they run as a continuous vein of thought through many Modernisms. Dahl’s integration of national history into his work was not an isolated incident. History took on a vital importance through the nineteenth century. It was a tool for understanding the rapid changes European society was experiencing and a means by which to identify what had deep enough roots to survive in a rapidly changing world. Dahl’s interest in antiquities had parallels all over Europe. Collectors and conservationists sought out old buildings, old customs, old songs and dances, old objects and old stories, as artefacts of vanished or vanishing cultures. Folk material, from being the disregarded practices of poor, uneducated people, became invested with new national importance. ‘The people’ were felt to have preserved the ‘true’ culture of the nation, unpolluted by the shifting transnational tastes of high culture. Across the Nordic countries researchers were inspired by these ideas. This thinking had a direct impact on art, architecture and design. Folk culture represented an alternative, seemingly authentic, national cultural tradition. Though artists, designers and architects never ceased to look and to travel abroad for new ideas, through the latter half of the nineteenth century, they increasingly also considered their native cultures worthy of investigation. Though the Nordic countries were comparatively unindustrialized, the cities were growing and more and more people were living new patterns of life, away from the rural districts in which they were born. The middle- and u ­ pperclass patrons of culture, in particular, increasingly lived mostly in the towns and cities. It was these classes that substantially provided the researchers, academics and writers who presented a new vision of folk culture and it was in the middle-class home that peasant artefacts and images took on this transformed meaning.

Amalia Lindegren, Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage, 1860 Amalia Lindegren’s (1814–91) Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage (1860) is a Swedish example of the high-culture appropriation of peasant life as a subject (Figure  1.2). The painting represents a powerful mixture of the real and the



FIGURE 1.2   Amalia Lindegren, Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage, oil on canvas, 1860. © National Museum of Sweden (photo: Nationalmuseum). idealized. It does not take an acutely critical eye to note how clean and tidy this cottage is and how well-fed, well-dressed and happy all the people are. There is no hint here of the rural hardship that was starting to accelerate emigration to the United States. Crop failure in the late 1860s saw 103,000 Swedes leave for America between 1868 and 1873 (Ljungmark and Westerberg 2008, 12). The idealization of rural life within the painting is accompanied by a firm emphasis on a certain kind of authenticity. The material culture of the peasants is carefully recorded: details of folk dress tie the figures not just to Sweden but to the particular region mentioned in the title. The activities signalled do the same: the father’s fiddle playing is a reference to the musical culture of the region, which was famous. The mother’s knitting on the floor and the array of textiles in display spoke of a rich craft culture as well as the virtuous industriousness of the people. Lindegren had travelled to Dalarna on a research trip in 1857, just as Dahl had earlier made his trips through the Norway. Like Dahl, the sketches made on site served as the raw material for paintings later executes in studios far removed from the remote countryside. Lindegren continued to use the sketches made on this trip as reference material into the 1880s. Dahl’s paintings had resonated with an educated public who, if they had not themselves travelled rural Norway as part of the growing practice of domestic

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


tourism, would have knowledge of Norway’s key landmarks and vistas through lithographic series of topographical views. Lindegren was similarly working for a public who were increasingly informed and conscious of the significance of vernacular culture. Illustrated books and articles made the work of domestic ethnography accessible to a literate public. Similarly, the collections of the historical museum, reorganized in 1840s made objects  and textiles collected from across Sweden accessible to an urban museum-going public (Widén 2011). Lindegren’s painting fits within a broad European tradition of genre painting: rural scenes of folk life. Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage is given added resonance by means of these many references to practices of folk culture newly deemed nationally important. Dalarna in particular was a region that held particular importance for nationalists. Within Swedish history, the region had resisted various waves of land consolidation retaining an independent peasantry and principles of collective ownership that became valued in the nineteenth century as representative of the independence and community spirit of the Swedish people. The painting was bought by the state immediately upon exhibition in 1860, indicating the degree to which the sentiments and principles it contained were in line with contemporary Swedish culture. This purchase was also important for the prestige conferred on the artist. Lindegren was one of a handful of women who had been given special permission to study at the Royal Academy in Stockholm (Christensen 1997). The Stockholm Academy had been founded in 1773 by King Gustav III, directly inspired by the earlier founding of the Copenhagen Academy. Like the Copenhagen Academy, the Stockholm Academy had at first relied on imported professors from France and Italy. By the 1850s though, there existed an indigenous artistic culture of domestically trained professional artists. This culture still largely excluded women. Lindegren was from an upperclass background, an illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, and raised as part of his household. Though she initially learned drawing as a feminine accomplishment, her aptitude was recognized by her family and she went on to get private tuition from, among others, sculptor Carl Gustaf Qvarnstrom (1810–67). It was by Qvarnstrom’s support that she was admitted to the Academy (Bengtsson 1984, 16). Her high social status and support she received were central to her success in gaining access to professional training. Though she did not remain in the Stockholm Academy for long, she secured a government scholarship that enabled her to travel and study in Paris. Government-funded scholarships remained an essential element of art and design training across the Nordic countries throughout the period of this book. The belief that expertise had to be assiduously gathered from elsewhere and brought back to the homeland was regarded as a central plank



in the development of national cultural life. This mirrored practice across the arenas of science, technology and economics. Lindegren’s success in securing such scholarships indicated the respect she was able to gain for her work. After two years in Paris, she went on to Rome. In 1856, one of her Roman works, Girl with an Orange, was purchased by the Swedish state and she was given the major honour of being made a full member of the Academy (Bengtsson 1984, 18). Her success, as a woman in a culture dominated by men, remained exceptional for many decades, but it did have repercussions. The purchase of her work for the national collection was instrumental in the admittance of women as students into the Stockholm Academy in 1864 as the argument for their exclusion, that they were incapable of serious work, became impossible to maintain (Ingelman 1984, 2). The Stockholm Academy was only the second in the world to formally admit women as students, after the British Royal Academy in 1861. A school of drawing and applied art for women opened in Copenhagen in 1875 and was amalgamated with the Academy there in 1888. In Finland, women were admitted alongside men from the founding of art education in 1848 because this training was limited and in particular did not extend to life drawing from the nude. This limitation meant that Finnish men and women had to seek opportunities abroad to study further. Norwegian women could study at the Royal School of Drawing or the Women’s Industrial School in Oslo, founded in 1875. (Fallen 2016, 18–19). The provision of art and design education for women was primarily motivated by the perceived need to provide a respectable route by which upper- and middle-class women could support themselves financially should they need to (Ingelman 1984, 2). Lindegren’s individual success has parallels with that of many women artists. It was based not just on exceptional levels of talent and self-belief, but on familial support and contacts within the art world. Her comparative financial independence and her unmarried state allowed her to continue to prioritize her art practice without competing duties as a wife or mother. Though the original painting was bought for the state, its reach was furthered through reproduction. The art print allowed for the circulation of art works far beyond the circles of those who might have the opportunity to visit it in person. The purchase and display of a print of a painting such as this one allowed middle-class Swedes across the country to signal their awareness of key national debates regarding the essence of Swedish national identity and allowed people to express their allegiance to the project of national renewal. Cultural renewal took on many forms. The Swedish National Gallery was reformed and provided with new premises in 1866. The Nordic Museum, an ethnographic museum, was founded in 1873. Skansen, the open-air museum of Swedish vernacular culture, was founded in 1891. Alongside this all sorts of

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organizations and societies were formed. The Friends of Handicrafts founded by Sophie Adlersparre in 1874 was an organization that sought to mobilize the efforts of Swedish middle- and upper-class women in the service of national culture. It provided an institutional structure within which women were encouraged to seek out, from the regions in which they lived, the best examples of locally made textile handcrafts. These examples were collected and the techniques studied and analysed, with a view to preserving not just the objects by the practices and techniques of making (Danielson 1991).

Gustavsberg and August Malmström, Norse Revival vase, 1872–83 Another key organization from among this raft of institutions dedicated to the development of Swedish culture was the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design that sought to improve the artistic quality of Swedish design and applied arts. Developments within this sphere depended, as in the fine arts and architecture, on a fusion of international ideas and expertise with national priorities, needs and interests. Ceramics are an arena of design that ranges from one-off art objects to mass-manufactured everyday wares. As such, they offer case studies that reveal much about attitudes regarding the relationship between fine and applied art, art and industry and art, design and the domestic environment. Through the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a greater and greater proportion of the populations of the Nordic countries had access to a rapidly expanding array of ceramics. At the same time, across Europe, the advent of industrialization led to extensive critical engagement with questions of how to improve the quality of manufactured goods. Arts and Crafts ideas, both exported from England and developed locally, were also influential in raising the status of the applied arts. Many authors and critics attempted to explain to the public why buildings and in particular homes and how they were furnished mattered in terms of the physical, psychological and moral wellbeing of inhabitants and the nation. The expanding middle-class population, who bought paintings for their walls, also invested in art ceramics, art glass and art textiles, as well as tableware and soft furnishings, as part of their performance of identity and good taste. The Gustavsberg Porcelain works operated between 1827 and 1994. The initial impetus behind the founding of the porcelain works was the high costs of importing English porcelain. Porcelain manufacturing was a delicate process and foreign expertise was necessary to develop production. An English foreman, George Barlow, was hired in 1857 and decorative approaches, as well



as technical expertise, were sourced from British industry (Ernstel 2003, 17). In particular, the English technique of transferring printed designs from engraved copper plates onto ceramic pieces allowed for the development of increasingly complicated decorative schemes, without the excessively high costs associated with hand-painted decoration (Arnö-Berg 2003, 69). By the 1860s, Gustavsberg was producing dinner services of over one hundred pieces. Presentation at international fairs was an important part of establishing the status of design goods. Gustavsburg and its older Swedish competitor, the Rörstrand Porcelain Factory, were first represented at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair. Both here and at the 1871 World’s Fair in London, the ceramics on display were criticized for a lack of Swedish character Arnö-Berg 2003, 70; Ernstel 2003, 23). Gustavsberg responded promptly with a range of Norse-style products. The architect Magnus Isaeus (1841–90) was immediately employed as artistic director from 1868 to 1873 and as a freelance designer thereafter. Prestigious Norse-style designs were also commissioned from the artist J. August Malmström (1829–1901). This engagement exemplifies an important stage in the professionalization of design, as designs were sought from those with Academy training, either as architects or as artists. It is interesting to note that it was international commentary that drew attention to the need for ‘Swedish’ design. The majority of the ranges by both companies were and remained in line with international tastes for French-inspired Historicist designs. Historicism is the label that came to be used to describe the many varied languages of design that draw on different periods from the past. The expanding body of material brought forth by archaeologists and art historians through the nineteenth century produced a huge repertoire of new forms and ornament that could be applied to the similarly expanding world of manufactured goods. Public engagement in the project of improving domestic design was also enlisted through the patronage of key public figures. The Swedish royal family showed their support for the efforts of Swedish manufacturers by touring their factories and their stands at exhibitions and giving their products as diplomatic gifts (Ernstel 2003, 27–28). Reports from exhibitions and upon the reception of Swedish displays by foreign judges and critics developed into a public discourse in which the critical and commercial success of Swedish manufacturing was regarded as a shared national concern. The relationship implied between the peasants and their distinctive, lovingly crafted material culture in Lindegren’s painting reflected a growing sense that the things people surrounded themselves with revealed certain truths about their character. Good design, beautiful buildings, powerful paintings, therefore, were not simply desirable in and of themselves. A nation who could not produce these things and who depended on foreigners to do it for them was understood to be fundamentally lacking, its very nationhood called into question.

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


Bringing academically trained artists and architects into the factory to improve the quality of product design was not a course of action unique to Sweden. Design reform had been discussed by critics, theorists and teachers across Europe. The advent of mass-manufacturing had massively amplified the numbers of objects in circulation and the quality of many of these objects was a source of anxiety. Critics across Europe examined their own domestic wares, compared them to the products of other countries and to the handcrafted goods of the past. The formation of new design schools and design societies was one response to the perceived need to improve quality. Nineteenth-century thinking structured the world in terms of nations and national organizations, national museums and national schools served to maintain this distinction. Art, architecture and design was theorized in national terms and, as has been noted, in relation to ideas of national culture and national character. The concept of a Norse Revival was linked to a similar vein of National Romanticism as has been commented upon in relation to Norway. Swedish Viking heritage played a significant part in the nation’s self-identity. Prehistoric sites, such as standing stones, had been subject to royal protection since 1666 (Stubbs and Makas 2011, 147). Nineteenth-century Romanticism had given this interest added impetus and events such as the first Viking ship excavation in Østfold, Norway in 1867 had excited public interest across Scandinavia. The Gothic League had been founded in Sweden in 1811 as an exercise in restoring national pride following the loss of the Grand Duchy of Finland to Russia. In 1825, Esaias Tegnér published his epic poem, Frithjof’s Saga, based on the Icelandic Sagas, which became famous across Europe. We can see here the blurring of boundaries that occurred when the pre-nation-state culture of the Vikings and Icelandic settlers were used as reference points for modern national identity. August Malmström was deeply engaged with the Norse Revival. He studied at the Stockholm and Düsseldorf Academies and began working on history paintings based on Norse mythology from the 1850s onwards (Björk and Airey 1997). Alongside his painting, he worked in the graphic arts, illustrating among other things a number of editions of Frithjof’s Saga. As well as his work for Gustavsberg, Malmström designed Norse-style furnishings and decorations for wooden villas in the 1870s commissioned by fellow Norse Revival enthusiasts. He was an active participant in the circle around Arthur Hazelius, founder of the Nordic Museum and Skansen (McFadden 1982, 48–49; Lane 2000, 29–30). This diversification of activities for an artist outside the realm of fine art is an early example of the breaking down of the boundaries separating fine and applied art practice. As the relative importance of applied art and material culture as a facet of national cultural achievement increased, artists, patrons and institutions began to devote more time and effort to their development.



Malmström’s Norse-style work for Gustavsberg in 1872 included a full dinner service as well as decorative items such as the large urn shown here (Figure 1.3). The double-handled form relates it to the tradition of the European Classical urn, but the pot-bellied form can be read as a reference to traditional Northern European drinking vessels. Such drinking tankards and jugs often

FIGURE 1.3   August Malmström, Norse Revival Vase, Gustavsberg, 1872. © National Museum of Sweden (photo: Bertil Wreting/Nationalmuseum).

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made a decorative feature of the handle, though Malmström’s delicate complexity is far removed from the simple forms being collected by Hazelius and others. The knot-work and dragons head forms that make up the primary decorative features were inspired by carved rune stones and stave church ornament that provided the foundation for the decorative language of the Norse Revival. Around the bowl of the urn run a series of medallions depicting scenes inspired by the sagas: a Viking funeral pyre, sunrise over a standing stone and so on. At nearly sixty-two centimetres tall, this porcelain urn was a prominent display piece and an example of applied art as art object rather than for practical use. Malmström’s range was well-received as part of Gustavsberg’s displays at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna. Its explicit national identity made it suitable for attracting the attention of an international audience schooled in the concept of national styles. The service remained in production until 1883, indicating a sufficient degree of domestic interest in the style. Iseaus’ Norse Revival creamware – a type of pottery produced as a cheaper alternative to porcelain – service remained in production until 1897.

Helgo Zettervall, Lund Cathedral restoration, Lund, 1860–1902 Historical material was looked to for cultural legitimacy, as a shared point of reference and as an inspiration to recreate past glories across the region, and indeed across Europe. It was not simply the Viking and peasant pasts, already referred to, that resonated with Swedes searching for a contemporary national culture. The restoration of Swedish architectural heritage of various periods also appealed to those seeking to recover a national past. The importance of archaeological and architectural heritage as a dimension of nineteenth-century nationhood was signalled by the stepping up of efforts to preserve it. The protection afforded to national heritage increased over the course of the nineteenth century. In 1828, the old royal ordinances for the protection of Swedish antiquities were revised and the first National Antiquary appointed: J. G. Liljengren (Stubbs and Makas 2011, 147). Frederik VI of Denmark set up a Royal Commission to document Danish antiquities in 1807 and this included a survey of Iceland begun in 1817 (Stubbs and Makas 2011, 177, 183). The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Antiquities had been founded by Dahl in 1844, as has been mentioned. Until 1809, Finnish monuments had been protected as part of the Swedish Kingdom and this was maintained in the Grand Duchy under Russian rule. As part of the nation-building process, this protection was revised and extended in 1883 (Stubbs and Makas 2011, 159).



Alongside pre-historic and Viking culture, the gothic heritage of the Middle Ages was particularly prized. This was not a purely Nordic phenomenon. Key European figures, from the German writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe and the French architect Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc to the English theorists John Ruskin and William Morris had all, at various times through the century, championed the gothic as national heritage. The rise of heritage movements, whether in the form of folk culture or antiquities, gives an indication of the importance of history in the modern world, providing a grounding authority for new ideas of national identity (Bann 1984). For the Northern countries of Europe in particular, the re-evaluation of the gothic had an important function in counterbalancing the cultural authority that classical antiquity had held over Europe since the Renaissance. The gothic could be understood more readily in relation to local culture and climate, though to do so necessarily meant privileging the national over the pan-national dimensions of the gothic world. In all these cases, nineteenthcentury nationalism involved the application of cultural boundaries and criteria that had no meaning in the pre-national context of European Christendom or the regional identities within which folk culture operated. The restoration of national monuments were often key projects for nineteenth-century nationalism. Christian IV’s chapel at Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark in the 1860s, the restoration of Trondheim Cathedral in Norway from 1869 and debates surrounding the restoration of Turku cathedral in Finland were all examples of architectural restoration projects that took on wider significance in relation to national politics, liturgical practices and national design culture (Ripatti 2011, 20–30). Comparable nationally significant restoration projects could be found across Europe. The restoration of Lund Cathedral was started in 1832 as a collaboration between the architects Axel Nyström (1793–1868) and Carl Georg Brunius (1793–1869). Brunius was trained as a classicist rather than an architect, but had made a name for himself as an architectural historian. In 1819, at the age of twenty-six, he co-authored a book, Scandinavian Antiquities with Liljengren. He continued writing and undertaking survey expeditions across Sweden for the rest of his life and was responsible for the first systematic survey of medieval Swedish architecture. The practice of architectural and archaeological conservation was in its formative stages across Europe. It was predominantly in the hands of architects and this embodied a tension between preservation and the creation of something new and beautiful. Brunius’ restoration was motivated primarily by his desire to preserve the building and allow it to function as a cathedral for his adopted city of Lund. At the same time, the decisions he took were motivated by his contemporary nineteenth-century concept of the beauty of medieval architecture. His major intervention was the demolition of the wall

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


separating the nave from the chancel and the subsequent remodelling of the choir. This fit the church for the Protestant liturgy and was defensible in his eyes because the wall was a later addition, built in 1250 in an eleventh-century church (Löfberg 2007, 18). Helgo Zettervall (1831–1907) took over as architect of Lund cathedral in 1860 and worked on the project until 1902 (Figure  1.4). He had studied architecture at the Royal Academy in Stockholm. His approach to restoration was more dramatic and ambitious in scope than Brunius’. His vision was to return the cathedral to a state of medieval perfection: what it ‘should’ have looked like, rather than what it did look like at any period of its history. This thinking was common across Europe at this time, exemplified by the work of Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-duc in France and the restoration of Cologne Cathedral in Germany Borger 1980; Murphy and Viollet-le-Duc 2000; Sisa 2002). The untidy reality of slow centuries of construction, destruction and rebuilding, were to be ironed out and a perfect, unified vision created. Zettervall’s plan included the rebuilding of bays to ensure that they were all symmetrical and evenly spaced, the removal of buttresses and the replacement of the mansard roof with new steeply pitched gable roofs. Most dramatically of all, it required the demolition and re-building of the west

FIGURE 1.4   Helgo Zettervall, Lund Cathedral Restoration, Lund, 1860–1902. © Swedish National Heritage Board.



wall of the cathedral and its two towers. This substantial re-building and reimagining of the cathedral was understood as a process of liberating the building from both later additions and points where the reality of medieval building practices had obscured the perfection of the ‘true vision’ of the medieval builders. The advice of experts in Denmark was sought and Zettervall was sent on a study tour of medieval architecture across Europe. The Danish experts and the new State Antiquary, Bror Emil Hildebrand, all approved of Zettervall’s plan. This demonstrates the widespread acceptance of this, to modern eyes, aggressive approach the period had to restoration. There was some resistance from the church authorities and from Brunius, who remained a person of consequence in Lund. Concern was voiced over both the cost of Zettervall’s scheme and the destruction of such a large proportion of the original fabric of the cathedral. But Zettervall’s scheme secured sufficient support to continue. The day after the demolition of the south tower started, Brunius suffered a stroke and died (Löfberg 2007, 29–35). The restoration and rebuilding of Lund Cathedral was a massive project stretching over seven decades. It represents a re-evaluation of the gothic and a significant investment in Sweden’s medieval heritage. The extensive new stone work required provided an opportunity for the development of stone-working expertise that were to be in increasing demand as the vogue for architectural stone increased through the nineteenth century. Through the process a new cathedral emerged that was substantially a product of a nineteenth-century imagination. The expenses of such massive restoration projects were borne by a steadily flourishing economy. Following recovery from a series of crop failures and resultant famine in the 1860s, the economies of the Nordic region expanded rapidly. Peace in Europe and at home and growing demand for agricultural and raw materials boosted domestic economies. The expanding cities and expanding middle classes of the region brought with them an expanding demand for art, architecture and design. The political enfranchisement of the middle classes also paved the way for a public art culture that sought to represented values and aspirations of this class. As we move into the 1880s we can trace a steady expansion of artistic activity across the region.

Theodor Höijer, Ateneum, Helsinki, 1884–87 The range of institutions offering fine-art training and exhibition opportunities also expanded steadily. Fifty or so years after the founding of the Stockholm

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


Academy, the subject of art and design training became a focus for the small intelligentsia of Finland. Despite the severing of political ties in 1808, cultural ties to Sweden remained strong. The majority of professional painters had either trained in the Stockholm or St Petersburg Academies or else were journeymen painters, trained as apprentices within the guild system, which still operated in Finland until 1868. The development of a system of art and design training in Finland is interesting as an example of the simultaneous adoption of new and old ideas. In the 1830s, the only remotely formal structure for the practice of art was the Guild of Painters. An elder of the Guild, Carl Gustaf Söderstrand (1800– 62), set up a drawing school in the old capital of Turku in 1830. His teaching included copying the works of European Old Masters from lithographs and also landscape drawing. In 1843, the syllabus was extended to include classical principle of art, and plaster models of classical sculptures were purchased for the students to copy (Valkonen 1992, 12). The curriculum of the school was therefore a mixture of the modern practice of drawing from life and in the open air and traditional dependence on the copying of antique works. Impetus for the development of the arts in Finland increased through the 1830s and an Art Society was founded in 1846 to further this goal, based on the models of the earlier Danish, Swedish and Norwegian Art Societies (Pettersson 2009, 23). A dedicated drawing school was set up in Helsinki in 1848. The Art Society was supported by a membership fee, which was used for the purchase of art works, thus supporting the work of artists. It was also used to provide stipends to artists for study and travel. In 1851, the Tsar bought and donated the art collection of Baron von O. W. Klinckowström in the name of his son, Grand Duke Alexander, who was the society’s official patron. This formed the basis for the establishment of a national collection of art. All these efforts were informed by an understanding of what constituted a national art culture, which was gleaned from abroad. The small, but growing, Finnish intelligentsia were, like the Norwegians and later the Icelanders, keen to establish themselves nationally and internationally and the arts were a dimension of this project. Unlike the Norwegians and Icelanders, there was little thought in Finland at this date of political independence. The moderate policies of Tsar Alexander II and the relative freedom of Finland’s status as a semi-autonomous Duchy meant that nation building was primarily focused on cultural self-realization, rather than overt political separatism. The Fennomane movement, which sought to improve the standing of Finnish-speaking Finns and Finnish-language culture, in response to the cultural, political and economic dominance of Swedish-speaking Finns, was also gaining ground, bringing larger sections of the population into an engagement with high culture (Haila 1998).



Alongside fine art, the state of the applied arts in Finland was also a matter of concern. The professor of aesthetics at the University of Helsinki, Carl Gustaf Estlander, was keen to see the work of the Art Society extended to embrace the applied arts. An applied arts school was set up in Helsinki in 1871 and the beginning of a teaching collection of applied arts was purchased at the World’s Fair in Vienna in 1873 (Huovio 1998). The school and collection were taken over by the Finnish Society for Craft and Design in 1875 (Pettersson 2008). Through the 1870s, there were ongoing quarrels about the founding of a Finnish Art Academy and what form it would take. On one side were those who favoured the founding of an Academy of dramatic art, painting, sculpture, architecture and music, on the classical model. On the other side were those who favoured a more modern technical school, incorporating the teaching of art and industrial design alongside one another. This latter project proved more attractive to the businessmen and government officials, whose support was crucial, and in 1878 a plot in central Helsinki was purchased for the new institution. The institution was to be named the Ateneum, after the goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene. The Ateneum was to house the art school and art collection of the Art Society and the school and collection of the Society of Craft and Design: all the institutions of art and design education in one place. An international architectural competition was held in 1883 and won by a German architect, Arthur Walter, but the jury did not recommend the execution of the design. Instead, in 1884, the Senate commissioned the Finnish architect Theodor Höijer (1843–1910) to design the new house of art. As there was, as yet, no formal architectural training in Finland, Theodor Höijer had studied from 1861 to 1862 in the private studio of the Swedish architect Theodor Chiewitz, who was District Architect of Turku, Finland. He then attended the Stockholm Academy from 1863 to 1868 (Viljo 1987, 21– 27). Until Frans Anatolius Sjöström (1840–85) was appointed the first lecturer in Architecture at the Helsinki Technical University in 1873, the majority of Finnish architects, such as Höijer, Chiewitz and Sjöström himself, all trained in Stockholm. Höijer’s design is representative of the state of architecture in Finland in the 1880s (Figure  1.5). It was a brick building with an ornate plaster facade designed in a Neo-Renaissance, Historicist style. Though various forms of Classicism and, particularly for ecclesiastic architecture, Gothic styles were in use, the Historicism of the 1870s and 1880s in the Nordic countries embraced this ornamental version of design inspired by the Italian Renaissance. On the Ateneum building, rich plaster mouldings, imitative of carved stonework, were augmented by sculptural details. Elsewhere across Northern Europe plaster cladding had been used in more and more effusive ways as the century

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


FIGURE 1.5   Theodor Höijer, Ateneum Building, Helsinki, 1884–87. © Finnish National Archives.

progressed. A myriad of different stone treatments were suggested, often picked out in different colours. Sculptural ornament from column capitals and window lintels to figures sculpture, garlands and urns created fantasy facades in front of simple brick buildings (Viljo 1987, 100–114). Despite the multiple occupants and uses of the building, which meant its users were pressed for space from the start, the building was a grand statement of cultural optimism. As in the University of Oslo, a substantial area of the building’s interior was given over to a monumental staircase through the heart of the building. The interior was richly appointed with marble and gilded plaster in a continuation of the Neo-Renaissance theme. The scale and expense lavished on the building in terms of materials and commissioned art works was evidence of the State and public’s support for the project of cultural nation-building The building and the institution it housed were examples of the particular process of modernization in the Nordic Countries that emphasizes the simultaneous adoption of new and old ideas. The style was based on the plaster reproduction of historical elements that was soon to be challenged for its lack of relevance to modern function and local identity. The institution combined fine-art teaching, still based on the Academy model of the copying of classical plaster casts, with modern applied art training.



Ferdinand Meldahl, Parliament House, Reykjavik, 1879–81 Through the nineteenth century, the economic situation in Iceland began to improve and this prompted the burgeoning of new efforts in relation to the arts. The structures and institutions of cultural life were still markedly limited compared to the other Nordic countries. The small middle class, composed of school teachers, doctors, civil servants and clergymen, all undertook their training abroad, primarily in Copenhagen. Opportunities for education beyond an elementary level within Iceland were very limited. Nevertheless, a small group of men returned from their studies abroad and began to pursue and promote scientific, literary and artistic life in Iceland. The Parliament House was built in Reykjavik during the period 1879–81. It was designed by the Danish architect Ferdinand Meldahl (1827–1908) to serve as the home for the meetings of the Alþingi. This was the Icelandic parliament, which could trace its origins back to 930, but which had been in abeyance between 1799 and 1844. Its revival, in an advisory capacity at first, marked a key step along the way to eventual independence from Denmark. The decision to erect a permanent, purpose-built parliament house was taken already in 1869, initially in the hopes that it would be ready by 1874 to commemorate the millennium of settlement in Iceland, deemed to have taken place in 874. The challenge of raising fund for such a building proved harder than expected – a reflection again of the comparative poverty of the Icelandic population in relation to its Nordic and other European neighbours. Like the Ateneum in Helsinki, the Parliament House was a building which spoke of future ambitions for the nation. Suffrage was limited and the number of representatives only small, from twenty-six members in a single chamber to twelve members in the upper house and twenty-four in the lower. Until the building of the Parliament House, the Alþingi convened in the High School in Reykjavik. Sittings were short, lasting four and later six weeks through the summer up until 1920, so that the provision of a purpose built building was a reflection of the symbolic importance of the Alþingi, rather than a pressing need for accommodation (Jónsdóttir 2010, 8–9). The significance of the building as a symbol permeates every aspect of the project. The commissioning of Meldahl, the president of the Copenhagen Academy and the leading Danish architect of his generation, speaks of a desire to avoid appearing culturally parochial or second rate. This suggests the ongoing tension between the nationalist and independent aspirations embodied by the parliament, and the realities of the political and cultural dominance of Denmark, in which Copenhagen represented both that which was rejected and that which was aspired to.

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


Meldahl never visited Iceland and the general form of the design, a simple, regular, two-storey, vaguely Neo-Renaissance building was in line with his general interest in newer forms of free Historicism (Figure  1.6). The most striking aspect of the design was the dominant construction material of locally quarried dolerite stone. This choice had both practical and conceptual advantages. Other building materials, timber or bricks, would have had to be imported. Using local stone saved on this cost and simultaneously endowed the building with the status of stone-built architecture. The value of using stone, especially native stone, was one with growing currency in Northern European architectural circles in the late nineteenth century. The local stone, especially the markedly characteristic, dark volcanic stone of Iceland, helped shift the symbolism of the building in a national direction and charge the otherwise potentially generic form with national meaning. The tough character of the stone had an impact on the design, keeping the details minimal, in contrast to the complex decorative details of the Ateneum, the majority of which were executed in plaster. The national signification of the stone was echoed in the four relief carvings over the first floor windows. These depicted the four guardian spirits of Iceland: a giant, a vulture, a bull and a dragon. The shallow hipped roof displayed the crown and device of Christian IX, the Danish king. Originally shields displaying

FIGURE 1.6   Ferdinand Meldahl, Parliament House, Reykjavik, 1879–81.



the arms of Iceland and Denmark were also mounted on the facade. The year of completion, 1881, interspersed with star ornaments was also prominently displayed under the eaves. This applied ornament was relatively sparse however and the colour of the stone and details of the arrangement of stone blocks remained the dominant feature of the facade. The technical expertise to quarry and work the stone did not yet exist in Iceland, so skilled labourers were brought over from Denmark. They worked alongside Icelandic labourers and by this means the Icelandic building industry acquired a new set of skills. This led to a series of new buildings, completed after the Alþingi, that made use of local stone (Dennis 2000, 27). Prestige projects, such as this, continued to be a means by which new skills and technologies filtered out into emerging architectural cultures. An additional feature of the stone was to render the building substantially more fire-proof than its wooden neighbours. Catastrophic urban fires were hazard related to urban growth that planners around the world were increasingly aware of. Fire-proofing was augmented by the use of iron girders, rather than wooden beams, supporting the internal floors and iron shutters and staircases. All this significantly reduced the amount of combustible material in the building. This concern was driven by the fact that the building was also to house the National Library and the National Museum, then known as the Antiquarian Collection, which were moved in in 1881. In 1885, the national art collection, which had been founded in 1884, was also housed there. This mixed use of the building reveals the interconnectedness of political and cultural nation-building. Similarly, just as the building performed many functions, so key individuals also took on multiple roles. Sigurður Guðmundsson (1833–74) was the first Icelander to practice as a professional artist in Iceland, having trained at the Copenhagen Academy. He was part of a small but active circle of intellectuals, writers and scientists dedicated to nation-building in Iceland. Alongside his art practice, primarily composed of portraiture, he undertook research into folk costume, folk tales and designed sets and costumes for the first theatre productions of Icelandic dramas (Ólafur 2011, vol. 1, 25–26). Such varied, cross-disciplinary practice was common to the pioneering stages of establishing a high culture on a European model. These facets of nation-building focused on folk culture, and mother-tongue literary heritage can be traced across the Nordic countries. The efforts of men such as Sigurður blended scientific research and imaginative invention (Gunnell 2012). He was the initiator and one of the first curators of the national Antiquarian Collection, housed for a time in the Parliament building. The founding of national collections of text, antiquities and art lay at the foundations of the nation state. To be a nation, Iceland needed a parliament, but

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


it equally needed these cultural institutions if it wished to take its place among the nations of Europe. We see in this way the central role art, architecture and design played in the establishment and maintenance of the modern nation. We also see how the process of building a nation depended on the flow and interplay of national and international ideas and materials.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Boy with a Crow, 1884 From the 1870s Nordic artists were drawn, as many were, to Paris to further their studies. This trajectory marked a departure from the traditional reliance on the Stockholm and Copenhagen Academies and Germany. This shift brought about marked changes in Nordic art practice. Gallen-Kallela’s Boy with a Crow was painted when he was nineteen and had just completed his studies at the Ateneum. It reflects the growing impact on the Nordic art world of the French Naturalist tradition. Where the romantic landscape tradition had drawn artists to Düsseldorf and other German academies, Paris represented new opportunities. Paris offered cultural authority as the home of the Beaux Art academic tradition and was also positioning itself as the world centre of artistic modernity. In 1884, Gallen-Kallela was yet to go to Paris. He had been exposed to the principles of French Naturalism through private instruction with another Finnish painter, Albert Edelfelt, who had been to Paris, and through reproductions of contemporary French art. His Boy with a Crow shows a remarkable facility in engaging with this new mode of painting (Plate 2). French Naturalism emphasized an engagement with modern life and with reality. Its proponents argued for painting from nature, rather than classical models, and taking subjects from everyday life, rather than history or myth. Though the subject matter of a peasant child creates a link to the earlier genre tradition exemplified by Lindegren’s painting, the focus of the work is quite different. Rather than an emphasis on the polished rendering of the material culture of the peasants and a message regarding their wholesome and uplifting way of life, Boy with a Crow does not contain any attributes alluding to traditional Finnish culture. Crucially, the boy is also not depicted in folk costume, but in the tattered, anonymous clothing of the contemporary rural poor. Gallen-Kallela’s painting however does not emphasize a political message regarding the plight of the poor, such as could be found in the contemporary work of Russian, Ilya Repin. Nor does it sentimentalize its subject or seek to charm as Jules Bastien-Lepage does in comparable images of French rural children. Bastien-Lepage was an artist of huge influence across Europe at this time, particularly among artists seeking a model for an engagement



with national landscape and people in a modern vein. In keeping with French Naturalism, there is an emphasis on the observation of environment, light and colour. The scrubby, scorched, summer grass, the dirty and tattered clothing, the tanned skin and the light striking sun-bleached blond hair are all carefully and skilfully observed. At the same time, the handling of the painted surface, particularly the grass field, is loose, marking a pronounced shift from the corner to corner precision of the work of Dahl and Lindegren. Boy with a Crow is more than a skilful assimilation of French Naturalism, however. It is a challengingly ambiguous image. The high view point, which is not unusual in the work of Bastien-Lepage, is here so high as to completely cut off any glimpse of horizon or wider background. The resulting flat plane of the field is left without points of orientation. The loose brushstrokes fragment in particular in the upper portion of the canvas to create a flat field of colour that does not so much recess into space as hang, like a curtain, flattening the picture plane. The boy and the crow stand in relation to one another upon the grass, but at the same time their relation in space and depth is difficult to judge. The decision to turn the boy’s head away has a decisive impact on the painting. Rather than observe the boy as an example of a Finnish type, we are invited by his averted gaze to seek to enter into his thoughts. What is he doing? What is he looking at? His activity cannot be easily categorized. It is neither work nor play. The crow cannot be straightforwardly identified as either working animal or pet. Instead the encounter is ambiguous and the activity depicted is mental rather than physical. The image lacks the clear narrative of Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage or comparable works. In the absence of this narrative, we are left with the mental absorption of the boy. The connection between the boy and the crow is one of contemplation: an encounter between the human and the natural. This connects the painting not just to French Naturalism but to the turn away from Naturalism’s focus on the reality of the external world towards the more subjective reality of the inner world associated with the Symbolist movement (Rapetti 2005). In Boy with a Crow, we can see these two seemingly contrary approaches overlapping. This is an example of the idea that Modernism in the Nordic countries was not a separate current from Modernisms elsewhere, but that its distinctiveness arose rather from the particular way these currents were adopted and adapted. At this period in the nineteenth century, the art viewing public would have been schooled in an expectation of narrative; preferably of a moral or uplifting sort (Sidlauskas 1993). This painting eludes such expectations. If anything, it suggests a relationship to the Romantic tradition of the figure contemplating the natural world, but in these works the human figure is typically positioned

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


as a proxy for the viewer. To make this figure, a ragged child disrupts this motif. Are we supposed to project ourselves into this anonymous little boy? To suggest so goes beyond the elevation of the peasant as a subject worthy of art to the peasant as capable of his own subjecthood and autonomous thought. Unlike Dahl’s landscape, which encompassed the national landscape, the folk and the national past within a single total vision of which the viewer was master, Gallen-Kallela denies the viewer any such conclusive mastery. In place of the beauty of landscape and nature and in place of comprehensible narrative, they get a picture of deceptive simplicity. It is inoffensive. It does not appear to push any particular political or social agenda. It is a study of a boy and a crow in a field, painted in the modern French manner, but the brushwork is not so loose as to cause a scandal and the figure and bird are clearly the product of skilful observation. Gallen-Kallela used the painting as his introduction piece to the Academie Julien when he travelled to Paris at the end of the year. Already in this early work though, we can see a key dimension of Nordic art that was to flourish around 1900. The work reveals an assimilation of European art trends, French Naturalist painterly handling and subject matter drawn from modern life, in particular from rural life, in line with both Romantic and Realist concerns with the loss/preservation of rural culture. At the same time, these international trends are given a twist through the emphasis on psycho-emotional content. The simplicity of the image – the lack of narrative – drive the viewer beneath the surface into a painting that is about the inner world of the subject at least as much as it is about Finnish nature. In the next chapter, we will see how this approach, of reaching for the individual and unfathomable world of private contemplation through the shared vision of nation and nature was crafted into a particular kind of Nordic Modernism. Gallen-Kallela joined a community of Nordic painters in Paris when he went there in 1884. The exposure of these painters to the varied art and literary culture of Paris transformed Nordic art practice. The authority of the academies in Stockholm and Copenhagen was overturned by new groups of artists who wished to push beyond what they regarded as outmoded restrictions and values. In Denmark, in 1882, a group of artists had seceded from the Academy to form the Artists’ Study School. In 1885 and 1886, Swedish artists working in Paris staged two exhibitions in Stockholm, From the Banks of the Seine and the Opponents. The group became known as the Opponents and went on to form the Artist’s Association as an alternative power base to the Stockholm Academy. In Norway, the art scene was dominated by the Art Society, established in 1836. Controversy flared up in 1880 resulting in the society relaxing its rules on subject matter and styles.



Pietro Krohn, Heron Service, Bing & Grøndahl, 1888 A growing middle class and a growing concept of the role of visual and material culture as a reflection of national achievements also had an effect on the field of design. Though training in art and architecture were offered at the Copenhagen Academy, there was no formal industry-oriented training offered for design in Denmark until the founding of the School of Drawing and Applied Art in 1875. Design across the broad field of the applied arts – interior design, furniture, ceramics, glass, silverware, textiles and so on – was practised in the main by craftsmen who learned their trade within the fields in which they worked. There were beginning to be exceptions to this in the form of artists or architects whose practice extended into the applied arts, as we have seen. Porcelain was produced in Copenhagen from the 1760s. The Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory was founded in 1775. Bing & Grøndahl was founded as a competing porcelain factory in 1853 by Frederik Vilhelm Grøndahl (1819–56), who had worked as a modeller at Royal Copenhagen. This competition had a stimulating effect on both factories and the artistic quality of their wares as well as technical innovation was a key point of competition between the two firms. Pietro Krohn (1840–1905) was made artistic director of Bing & Grøndahl from 1885 to 1897. He had trained as an artist at the Copenhagen Academy. Supported by Academy grants, he spent much of the 1870s in Italy and Paris, and in 1878, he oversaw the Danish exhibits at the Paris World’s Fair. His exposure to the applied arts alongside the relative lack of success in his fine-art career led him to focus on design on his return to Copenhagen in 1880. His Heron Service was designed between 1886 and 1888 (Figure  1.7). Krohn was very engaged with the study of Japanese and Chinese ceramics and was part of an active circle of collectors in Copenhagen (Opie 2001, 27). An interest in Asian culture as an alternative system of beauty in which distinctions between fine and applied art were constructed differently was influential across Europe in this period and was a factor in the extension of many artist’s practice into the arena of the applied arts (Weisberg and Bonsdorff 2016). The use of blue underglaze in the Heron Service was a new technique that harked back to earlier eighteenth-century porcelain production, which had been directly inspired by Chinese examples. This traditional approach was modernized by means of the delicacy of the painting, the addition of gilt details and the sculptural modelling, which included a heron’s head motif. The sinuous lines repeated through the service and the unconventional forms were resonant of something conspicuously modern. The cut-away element in the saucer, for example, breaks the symmetry of the design and the

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


FIGURE 1.7   Pietro Krohn, Heron Service, Bing & Grøndahl, 1888. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

formal integrity of the round plate. It shifts the piece away from the traditional format of a plate with a patterned surface to an art object in which form and decorative language are fused into a new whole. The service was a foretaste of the explosion of innovative ceramics that were to be produced around the fin-de-siècle as part of the European Art Nouveau movement (Opie 2000). The Heron Service was successful at home and abroad and this success was based on a confluence of people, circumstances and ideas. The designer and the investment of the factory in new glazing processes were important factors. There was also the growing potential audience for the design: a sufficiently wealthy, sufficiently design-conscious group of people to make the commercial investment worthwhile. Karl Madsen (1855–1938) was an artist and art critic and the centre of a circle of enthusiasts for both modern and Japanese design in Copenhagen. He can be regarded as the prominent tip of the iceberg of people in Denmark and across the Nordic countries starting to take design seriously. Madsen also wrote for the new Danish design journal, The Journal of Industrial Art [Tidsskrift for Kunstindustri] which was launched in 1885. Similar specialists journals of art and/or design emerged across the Nordic countries in the 1870s and 1880s, as engagement with these topic areas expanded beyond the elites to a broader, literate middle class.



The comparatively poor reception Danish applied arts had received in Paris in 1878 motivated Krohn and others to engage with the challenge of improving the quality of Danish design. His particular focus was the formation of a Museum of Applied Art. As we have already seen, publically accessible collections were understood as key elements in the education of professional and public taste. Krohn’s project was already in the offing by 1888, when he received a donation of Japanese ceramics for the future collection from his friend in Paris, the art collector and dealer, Siegfried Bing (Christensen and Danske 2008, 8). Bing’s support for Krohn’s museum plans and the support of the German curator Justus Brinckmann (1843–1915) indicate the simultaneously national and international dimensions of the design reform movement in Europe. Brinckmann was founder and director of the influential Hamburg Museum of Applied Art (est. 1874) and a fellow enthusiast for Japanese design. He was interested in Nordic design as part of a wider conception of GermanicScandinavian culture. As well as supporting the  founding of the Danish Museum of Applied Art, he also supported the third Norwegian Museum of Applied Art in Trondheim in 1893. The first director  there, Jens Thiis, spent three months with Brinckmann in Hamburg, learning the business of running a museum prior to taking up his post (Woldbye and Danske 2006, 96). In addition to the international dimensions of contacts between enthusiasts, scholars and professionals in the emerging design world, international exhibitions provided a crucial spur and crucial venue for the development of national design cultures across the Nordic countries. They were key sites for international competition, comparison and the exchange of ideas as well as the performance of national identity.

Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition in Copenhagen, 1888 As has been mentioned, it was the reception of Swedish ceramics at World’s Fairs that provided the catalyst for the engagement of new design expertise. World’s Fairs were sites for the evaluation of the successes and limitations of a nation’s artistic and industrial products. They were formulated simultaneously on the idea of the nation, as the primary category for the understanding and development of culture, and of the international circulation of goods and expertise as the basis for a world economy and European-centric high-culture. Through the course of the nineteenth century, more and more nations and cities decided to rise to the challenge of hosting their own international exhibitions of fine and applied arts. Though not the first, the 1888 Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition in Copenhagen was the most

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


prominent such event to be held in the Nordic countries before the General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm in 1897. The driving force behind the exhibition was Philip Schou (1838–1922). He was the director of the Alumina Faience ceramics factory, which took over Royal Copenhagen in 1884. He was also chairman of the Copenhagen Industry Association from 1883 to 1890, which was a professional association dedicated to the development of Danish industry. He saw art and design as playing a central role in this enterprise. He hired the artist Arnold Krog (1856– 1931) as artistic director for Royal Copenhagen in 1884, a move which likely precipitated the engagement of Krohn at Bing & Grøndahl a year later. He was also an instrumental figure in the founding of both the previously mentioned Journal of Industrial Art and Museum of Applied Art, which opened in 1890. All these activities serve to repeat the point that in the small nations of the Nordic region, individuals frequently played multiple roles. This meant that relatively small networks of influential figures could dominate cultural activities. This enabled cohesive approaches across different organizations but potentially marginalized practices or individuals who did not meet the approval of these powerful figures. The 1888 exhibition had the broad focus typical of such events, with ambition to cover machinery, agriculture and fisheries, armed forces, transportation and sports, as well as art, architecture and design. The architect selected to design the main exhibition pavilion was Martin Nyrop (1849–1921). Nyrop’s education had included both study at the Academy in Copenhagen and training in carpentry at the Technical School. He had also travelled widely across Europe and had had the opportunity of visiting comparable exhibition sites in London and Edinburgh (Funder 1979). Since the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, iron and glass had been preeminent materials in the construction of exhibition buildings. Building on his experience in carpentry, however, Nyrop proposed a wooden structure for the main exhibition hall. Nyrop’s building was industrial in scale, but employed a traditional material: wood and made reference to traditional wood-working practices: vernacular architecture, stave churches and ship-building (Figure 1.8). It was not a giant cottage by any means, but the development of a new vocabulary based on the materials used: a fusion of tradition and modernity. The scale, function, expanses of plate glass and the visible structure of the repeating elements of the wooden framework signalled its modernity, while the wood, joinery and decorative elements that harked back to wooden building traditions established a relationship with the past. The building was given a festive, modern air by means of the bright colour scheme of red, green and white, with gilded accents. Nyrop’s building was welcomed in some reviews as a new departure for Danish architecture and as a return to Nordic tradition (Linvald 1988, 35).



FIGURE 1.8   Martin Nyrop, Main Pavilion, Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition in Copenhagen. Lithograph by Karel Sědivý, Illustreret FamilieJournal 1888. © Royal National Library Copenhagen.

Ever since Dahl’s publication on the stave churches of Norway, vernacular wooden architecture was loaded with a particular national significance as national heritage. Wooden architecture, like the Gothic, had an international history that ran alongside its newly valued national credentials. The main building was reserved for displays of industrial design, with the principle sections given over to Denmark, Sweden and Norway, with approximately two-thirds devoted to Denmark as host nation (Linvald 1988, 73). The prominence of design goods at this and similar exhibitions contributed to the development of the idea that a nation might be known and judged by its design culture, making good design a matter of national prestige. The national sections used a range of objects and display techniques to convey messages of national identity and manufacturing prowess. Krohn’s Heron Service for Bing & Grøndahl was one of the hits of the exhibition, along with similar Japanese-inspired blue and white under-glazed porcelain designed by Krog for Royal Copenhagen. However, the cultural authority of Historicism continued to hold its own against the new forms and techniques. The rooms designed to accommodate the King and the Royal family on their visits to the exhibition were in lavish Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque styles. They featured oak panelling, gilded mirrors, embossed leather

Up to 1890 – The Foundations of Modernism


wall-coverings, oriental carpets and allegorical ceiling paintings. In short, all the trappings associated with European high culture and the classical tradition. The Norwegian displays emphasized vernacular culture, with a reproduction round-log cabin, complete with a stuffed moose head decorating the gable end. Norway was promoted as a tourist destination for outdoor pursuits such as skiing and fishing, by means of large illustrative panels and decorative arrangements of skis and other equipment. Photographs of Norwegian landscapes also featured prominently. The Swedish section also used landscape as a backdrop for its displays. This feature is an early example of what would become a common place for exhibition displays of Nordic applied arts: an explicit equation between landscape, people and design. The Friends of Handicrafts and the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design made prominent contributions to the displays. Finland was represented with its own section within the Russian pavilion. The Finnish Friends of Handicrafts presented textiles emphasizing geometric patterns and red or blue on white colours. These made an explicit reference to Finnish vernacular textiles, which had been studied and collected by members of the society. The displays exemplified the aims of both Swedish and Finnish organizations to secure the place of traditional textiles in the modern nation, by translating patterns from vernacular sources onto modern objects like sofas. The language of ornament, technique and colours could be repurposed without seeming to compromise their message of authenticity as Finnish or Swedish. Apart from the displays of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, there were 400 foreign exhibitors, though Germany, France and Russia were the most prominent by a long way. There were also dedicated pavilions for Agriculture, Fisheries, Machinery, Sport, the Military and a host of entertainment and refreshment pavilions, including a bar shaped like a twenty-eight-foot tall beer bottle, which featured Denmark’s first elevator to the top (Linvald 1988, 59–60). The exhibition also featured extensive displays of fine art in a dedicated fine-art pavilion. The entrance to the pavilion was surmounted by a view of Paris and an explicit invitation to judge the works within against the standard set by this international city of art. This reveals both the rising confidence in the quality of Nordic art and the importance of Paris, as a bench-mark of cultural achievement. A broad selection of works were displayed, not just from the Academy, but from among those Danish, Swedish and Norwegian painters who were to form the vanguard of the new art movements of the twentieth century. Exhibitions like this one, Paris in 1889, Stockholm in 1897 and Paris again in 1900, were extremely valuable for opening up the Nordic art worlds to each other and other art cultures. The potentially parochial focus on the development of a national Danish, Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish art



life was consistently balanced by a strong awareness of the extent to which this ambition was played out in relation to constant contact, comparison and transmission of ideas across national boundaries. As well as the Fine Art Pavilion, there was a private pavilion of French art put up by the brewer, Carl Jacobsen. The display within of contemporary French painting and sculpture, along with some architectural drawings and prints, brought the Paris art world to Copenhagen. Just as Danish painters migrated to Paris, so it was important for the domestic public to be aware of what they learnt there and for those artists unable to travel to be exposed to the culture that was to be so influential through the decades around 1900. It was Jacobsen’s intension that any profits made by the entry fee to the pavilion be used to buy French art for the national collection. Exposure to and assimilation of the international was consistently seen as vital for the development of a domestic art culture. The Nordic Exhibition was a major event across the region. Rather than relying on reports of events in Paris and London, Nordic audiences could engage directly in the spectacle of a big exhibition. These events brought together fine and applied art, industry and leisure, local wares and exotic novelties. Crucially, in hosting such an exhibition the Nordic nations were able to take centre stage and present their achievements as worthy of international attention. This subtly, but significantly, shifted the terms of the debate. So that rather than accept the external evaluation of Nordic art and design as peripheral, the question was raised: ‘what can we show the world?’ A sense of cultural inferiority in relation to traditionally dominant nations, such as France, Germany and Great Britain certainly, did not disappear overnight. But it was no longer implicit that the traffic of cultural exchange would only flow one way. As the turn of the century approached, the expanding cultural landscape in the region was well placed to respond to this and other new challenges. The opportunities for domestic education had increased markedly. Professional societies, institutions like museums, and a wide variety of organizations for the promotion of cultural activities expanded the support available. Funds continued to be made available by government and other organizations for students to travel and study abroad. And a raft of new publications devoted to art and design promoted discussion in and across the region and the rest of Europe. As the nineteenth century waned, the authority of the Classicist and Historicist models promoted by traditional academic teaching also waned. The national past as well as the increasingly accessible art centres of Europe continued to function as sources of ideas, but in new ways. With the growing vitality of the different Nordic art cultures came increased confidence among artists, designers and the consumers of their work to experiment. What was sought, in the Nordic countries and across Europe, were new forms for the new world emerging in the twentieth century.

2 1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


s the grip of European Classicism and the Academy began to loosen at the end of the century, artists and designers experimented with new languages of form, colour and symbolism. Though frequently looking to the past to furnish this new vocabulary, these new approaches were modern in that they sought new ways to communicate and express new meanings. Forms in art, architecture and design were in flux in the years around 1900. New paths were sought from among a seemingly endless range of sources of inspiration. This made the decades around 1900 uniquely varied, rich and incoherent. What was sought was a new style for a new age. At the same time the boundaries between the past, present and future and between media – painting, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, architecture and so on – were all intentionally blurred. Beauty and function were both held up as the new touchstones to replace the old authorities.

Martin Nyrop, Copenhagen City Hall, 1892–1905 It was on the very same ground as the Nordic Exhibition Hall that Nyrop was given the opportunity to build one of the city halls that exemplify turning points in Nordic architecture. By the end of the nineteenth century, Copenhagen, like all the Nordic capitals and many cities across the Nordic countries and Europe had grown and changed dramatically. A key transformation in the Copenhagen townscape had come about when the defensive bastions around the old medieval town centre were declared militarily obsolete and were taken down in the mid-nineteenth century. This freed up a broad stretch of land between the old town and the rambling outer suburbs beyond. This created the opportunity to join the old and the new into a single, larger and more coherent urban whole.



A new city hall was planned for a site near the old town’s Westgate. Many cities across Europe went through similar processes during this period, as old fortifications were dismantled. Broad boulevards were laid, curving around the centre of Copenhagen in an echo of the rampart’s form. The infrastructure of modern, middle-class cultural life, galleries, parks and places of education and so on, found their placed here. The city hall was not located in symbolic proximity to these places of culture, however, but rather in a part of town where building had been less regulated and a vibrant business and entertainment district had sprung up. Close to the railways station and at a hub for the tramways and traffic routes laid down by an earlier city plan, the site signalled the councilmen’s understanding of the city hall as a working building (BøgelundHansen et al. 2002, 143–144). A close-fought competition was held in which Nyrop’s design was eventually selected over a number of more conventionally historicist proposals (Kragelund 2001, 49–51). Nyrop’s design, like his exhibition building, signalled a firm relationship to the past, but without the consistent framework of a single historical style. The architectural language he developed for this project was a fusion of the Italian Renaissance city hall of Siena, sixteenth-century Danish manor house architecture and the brick gothic of the Northern Renaissance (Figure 2.1). This was not eclecticism based on aesthetics, but a scheme in which the function of the building dominated. One of the key functions of the city hall, however, was its symbolism. This was understood by Nyrop, by the councilmen who chose his plan and budgeted lavishly for it and by the press who received the building with enthusiasm when it was completed in 1905. A great portion of what they understood as the purpose of the building was representing Copenhagen. The free city states of Renaissance Italy were a recognizably foreign tradition that Denmark, with its history of absolutist monarchy, was consciously borrowing from as a signal of new directions. The Northern Renaissance and sixteenth century, in contrast, were periods of Danish cultural achievement. The fusion, therefore, spoke of both national pride and new aspirations towards democracy. Nyrop’s training in the Academy had included a strong emphasis on Danish architectural history (Hyams 2014). His first-hand experience of Danish architectural heritage on survey trips as a student fed his commitment to a new relationship with history. Trips to study and draw old buildings formed an increasingly significant part of architectural training in the late nineteenth century, so that the past was integrated into contemporary practice not just through classical texts and pattern books but through engagement with the materials and ethos of craftsmanship found in pre-modern buildings. The most striking feature of the city hall was the red brick of which it was built. This material, too, connected the building to both native traditions and

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


FIGURE 2.1   Martin Nyrop, Copenhagen City Hall, Copenhagen, 1892–1905. Illustreret Tidende, vol. 34. no. 51. 1893. © Royal National Library Copenhagen.

new architectural thinking with international dimensions. Brick was a material with a strong local heritage, most prominently in Roskilde cathedral, which had been influential in the spread of the Northern Renaissance tradition of brick gothic architecture. Brick also conformed to the modern architectural principle of honesty in material and construction. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had become increasingly widely accepted that the concealment of the structural brickwork of a building under stucco masquerading as stone was aesthetically and morally dubious. Nyrop’s brick palace was, therefore, a dramatic statement of architectural honesty. This principle of honesty extended to the legibility of the function and structure of the building. That it was a city hall was signalled by the allusion to the famous Siena city hall. That it was Danish, by everything else. This legibility went beneath the surface, however. The arrangement of the building was easy to track across both the exterior and interior. The large regular, rectangular building was set out around two large courtyards. The first courtyard, closest to the main entrance on the west side of the building, was covered by a glass roof, forming a grand assembly hall. This regular layout and clear lines of visibility across courtyards and stairwells made the navigation of the building more straight-forward. The highstatus reception rooms of the west side of the building were signalled in



the facade by their larger windows and more ornate window frames, while the myriads offices behind were illuminated by the regular rows of windows punctuating the brick wall. The location of the council chamber, the functional heart of the building, was signalled by the placing of the tower above. This asymmetrical arrangement also animated, what might otherwise have been a monotonously large, regular mass. The red brick provided the keynote for the extensive scheme of decoration that characterized the building inside and out (Lane 2000, 181–189). This decorative richness and the use of historical references to signal function were marks of contemporary architectural practice that fell rapidly out of favour as the twentieth century progressed. On the outside the red handmade brick walls were ornamented with carvings in Danish Stævns limestone and Bornholm granite, while the roofs were constructed of grey slate or glass, with copper for the guttering and for the tower roof. Inside featured a perfusion of different craft techniques: fresco, stucco relief, mosaic, tile, wood panelling and carvings, decorative brickwork, stonework and tapestry. The scale of the building and the cohesiveness of the scheme prevented it becoming overwhelming, but the scope of the decorative programme leaves no doubt as to its importance. In the 1890s decoration was not a matter of afterthought or the sprucing up of a basic architectural structure, but a central element by which means a building might speak (Alofsin 2006). Nyrop’s close engagement with the massive project of realizing the interior of the city hall reflects the evolving idea of the role of the architect, from the designers of facades to the total orchestration of every detail of a building. This now ranged from exterior landscaping to interior decoration and down to the smallest elements of furnishing and fittings. This concept produced buildings that were ‘total works of art’, in which all features, from the large to the small, resonated together to produce astonishing new environments. The cumulative impact of such interiors can be described using the German term, Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art. This term, originally associated with the operatic music dramas of Richard Wagner, was used to indicate art practice in which the transcendent, transformative impact of the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. In architecture, this meant designs where, through a carefully judged synthesis of multiple elements, materials, colour, space, light and down to the smallest details, the interior might be experienced as a single transformed unity. The city hall is simultaneously magnificent and imposing and at the same time signals its relationship to the people of Copenhagen and of Denmark. The grandeur comes from the scale of the project, from high-ceilinged halls, great doorways and endless corridors. The sense of richness comes from the colours: red brick, green copper, different colours of stone and tiles and from the mural decorations in green, red, gold, blue and brown and the background of white rendered walls.

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


Despite the scale, Nyrop also attempted to create connections to the familiar throughout the building, so that the visitor might feel at home. The exposed brick, whitewashed render and carved wooden beams and balustrades were intended to remind visitors of old churches or manor houses, places in Denmark they might have been before (Kragelund 2001, 47). The decorative language is intended to be accessible, rather than reference elite literary sources, so for example it used sea urchins and seaweed as a reference to Copehagen’s coastal location. Likenesses of the craftsmen who worked on the project were prominently included as an indication of its nature as a collective endeavour (Beckett 1908, 62–63). Humorous elements, like the tethered guard dogs standing watch, carved in relief on the granite bollards at either end of the front terrace, also alleviated the formality of the building. The intention is the creation of a language of architecture that is both modern and seated in a relationship to tradition, both prestigious and popular. The profusion of materials and colours, which can seem overwhelming to today’s visitors, was conspicuously modern in 1905 because of the contemporary emphasis on honesty and craftsmanship as high value attributes. The colours came from the nature of the materials themselves (brick, stone etc.) or from the application of surface colour (paint or glaze). There was no plaster painted to look like marble or wallpaper treated to simulate embossed leather wall hangings. The cheerful profusion of colour evoked an aesthetic associate with medieval and folk art, which we have already seen rise to prominence through the century. The attention to detail was faultless, from distinct designs carved into each window corbel to the hand tooled hinges on fitted cupboard doors. The ethos of the English Arts and Crafts movement spread rapidly across Europe through the 1890s. London became one of the key international destinations for architects and designers and arts journals and other publications circulated ideas and new designs rapidly around the continent (Greenhalgh 2000, 126–145). None of the traditional craftsmanship compromised the effective functioning of the building. It was equipped with central heating, served by a separate boiler house and fed around the building in hundreds of meters of pipes. Elevators, electric lights and a ventilation system were incorporated. Glass roofed spaces allow in natural light and called for a sophisticated iron framework for both the inner and over-roof and a pulley system to control blinds. Ironwork was needed for large spans, but Nyrop chose not to use it everywhere, substituting wooden joists, posts and beams where possible, as a building technique whose flexibility he was familiar with, and which made the building more familiar and comprehensible to visitors. Though in places the visitor might be reminded of a palace, a manor house or a church, or even of an Italian palazzo, it could never be forgotten for long that one was in a functioning, modern, administrative centre full of clerks and council officials,



not minstrels or knights. Nyrop’s city hall was a new building, a palace of municipal administration, a house of the people and a statement of civic aspirations and national pride at the same time.

Gerhard Munthe, Villa Leveld, Lysaker, 1898–99 Just as the role of the architect expanded, the practice of the Norwegian painter Gerhard Munthe (1849–1929) exemplifies the parallel expansion of the artist’s cultural role. As we saw earlier with August Malmström and Pietro Krohn, artists increasingly concerned themselves with design objects, textiles, furniture and architecture alongside painting. Munthe trained at the Royal School of Drawing in Oslo and then as a landscape artist in Dusseldorf and Munich, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Dahl. His painting, from the 1880s onwards, reflected the growing appreciation in the Nordic countries for French Naturalism, the impulse that we have seen send GallenKallela to Paris. However, this focus on Naturalism did not answer Munthe’s desire to communicate something beyond the visual reality of the world around him. In particular he was, in a National Romantic vein, captivated by the same old Norse tales as inspired Malmström. He sought a visual language that would encompass the spare, robust, and to him essentially Norwegian, character of these tales. Inspired by the stylized forms on medieval tapestries which had begun to be studied and collected by antiquarians, Munthe developed a style of graphic art in watercolour that employed flattened, simplified forms, nonnaturalistic scale and stylization and a restricted palette of bold colours. Though these paintings were intended as art works, they were quickly seized upon as designs for pictorial tapestries, an art form that was increasingly in vogue across Europe in the 1890s (Parry 2005). Munthe remained very ambivalent about this shift of meaning from art to design. At the same time, however, he embraced the new parallel mantle of designer sufficiently to expand his practice into designing further patterns for textiles, book-binding and whole interiors, all of which were used by him as a means of furthering his pursuit of an authentically Norwegian visual and material culture. Munthe built his own house for his family at Lysaker, the grounds of an old farm outside Oslo. Here he joined a growing community of fellow artists, writers and other cultural figures who were all drawn to build their homes outside of the city (Lane 2000, 82–89). This was a development on the usual habit among the Nordic middle classes of spending the summer months out in the countryside. In 1886 Munthe and a number of other artists spent June-

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October in Fleskum, another rural area outside Oslo, which led to the collective decision to establish a permanent artistic community outside the city. This reflected the continued importance of the landscape in Norwegian painting and cultural thought. This attitude was echoed across the Nordic countries, with artists and other cultural figures choosing to live for all or part of the year outside of the city (Lindqvist 2008). Whether undertaken by individual families, such as the family of Carl and Karin Larsson or Anders and Emma Zorn in Sweden, or as groups, such as the annual artists’ summer colony at Skagen in Denmark or the year-round community of artists at Tuusula outside Helsinki, this represented more than a focus on landscape as a subject of art (Berman 2007, 133–177; Mednick 2009; Konttinen 2014). As we have already noted, a growing body of thought understood and represented the core of national identity as being located in the land and the people. This notion was made up of a synthesis of ideas. Across Europe through the nineteenth century, expanding cities were attracting more and more ambivalence. The city represented everything that was changing, from technologies to the pace of life to the increased disconnection of the modern individual from the land and from traditional kinship and community networks. The city, even the comparably small cities of the Nordic region, was understood as unhealthy to the body and to the mind (Hamsun and Lyngstad 1998; Hirsh 2004, 103–162). The city was the home of new and exciting concepts such as speed, change and individual freedom, but it was also dangerous and even physically and psychologically toxic. By leaving the city, artists and architects, almost all of whom originated among the urban middle classes, could get in touch with what was felt to be more enduring, less polluted values. Among these values were the ideas we have seen embodied in the examples of painting by Dahl and Lindegren: nationhood, national history, family, tradition, authenticity. This relocation to the countryside was not unique to the Nordic countries, but was practiced with a notably widespread readiness there. Munthe’s home at Lysaker, like that of many artists, architects and designers at this time, was also an embodiment of the principle of the synthesis of art and life. Many of these villa-studio homes were designed, like Munthe’s home, Leveld, by the occupiers for their own families and lives. Through his home Munthe expressed his vision of how people should live and the role of art within this. This vision was a synthesis of the modern and the traditional and of national and international ideas. The outer appearance of the house, a two-storey wooden villa with a mansard roof, painted yellow with white trim, evoked Munthe’s childhood home (Skedsmo 1982, 135). Through the interior, particularly through the bright colour-scheme, Munthe was able to put into practice his belief in a particular Norwegian aesthetic of simple forms and bold colours.



Through the watercolours Munthe did of his home we can see the combinations of colours he used, for example blue walls, red painted furniture and white linens embroidered in blue and red for the dining room and yellow walls with white trim and blue painted furniture for the hall (Plate 3). Though far from plain to modern eyes, these interiors with their combinations of painted wooden walls, floors and furniture and woven textiles were a dramatic contrast to the heavily carved, dark, mahogany, Neo-Renaissance style furniture and swaths of velvet and brocade that would have made up a middle-class formal room in the 1870s or 1880s. This new vision represented a shift in taste across Europe, but was given particular Nordic resonances through references to local tradition. That Munthe did a series of watercolours of his home demonstrates his pride and sense of its importance as a work. It also reflects a more widespread understanding of the significance of the home. Again, we can look back to Lindegren’s Dalarna Farmhouse, and see there a reflection of growing middleclass engagement with the idea of the family and family life. In this vision, the ethics and spirit of the family are represented in the home. The peasant home is occupied, lived in, played in and worked in, rather than being considered a site for the performance of status. The peasant living room is a place where all the family can gather together. Clearly this vision is a distortion of the realities of peasant life, but this does not obscure the significance it held for middleclass artists and consumers as an idea. Munthe’s home is, on one hand, a nod to this vision of timeless, rural domesticity. Textiles, in particular, embody this, many of which were designed by Munthe and executed by his wife Sigrun Munthe. Woven rugs and tapestries and embroidered linens can be seen as a direct material link back to the peasant cottage in technique, colours and patterns, and even further than that, back into the Norwegian past. By evoking these associations a sense of home could be created that drew on childhood memories and on the idea of a greater folk memory stretching back into the past. Munthe articulated a clear distinction between that which was foreign, artificial and hotel-like and that which was Norwegian and cozy: It can’t be stressed enough, that when one is furnishing one’s home, there is no better way to do it than by expressing one’s self there, or else the domestic atmosphere and the furnishing scheme itself will fall apart. And then one will live the rest of one’s life as a traveller visiting a more or less pleasant hotel. (Munthe 1919, 175) Munthe was closely associated with the Norse Revival that started in the 1860s and that concentrated on an evocation of an old Norse world, knotwork and heavy carving. His watercolour and textile design style and his

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favouring of themes from folk tales and the sagas sat comfortably within this general movement. By the end of the nineteenth century though, this focus on the bygone days of the Norsemen had begun to be regarded as too restrictive, and even risible, for modern Norwegians. Another focal point within the Norwegian past, the independent homesteads of the farmers who, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries made up the leadership of Norway beneath a Danish or Danified aristocracy, begun to draw attention (Solbakken 2014). There could be found in surviving farmhouses and manors a rough and ready take on the European baroque that offered a still-Norwegian alternative to the medievalism of the Norse Revival. Nods to this Norwegian baroque can also be seen in Munthe’s home, in the simplified scroll-work and scalloped edges of the wooden furniture. What avoided a sense of an anachronistic clash of different periods was the sense of the contemporary overlaid it all. The past was evoked because it represented a set of values and national ideals, but it was not an escape into the past, but a bringing of the past into the present, with an eye to the future. Alongside a baroque long-case clock stood an armchair with dramatic swooping arms and a reclined backrest that was entirely modern in its sweeping Art Nouveau form. The painted wood of its construction ensured it fitted easily in alongside less conspicuously modern elements in the interior. The simple, sheer white curtains and houseplants in earthenware pots on the windowsill emphasized a sense of sunlight and fresh air that also corresponded to new thinking on healthy living. As firmly as this revival of tradition was stressed, by Munthe and others, this reform of the domestic environment had modern dimensions. Rethinking home, family, the bringing up of children, hygiene and morality, the modern home as it emerged at the end of the nineteenth century was oriented towards the future as much as the past. As I have said, Munthe’s home is an example of a much wider-spread trend. The Swedish artist, Carl Larsson, painted a series of watercolours of the home he built in collaboration with his wife Karin. These were exhibited in Germany, the United States and the Stockholm Exhibition of 1897, before they were published in an album in 1899 (Larsson 1899). These watercolours show a home similarly composed of a fusion of the modern and traditional, painted wooden furniture, the odd antique nod back to the glory days of the Swedish eighteenth century, alongside extensive use of textiles by Karin, hand-woven rugs and linens and hand embroidery (Snodin and Stavenow-Hidemark 1997). Though traditionally downplayed, the role of wives such as Sigrun and Karin, in the creation of the artistic domestic environment of the turn of the century, is highly significant. The album, subsequent editions and volumes were popular and influential across the Nordic countries. They fed into a debate regarding the modern home that had international dimensions.



The reform of the home connected into a series of transnational debates regarding how modern life was lived and the role of art and design in this. The  English Arts and Crafts movement was particularly focused on the art of the home and a host of influential figures from William Morris to Oscar Wilde put forward opinions on the decoration of the home (Edwards and Hart 2010). Not merely concerned with how the home looked, these opinions fused thinking on art and design with broader implications regarding the modern individual and the modern family, which resonated with middle-class home-owners across Europe. A range of texts, like Munthe’s quoted above, in dedicated books, journals on art and design as well as journals aimed at women as home-makers introduced the reading public to ideas about art in the home, the arrangement of space, light and colour and how this might affect the occupants of the home. The home was increasingly understood as space for the performance of identity (Kinchin 2008). This can be seen in Munthe’s quote and the very fact of Munthe and Larsson publishing images of their homes. By the 1890s, domestic theorists on the home begun to emerge in the Nordic countries. The most influential of these was Ellen Key, a feminist writer and theorist on child-rearing and the home (Lane 2000, 122–126). Her essay ‘Beauty in the Home’ was first published, in a short initial version, in the feminist magazine Idun in 1897. It was then expanded in her collection of essays, Beauty for All, in 1899, which went into numerous editions and was translated in Norwegian in 1903 and numerous other European languages (Key 1899; Key and Koht 1903). This text set out a series of principles regarding the simple, affordable, healthy and comfortable home and a new principle of beauty founded on usefulness rather than status. It emphasized honesty, decrying the imitation of expensive finery in preference for the simple, practical and well-made, ornamented with natural flowers and plants, cheerful colours and home-made textiles (Key 2008). She took the Larsson’s home as a prime example and the Munthe’s home can also be seen to resonate with similar ideas. These debates had geographic and sometimes nationalist dimensions. Key’s text, for example, commented that the home in the north must necessarily be different from the home in the south because of the necessity of providing cosiness and letting in as much light as possible. The new open-air folk museums of the Nordic countries can be related to this process, as they sought to keep increasingly urbanised populations in touch with their vernacular heritage. Preserved houses from across the nation and accompanying activities related to traditional celebrations and crafts were part of a perpetuation of public memory of a rural way of life rapidly disappearing in the cities. The preservation and perpetuation of craft skills also links in with the women’s organizations, the most prominent of which we have come across in the form of the Friends of Handicrafts in Sweden and the

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Friends of Finnish Handicrafts. Across the Nordic countries though, groups were concerned with the preservation of traditional crafts of various kinds and craft was enshrined in the emerging public education system. The design of the Villa Leveld was coherent and all encompassing. It incorporated every aspect of the interior, from small details to the overall ambience in a manner that makes it another example of the total work of art. This represented not just aesthetic choices, but a wider arena of ideas related to the role of the design in the world and its power in relation to concepts of identity, home, self-expression and belonging (Berman 1993). The associations of this idea were transformative and liberating. Going beyond good taste, the interior might strive to create a space transcending mundane realities and evoke uplifting ideas of joy, beauty and the possibility of new, shared visions for the future. The idea of art and design’s transformative potential in the modern world had international dimensions, but resonated powerfully in the Nordic countries (Munch 2001). We can therefore see in Munthe’s home an example of the coming together of a number of different threads regarding art and life, national and international currents. Leveld was a large middle-class villa and the home of a practicing artist. Elements of the design: wooden floors, walls and furniture painted bright colours, in place of more ornate and imported objects; sheer linen curtains, in place of velvet and brocade, and the use of ceramic, glass, metal-work and textiles as focal points of the decoration were still in line with Key’s advice geared towards much more modest workers’ apartments. Munthe’s home was one in which he, as a Norwegian, felt comfortable and which he felt effectively expressed and maintained a link to his Norwegian heritage, but it paralleled developments in the artistic arrangement of the home across the Nordic countries.

Richard Bergh, Nordic Summer Evening, 1899–1900 The key elements of the art culture of the period around 1900, whether it is called National Romanticism or Art Nouveau, revolved in the Nordic countries around a set of collective identities. National history, folk heritage and an affinity for the national landscape were all resonances that the modern Norwegian, Swede, Dane and so on, could expect to share with compatriots. Though there were class and gender divisions that disrupted this, there was a strong sense of shared values created and maintained through art. We have seen, however, in relation to Dahl’s popularity in Germany and Larsson’s popularity worldwide that though a work might be read as characteristically Norwegian or Swedish, its appeal might well reach further.



Nordic Summer Evening is a painting that captures the essence of the individual’s relationship to these shared values and to nature. Richard Bergh (1858–1919) was one of the leading artists in the Swedish art scene around the turn of the century. His father was also an artist and he studied initially at a private art school and then the Stockholm Academy (1878–81). Through the rest of the 1880s he was based, like many other Nordic artists, in Paris. His work was marked by an engagement with French Naturalism and he produced mainly portraits and landscapes, particularly in association with the group of Scandinavian artists who were gathered in the countryside at Grez-sur-Loing, outside Paris (Gunnarsson 1998, 165–172). Bergh maintained a dual career in Paris and in his home town of Stockholm, exhibiting at the Paris Salon and with the group, known as the Opponents, who were to form the Artist’s Association in 1886. Bergh returned to base himself in Sweden in 1889. He was dedicated to the development of modern Swedish art, advocating in particular a focus on Swedish subjects, particularly nature. At the same time, however, the national zeal that drove his art, art journalism and work for the Artist’s Association was not insular. As part of the Stockholm cultural and intellectual elite he joined discussions about modern life, the role of women and international cultural figures such as Leo Tolstoy and Richard Wagner (Facos 1998, 105–115). He also continued to travel extensively across Europe. He spent the summers of the same period at a villa on the island of Lidingo in the Stockholm archipelago. It was over this period that he developed his composition Nordic Summer Evening, which was completed in 1900. Though steeped in national themes it similarly reflects a modern engagement with contemporary thought. The canvas shows two figures, one male and one female, absorbed in contemplation of a rural landscape of lake and trees (Figure 2.2). The scene is suffused with the glow of evening light and the suggestion of the cooling of the air and stilling of the breeze that comes at twilight. Berg’s Naturalist technique was well suited to this capturing of light and atmospheric effects. By 1900 this loose brushwork, luminous colour and contemporary subject matter was no longer strikingly unconventional. However, Nordic Summer Night is not as straight-forward as it might appear. In the first place, it defies traditional genre categories, lying somewhere between a landscape, a double portrait and a scene of modern life. The landscape is clearly more than mere background, taking up a sizable portion of the canvas as well as absorbing the attention of both figures. The figures were modelled by the singer Karin Pyk and the painter and youngest son of the King, Prince Eugen, who were both public figures and therefore recognizable to a sizable proportion of the domestic audience for the painting. And yet, turned away from the viewer as they are, the painting cannot be understood primarily as a portrait. There is no obvious event or activity taking place, and yet the calm, balanced formality of

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FIGURE 2.2   Richard Bergh, Nordic Summer Evening, oil on canvas, 1899– 1900. © Göteborg Art Museum.

the composition suggests something monumental. The division of the canvas into three by the pillars of the veranda again suggests a relationship to the altar-piece triptych form. The picture is open to interpretation. For some viewers, attention is drawn by the two figures and the puzzling out of the nature of their relationship (Facos 1992). The two figures assume equal stature within the painting and mirror one another, both turned towards the view beyond. It is unusual in nineteenth-century painting for a female figure to be treated so clearly as equivalent to a male figure. The convention of viewing women as closer to nature and even as personifications of nature, wild and untamed, was well established, but because the two figures so clearly parallel one another, we cannot do that with the woman here. The firm parallels in the composition demand that both figures are treated the same, that is equally as thinking people, whom we look with and not simple at. Bergh was friends with Ellen Key and well aware of contemporary feminist thought. Like the figure in The Boy with the Crow they are partly turned away from us, inviting us to contemplate not just them, but what they are looking at and what they are thinking. Unlike the boy though, it is clear what they are looking at, the view beyond, and the space between them and the sloping floorboards



of the veranda invite us to join them, to share in their contemplation. We stand with them, drawn as they are to the landscape beyond, so they are us within the painting. They are a modern man and woman, whose thoughts are simultaneously our thoughts. At the same time, their thoughts remain as unknowable as any other individual’s. The absence of speech or movement from the two figures adds to the suggestion of mental activity. Bergh had been exposed to new thinking on psychology while in Paris. This is another dimension in which the surface simplicity of the painting is complicated: as a painting of consciousness. Despite the prominence of the figures, the composition draws the viewer’s attention out to the landscape beyond. The foreground is dark and we are drawn from darkness to light. The natural world is domesticated with the sight of the jetty and rowing boat tied up to it, but there is no further sign of agriculture or human activity beyond. The presence of the figures animate the act of contemplation and help us enter the scene further, prompting the viewer to enter the scene sensorially, to feel the breeze, to hear the susurration of leaves or the call of birds. The aspect of the painting’s engagement with the viewer has a particular impact in relation to its original intended audience of fellow Swedes. Seen in this way, the figures are not merely the modern man and woman, they are the modern Swedish man and woman. The quiet comradery of contemplation we are invited to partake of is as a fellow-Swede, who is similarly absorbed by the profound power that nature exerts. The landscape is generic enough to be one of thousands of summer villas and farm houses, where middle and upper class Swedes (the audience for this painting) spent the summer months. So the painting calls on shared memories of the particular qualities of the Nordic light and nature. This is a particular quality of Modernism in Scandinavia. Elsewhere, at the fin-de-siècle the emphasis was placed on the articulation of individual subjectivity. Artists across Europe at the turn of the century began to focus on the inner world of man as their subject, though in Bergh’s case we can see he included the inner world of women also. These artists, who are now considered as part of a broadly defined Symbolist movement, whether or not they would recognize that term themselves, explored the private realms of thought, dreams, memories and faith (Larsen and Christensen 2000; Rapetti 2005). They focused on the inner world of the individual, often their own. In  the Nordic countries there was not the same sense that modern subjectivity was incompatible with the collective identity of the community or nation (Facos 1998; 117–118). The couple in the painting and the viewer, outside of the painting but included in its world, are part of a shared experience of the modern individual, seeking and finding a deeper understanding of life through communion with

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nature. The National Romantic movement as a whole, across the Nordic countries, is based on a similar assumption: that the individual quest for meaning in a complex modern world was a shared journey. Munthe and Larsson’s watercolour series of their homes were not mere celebrations of their own good taste. They were painted with the assumption that their personal lives and the search for beauty within the home would resonate with others with similar concerns. One does not need to be Swedish to respond to Bergh’s painting. But just as we have seen history used as a foundation stone of nation building, and references to history used to tie together those who share in that story, so Bergh and other National Romantic artists sought to evoke memory also. Memories of environments (the forest, the lake shore), events (midsummer, fairs, funerals), senses (sounds, smells) and places (old wooden houses, churches) that would draw on a body of shared experience and shared nostalgia particular to the Nordic countries. This effort did not draw on a static, pre-established set of national ideas; it was transformative and ongoing. Each poem about a pine tree, each reference to the forest and to ‘our’ way of life in newspaper editorials or school songs, each advertising image that attempted to harness this shared culture for its own ends added together to create an evolving image of the nation. Parallel processes across the Nordic countries established parallel and overlapping imagery. Bergh’s painting was very well-received. It was shown at the Artist’s Association annual exhibition in Stockholm in 1901 and was bought by Pontus and Göthilda Fürstenberg. Both Pontus and Göthilda came from Swedish Jewish mercantile families, though it was Göthilda’s father’s wealth that, on his death, allowed the couple to finally marry and pursue their passion for art. They had a large gallery built as part of their home, which they opened to interested visitors. They supported the new wave of art in Sweden championed by the Opponents and their collection became the backbone of the Gothenburg’s Museum of Art on Pontus’s death in 1902. The patronage of wealthy people, such as the Fürstenbergs, was a vital component of the development of a national art culture. The economic prosperity of the Nordic countries through the last decades of the nineteenth century increased the number of people who could patronize art, architecture and design.

Jens Ferdinand Willumsen, Jotunheim, 1892–93 The exploration of the position of the individual in relation to the national and to the universal are also themes that can be traces in the work of Danish artist Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863–1958). He originally trained as a master



builder at the Technical School in Copenhagen, but a year before he qualified he began to attend art classes at the Academy and enrolled there in 1883. After three unsuccessful attempts at graduating, he quit the Academy in 1885 and completed his studies at the Free Artist’s Study School. This was a private art school that ran from 1882 to 1912 and was set up initially by students dissatisfied by the conservative teaching at the Academy. It can be compared with the general trend of breaking free of the confines of Academic art practice discussed in Chapter one. The unconventional course taken by Willumsen was to prove typical throughout his career. More than many of his contemporaries, Willumsen was international in his orientation in a period when nationhood and the foundation of national art cultures were central preoccupations in the Danish and Nordic art worlds. These perspectives were not, however, fundamentally antithetical. When he moved to Paris in 1890 he joined a circle of Nordic artists already there (Röstorp 2013). Like Gallen-Kallela and many others, study in Paris was understood as a vital step in any artists’ career. The piece, Jotunheim, started in Norway in 1892 and completed in Paris in 1893 exemplifies the fusion of personal, national and international Symbolism that characterizes his work. The starting point was an expedition to the Norwegian fjords in the summer of 1892, a trek that recalls Dahl’s expeditions from earlier in the century. This was not a trip home for Willumsen, but one to an entirely alien landscape that both overwhelmed and challenged him psychologically (Buurgård 1999, 40–42). Completely different from the gentler landscape of Denmark, the journey was fuelled by the romance associated with the wilds of Norway, as advertised at events like the 1888 Nordic Exhibition in Copenhagen. After two years in Paris and a summer spent in Pont-Aven, Brittany, inspired by his friend Paul Gauguin’s search for the liberating and essential power of the primitive there, Willumsen was attracted by an alternative primitivism. The fact that for a man from Copenhagen, the Norwegian fjords were as exotic as Brittany, serves to underline the element of the alien that lay behind many Nordic artists engagement with landscapes and peoples that lay well beyond their everyday experience of life in Copenhagen, Stockholm or Helsinki. For many, this engagement was understood as a form of home-coming or connection to a spiritual essence of true Swedishness or Norwegianess, as we have already seen in different ways in the work of Dahl, Lindegren’s and Gallen-Kallela. In Willumsen’s hands, an engagement with the Nordic landscape is transformed into something both more idiosyncratic and universal. In every way, the piece breaks with convention (Plate 4). In the centre is a large canvas containing a mountain landscape painted in oils. It is held in a mahogany frame that also provides the armature for two reliefs made of painted on

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zinc and a mountain range made in enamel on copper that sits on top of the frame, as if the landscape had burst beyond its confines. This break with picture-making conventions was unusual enough to be dramatic at the time, but can be related to a number of European painters who used the frame as an extension of the canvas. This practice enabled Willumsen and others to break the boundaries of fine-art practice and create a piece that fused multiple techniques and materials. No longer circumscribed by the frame, the art work can exist in the world and use an array of means to communicate its message. Willumsen’s sculptural frame transforms the landscape within. The painting is both a landscape and an expression of the effect the landscape had on him. The image is stylized with stark, flat areas of dark and light capturing the graphic contrast of white snow and dark rock. The landscape is inhospitable, without vegetation or signs of human habitation. It suggests the same awe at the power of nature as we observed in Dahl’s Winter at the Sognefjord, but without the elements that made that landscape knowable and comprehensible as a national symbol. Willumsen’s landscape is strange and incomprehensible. The viewer gropes for meaning in the painting and this would have been even more pronounced in the nineteenth century when conventions of picture viewing were based on an expectation of finding meaning there. The sense of the overwhelming nature of the landscape is connected to wider questions of transcendent meaning. In contrast to Dahl, who found a resolution in the synthesis of man and nature, past and present all under the banner of nationhood, for Willumsen the awe inspired by the mountain range of Jotunheim raised questions rather than answers. In the face of its vastness, the individual is forced to consider their values, their understanding of the world and their place in it. These existential questions are played out in the friezes to either side. When he exhibited the work in Copenhagen in 1895, he included and explanatory text: The clouds drifted away, and I found myself on the edge of a precipice looking out across the mountainous landscape in hegemony far north, serious and brutally covered with eternal ice and snow, a world uninhabitable for human beings. The images in relief were fashioned under the impression of this serious atmosphere. The figures in the relief on the left represent those who determinedly seek through learning and the intellect to find the connection between the infinitely great and the infinitely small. The infinitely great is represented by a stellar nebula, the infinitely small by some microbes. The figure at the bottom is expecting inspiration; the figure at the top feels convinced of the correct result of his research. The relief on the right represents a contrast to the relief on the left: pointlessness; at the bottom two men, one of whom is weaving a piece of wickerwork which the other is just as quickly unravelling; in



the middle a group of indifferent figures; at the top a figure representing a chimeric dream. The frame at the top contains a decorative picture of a mountain range made in enamel on copper. (Krogh 2006, 192) The men of intellect work with silver matter that resembles the abstract, geometric patterns that make up the landscape. On the side of pointlessness there is lush foliage, which contrasts to the reflective surface of this abstract matter. The figures there are joyful, smiling and laughing, in contrast to the serious expressions of the men on the left, whose domed foreheads suggest cerebral endeavour. The population on the right-hand side include women with prominent bare breasts, men with darker skin suggesting a non-European origin and children. The male figures weaving and unweaving can also be seen to be engaged in the practice of handcrafts, manual rather than intellectual activity. The bizarre, green-faced Pierrot suggests theatrical performance as well as lunacy. The division implies a hierarchy of value and an antithesis between the white male intellectuals and the people of other races, women, children and the outsider figure of the Pierrot. There is a marked contrast in this stark binary to the shared viewpoint of the man and woman in Bergh’s painting. The outer panels were worked on by Willumsen back in Paris after returning from Norway and the dichotomy they represent may well reflect some of the tension experienced by a Danish artist in the thriving metropolis of Paris. For all the bluntness of the value judgement levelled against the ‘pointless’ figures in the right-hand panel, there is something undeniably appealing in their joyousness that undermines the supposed criticism. And indeed, the cerebral men in the  left-hand panel seem to be drawn, with necks craning, to gaze across  to the fun being had on the right-hand panel. The three-part arrangement of the piece again suggests the form of a triptych, with its associations as an altarpiece. For both Bergh and Willumsen, the use of the triptych structure signalled their participation in a long history of European painting, however Nordic their subject matter. In Willumsen’s piece the mountain-scape takes the central, most holy, position, yet without the certainty of a Christian message. For all its philosophizing, the result is one of ambiguity, the absence of external certainty, and the consequent necessity for each individual to determine their own scheme of meaning. Willumsen’s experience within the French art scene connected him to a world of artists pursuing a new course in art. They were part of a wider cultural movement in which writers and social commentators and many more wrestled with the transformation of modern life at the end of the nineteenth century (Lahjelma  2014). The institutions that had provided a framework of comparative certainty and stability through the previous few centuries had begun to lose their authority. The Protestant church remained strong across

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Northern Europe, though it was challenged by various schismatic groups and by the rise of atheism and alternative religions. Politically, the authority of the ruling classes was challenged across the Nordic countries by the rise of Communism and Social Democracy. In Norway and Finland, challenges to the traditional ruling classes also took on ethnic and linguistic dimensions. New philosophies emphasized the will and responsibility of the individual, such as the work of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the Dane, Søren Kierkegaard. In Paris and Berlin Nordic artists were exposed to this maelstrom of new ideas. But, as indicated by the work of Kierkegaard, there also existed domestic traditions that questioned and challenged old certainties.

Paris World’s Fair, 1900 Paris continued to exercise a particular hold on European art culture well into the twentieth century. As we have seen, international fairs functioned as important points of stimuli for the development of art and design and the Paris World’s Fair of 1900 was a huge, international event (Greenhalgh 1988). The significance of the turning of the century gave extra impetus to the aim of measuring cultural achievements to date. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland all had their own pavilions. The case of Iceland will be discussed separately below. National pavilions were for the presentation of a country’s culture and way of life. Fine art and items of industrial manufacture were displayed within national sections of the two major pavilions, the Pavilion of Art and the Pavilion of Industry. In practice, however, fine art and design played an important role in the national pavilions also. Perhaps the most important of the Nordic pavilions at the Paris World’s Fair was the Finnish Pavilion. This was notable because of the very precariousness of Finland’s political position. Through the 1890s, Russia’s benign attitude to Finnish nationalism had started to shift and the decision was taken to fully consolidate the Grand Duchy within the Empire. This meant dismantling the separate legal framework and national institutions that had run in the Grand Duchy since it was ceded to Russia in 1809. This process was already underway and was being strenuously opposed by both Swedish-speaking and Finnish-speaking Finns. The Finnish Pavilion was, therefore, an important site for performing Finnish identity for the international community. We have already seen how international attention was highly regarded within the Nordic nations. International praise acted as a counter-weight to often repeated ideas about Nordic backwardness and distance from the cutting edge of cultural development. In Finland in particular, on the outer edge of the Nordic countries, the comparatively underdeveloped state of her



art and design culture was frequently referred to. For example, the first art historical survey of Finland by Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä in 1891 began: Such land and climate as has been given to Finland are not conducive to the production of art. Here, where winter’s gloom and darkness prevails over most of the year and where even during the short summer, when day seems to have chased away night for ever, the air is rarely completely clear, completely translucent, the eye is not accustomed to seeing the shape of objects in the same manner as in Southern countries. (Aspelin-Haapkylä 1891, 1) Positive international reviews of the Finnish pavilion were lovingly collected and shared in the Finnish press back home. This reception launched the careers in Finland of the architectural trio who designed the pavilion, Herman Gesellius (1874–1916), Armas Lindgren (1874–1929) and Eliel Saarinen (1873– 1950). The  style they developed for it employed a fusion of Art Nouveau, medievalizing and imaginative forms (Figure 2.3). Striking features included the massive portals of native Finnish stone shipped from Finland and the extensive and lively architectural ornament of Northern nature (bears, pinecones etc.) across the building. This combination became, for a few years a fashionable

FIGURE 2.3   Eliel Saarinen, Armas Lindgren, Hermann Gesellius, Finnish Pavilion, Paris World’s Fair, 1900. © Finnish National Archives.

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


solution, especially for companies or institutions who wanted to signal their Finnish character in some way. Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen had all graduated from the Helsinki Technical University in 1897 and immediately formed their architectural partnership. On graduation they variously made study trips to German and Italy (Gesellius), Scandinavia, Scotland, England, Holland, German and France (Lindgren) and Sweden and Germany (Saarinen). Lindgren, who was the prime contributor to the decorative schemes of the partnerships’ projects, had also worked as a draughtsman for expeditions around Finland undertaken by the Antiquarian Society. As a student, and later as a professor of architecture back at the Technical University, Lindgren maintained the same close, hands-on, engagement with national architectural heritage as Nyrop in Denmark. He was therefore in a good position to marry international and national influences in his designs (Nikula 1988). The architect and critic, Gustaf Strengell, summed up the impact of the pavilion design in his review of Finnish architecture in 1903: With this new course – applied decoration based on plant and animal themes – the Finnish pavilion attained its epoch-making significance. Without a doubt, it was an exceedingly beautiful architectural creation. […] But the emphasis of skill lay, however, in the decoration and it was to this that foreign reviewers devoted the greatest attention. It was, indeed, truly excellent. From our forests were taken pine branches, in which squirrels played and from there also were the formidable bears around the tower. And from our lakes came lilies, between whose leaves amusing frogs peeped. The decorative store of this nature-scheme made the acanthus flowers of the French palaces appear faded and grey. C’est de l’art nouveau, this is new art – so concluded the usual descriptions in the French papers, and indeed with reason. It was undeniably the new art, personal, individual, but at the same time, art which has grown from the soil of the homeland. (Strengell 1903, 81–83) Strengell has no problem in acknowledging the national and the international elements of the design alongside one another. This is a repeated feature of contemporary commentary on National Romanticism: the significant absence of any sense of polarity or discordance between the international and modern and the national. The use of stone, while sharing the national connotations noted in relation to earlier buildings, remained international in its frame of reference. Finns continued to look abroad, to Scotland for expertise in the quarrying and dressing of granite and to Norway for the handling of soapstone. Swedish cultural influence remained significant and the rich and inventive carved stone ornament of Ferdinand Boberg in particular form an



obvious source of inspiration. Finnish reviews also drew parallels to the new, non-historical ornamental languages being developed in the Secession architecture of Germany and Austro-Hungary (Ashby 2012, 141–143).

Thorvald Bindesbøll, Silver Beakers, A. Michelsen, 1900 Finland was not alone in achieving success at the World’s Fair. The Danish displays were designed by the artist and designer Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846–1908) in co-operation with Pietro Krohn, as part of his role as director of the new Danish Museum of Applied Art. Krohn was able to draw on his exhibition experience, his industry experience and the wealth of contacts he had developed in the Danish design world. Paris 1900 was also used as a key opportunity for the acquisition of new objects for the museum collection. The Danish national pavilion took its main point of reference from traditional timber framed Danish farm houses. Inside however, the art and design on display was far from traditional. Both Bindesbøll and Krohn were aware of the latest trends shaping European design. Bindesbøll was awarded a Gold Medal for this exhibition design. Among the Danish design pieces shown were works by the Bing & Grøndahl firm, where from 1897 to 1900 Willumsen had taken over as artistic director. In Krohn’s opinion, though, the shining light of Danish ceramic design was still Arnold Krog, who remained artistic director at Royal Copenhagen from 1884 to 1916. His Marguerite table service was based on the technique of underglazing developed in the 1880s, but worked with greater and greater delicacy around a motif of flowers and insects. It won a Grand Prix and was purchased for the museum as well as being widely praised in the press (Christensen and Danske 2008, 203, 272). Bindesbøll had trained as an architect at the Copenhagen Academy, graduating in 1876, but he never succeeded in securing any major commissions or prizes for his architectural work. His move towards the applied arts was therefore, unlike the expansion of practice of Willumsen or Gallen-Kallela, propelled more by necessity. He had far greater success with his ceramic work, which had been included in the Nordic Exhibition 1888. From there his practice expanded to range across book binding, silverware, furniture and designs for embroideries and he became a pre-eminent figure in Danish applied art around the turn of the century (Ertberg 1997). His work blended an engagement with the rough, handmade forms of traditional crafts with international influences ranging from French Art Nouveau to Asian ceramics. Unlike ceramics, where new ideas had been circulating throughout the 1880s, Danish silverware had remained largely dependent on designs that

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


referenced various periods of European Classicism. The firm of A. Michelsen had been founded in 1841 and rapidly achieved prominence in the Danish market. In the 1890s, under the management of Anton Michelsen’s son Carl, they began to search for new, contemporary designs, as exhibitions such as Paris 1878 and the Nordic Exhibition highlighted the shift taking place in design taste (Funder 2002, 171–172). For Paris 1900 Bindesbøll design a range of silver beakers for A. Michelsen that exemplified the new direction he brought to Danish design (Figure 2.4) (Funder 2002, 185–193). The beakers are free from any suggestion of dependence on any historical period. Unlike the work of Krohn and Krog already mentioned, they are also free of a direct allusion to nature in the form of animals or insects. Instead the range was based around an undulating shape, with a wave-form lip. The vessels were embossed with abstract, rounded shapes, which evoke the natural world without representing anything specific. The smooth, flowing forms suggest energy and dynamism. In other ceramic pieces that Bindesbøll showed in Paris, the motif of swirling, bold, abstract shapes suggested an influence from Chinese and Japanese ornament and calligraphy. The organic, ahistorical design worked well in the Art Nouveau context of Paris 1900. This fusion of potential sources of inspiration into a striking and individual design language was typical of Bindesbøll’s work. Contemporaries either loved him or loathed him, but the Danish design world embraced him, as indicated by his appointment as exhibition designer for the Danish section and Krohn’s purchase of various pieces for the museum’s collection (Christensen and Danske 2008, 199).

FIGURE 2.4   Thorvald Bindesbøll, Silver Beakers, A. Michelsen, 1900. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.



Despite the range of different materials Bindesbøll worked across, his work was marked by an attention to craftsmanship that was central to Danish conceptions of design through this period. Art and design discourse tended to emphases Danish independence from international influence, and so Art Nouveau was regarded as a ‘foreign style’. The Danish version of the search for a new style at the turn of the century was known as ‘Skønvirke’, which does not translate well, but indicates ‘work of beauty’ (Gelfer-Jørgensen 2004). This movement shared a general Arts and Crafts emphasis on the qualities of making that exemplified Bindesbøll’s work. As we can see in the silver beakers, they have been very carefully made and finished, with the chasing of gentle forms right up to the lip of the rim and the gilding of the interior to contrast with the silver of the exterior. Though the technicians at Michelsen were used to producing works of far greater and more ornate complexity, they were able to give Bindesbøll’s pieces the high level of finish that garnered public notice. ‘Simplicity’ was a watchword of the Skønvirke movement. The word ‘simplicity’ shows up with similar regularity in the design discourses of the other Nordic countries also. The World’s Fairs and other events provided fodder for the growing field of design journalism. Simplicity was a subjective and flexible term and difficult to pin down. But increasingly through the 1890s and 1900s the idea was circulated and perpetuated that Nordic design was particularly marked by such simplicity. Through associations with Viking, folk heritage or just Nordic nature, the idea of simplicity could make a virtue of the previously noted anxiety about Nordic cultural achievements in comparison with art centres like Paris.

Frida Hansen, The Milky Way, tapestry 1898 Written discourse played a large role in the development of national art and design cultures. Key figures, particularly those who led institutions, like Krohn, or who wrote in influential publications could shape contemporary attitudes to art and design and influence opinion on what ‘Danish design’ or ‘Swedish art’ was. Influential opinions, repeated by future writers, set up canons of what was and what was not part of the story of Nordic art and design. This shaping of contemporary and future reputations and significance was not static or fixed, but could be challenged and revised, changing the shape of the story over time. Frida Hansen (1855–1931) was a textile artist whose career can be considered in this light (Thue 1986). A large number of Nordic women trained in the applied arts in the late nineteenth century. The design schools of the

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


Nordic countries were open to them and textiles in particular were considered appropriate fields for women to practice. As has been noted, the Friends of Handicraft societies were prominent organizations that bridged the gulf between home making, which women had been doing for centuries, and commercial practice. The breaking down of perceived barriers between the fine and applied arts had resulted in male artists, like Munthe and others, creating designs for textiles that were executed by their female relatives or by professional makers. Demand for pictorial tapestries was high at the turn of the century. The idea fit within the revival of interest in both medievalism and crafts. As decorative objects, tapestry broke the boundaries of the fine-art frame, blurring the boundary between art and furnishing. Though it now received the attention of male artists and critics, it retained an association with the folk tradition of textiles for the home as women’s work (Parker 1983). The place of men within the history of textile practice, the highly skilled male weavers of the great French tapestry workshops and the man, women and child knitting tradition of Iceland was erased by this persistent gendering of textile art. Though textile work was granted serious attention, prizes and coverage in art and design magazines, attitudes of both men and women remained shaped by this gendered lens. The painter Fanny Churberg, one of the founders of the Friends of Finnish Handicrafts, wrote an open letter to the women of Finland, published in both Finnish- and Swedish-language newspapers in 1879, calling upon women to join the society’s mission to revive textile practice in Finland. The value of this textile tradition was presented as heritage comparable to the Kalevala, which was regarded as the national poetic epic of the Finnish people: While the man was singing the Kalevala’s ancient verse and reflecting his thoughts in bright poetry, his wife wove heavenly arcs of colourful weaving and created patterns from her own rich imagination, to adorn herself and her poor home. With an unspoilt sense of beauty and natural inventive force, she produced the simplest, home-made materials and executed works which are worthy of being held up as models for evermore. These works follow distinct, national forms, comparable to those in the East, with which they indeed have an ancient kinship. She thus unwittingly created the basis of our ethnographic museums and the domestic foundation for our taste, which in future will be of benefit to our industrial arts and not just our handicrafts. (Churberg 1879, 1) For her, textile art offered a distinct arena where women could make their contribution to the nation-building effort. It is notable that she ceased to practice as a painter once she began her work for the society.



Interest in Norwegian tapestry traditions had been on the rise since the 1860s. The Baldishol tapestry, discovered in the 1870s and dating from the twelfth century, suggested the promise of a great Norwegian tapestry tradition of which only fragments survived. Caroline Halvorsen (1853–1926) was a key figure in the textile revival. She worked at the Women’s Industrial School in Oslo, which had been founded in 1875 by The Society for the Encouragement of Women’s Craft Practice as a route by which women might support themselves through craft and applied art. In 1900 it became a state run institution. Training focused predominantly on textile arts. Over time, the emphasis shifted from craft practice, to teacher training, which was the ultimate destination of the majority of the women who trained there, independent design practice still being an underdeveloped field of employment. The school maintained a close co-operative relationship with Norwegian Home Crafts Association (Fallan 2016, 18–19). Halvorsen had also studied weaving with the Swedish Friends of Handicrafts, indicating the panNordic dimensions of the textile revival (Berg 1981, 421). She ran a threemonth course in weaving for school teachers. This course was a response to the 1889 education reforms that had made handicrafts a mandatory element of the public education system. This policy was motivated by the wish to prevent native skills dying out and to provide means for people to support themselves and contribute to the economy through handicrafts. Similar provision for handcrafts was a feature of the public education systems across the Nordic countries.The Folk School system provided universal primary education in the mother tongue of the people and contributed to the extremely high rates of literacy across the Nordic countries. A side effect of the integration of craft teaching into the Folk School curriculum was a similar level of craft ‘literacy’ that arguably raised the status of the applied arts and the audiences for it. Hansen’s initial exposure to tapestry came as part her place in the circles of Norway’s small, cultured elite. Her brother in-law was an artist and collected old Norwegian textiles. She had studied art before her marriage and after it maintained her interest in art with trips to Paris. After the financial crisis that destroyed the wealth she had enjoyed, she set up an embroidery business. From there she was drawn to further explore weaving traditions. She attended a weaving course in which a local woman in the district of Sogn in Western Norway, Kjerstina Hauglum, taught traditional techniques of upright loom weaving (Leithe and Ueland 2015, 63). Traditional craft practices, preserved in the countryside, were understood as the remnants of ancient practices that modernization had long since destroyed elsewhere. We can see this attitude indicated in Krohn’s comments, on the occasion of the World’s Fair, on the comparative state of Danish textiles compared to those of Norway and Sweden:

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


If we turn to Denmark – what do we have to show here? Extremely little. Unfortunately people out in the countryside here stopped weaving for decorative purposes so long ago that no trace of this activity is left. There was no far away settlement in Denmark where the weavers just carried on weaving as in the old days. There was nothing that could be revived here. And no attempt has been made. Nowadays many efforts are still wasted on what is called women’s handicrafts. […] the right artists have to be found, those who have an understanding of what textile art can produce, who have the ability to create new patterns in a true Danish style. If that does not happen, well into the future our homes will be filled by the diligent efforts of our embroidering aunts and cousins and we will have to look to Norway and Sweden when we want textile art. (Krohn 1900, 685) These comments reveal both the serious value placed on textiles by male commentators and a reflexive dismissal of areas of textile making that the author deemed beneath his notice, mere ‘women’s handicraft’. It is also clear here that the Nordic countries made reference to one another’s practice. The concept of a Nordic culture, though stretched by the marked differences between varied circumstances among the different nations, rests in a large part on this sense of wider, comparative community. The revival of traditional textile practices across the Nordic countries created an arena in which women could achieve public recognition and status as professional designers that was much harder to achieve in other areas of design. At the same time, this status still carried the caveat of women’s work. Hansen began to weave and develop her own designs. Though her interest in textiles and the revival of traditional techniques chimed with a general trend in Norwegian culture, The Milky Way, exemplifies her position outside the Norse Revival establishment. She worked for the Norwegian Home Crafts Association, which had formed in 1891 as a merger of a number of different applied arts associations. The association demanded a percentage of all her earnings, regardless of whether the works produced were commissioned by them or not. This lead to her leaving to set up her own company to produce and market her own designs (Thue 1997). The Milky Way demonstrated the fusion of traditional and modern influences Hansen drew on in her work (Plate 5). The weaving technique of upright loom was the one she had learnt from Hauglum. The pictorial design though, in its sweeping asymmetry, and the rhythm and focus on the female figures, reflect her close engagement with Parisian and international art and design. The work is interesting in a number of ways. The six female figures progress diagonally from right to left across the tapestry and give the tapestry a marked sense of movement. The figures echo one another but, on closer examination,



are not identical. The first figure is cut off by the edge of the tapestry, which adds a dynamic sense of the figures entering the scene and the potential for further figures to join the procession. This suggestion of the scene extending beyond the boundaries of the tapestry is in harmony with the subject, The Milky Way, and the great expanses of the night sky. The focus on the halfnude female figure chimed with the prominence of this motif in French Art Nouveau. At the same time, the design plays with the idea of textiles themselves. The floating garments of the figures suggest the movement of cloth, amplifying their gestures and rhythm. The banner they carry between them is an allegory of the Milky Way as a finely woven tissue of stars wafting across the night sky: fabric upon fabric. Transparency is suggested in the opaque wool by this lighter coloured against the deep blue of the sky. The whole wall hanging, as an art object, also undulates as the varying tension of the weaving prevents it lying completely flat, unlike a painted canvas upon stretchers. Its physical material qualities cannot be ignored. The personification of stars as female figures is a trope that resonates in Nordic mythology, but in many other cultures also. In this work Hansen can be seen to be fusing the national, the international and the universal and creating a piece that responds to both local interest in the reinvigoration of Norway’s textile tradition and a wider European interest in the expressive capabilities of the applied arts. The text beneath the imagery was in Hebrew and a quote from Genesis: ‘And let there be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so’. Hansen was unusual in treating the theme of the creation story through the medium of female rather than male figures (Gudmundson 2015, 76). The choice of a non-native language text put the piece in the international sphere and suggested a universal (at least in terms of Christendom) rather than nationally specific relevance. In contrast, Munthe’s tapestries of Norwegian folk tales spoke an emphatically national language, even while the principle of exploring native folk culture was an internationally recognised practice (Hammer 1898, 221–223). The Milky Way and Hansen’s work remains markedly different from the work of Munthe, which dominated the Norwegian national revival in textiles. It is notable that Hansen’s work was not purchased by Norwegian institutions until the 1930s, though she maintained enough private clients for her business to continue until her death. The Milky Way was exhibited in Bergen in 1898, then in London and Berlin and at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900 where it was awarded a Gold Medal. It was purchased by the Museum of Applied Art in Hamburg and other examples of her work were purchased for museums across Europe and the United States, in marked contrast to her domestic reception. The international influence clear in her work was instrumental in marginalizing her place in the history of Norwegian design (Thue 1986,

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64–67). This was despite the clear evidence of engagement with national tradition alongside the international and despite an international profile that was more usually regarded as a point of pride in Nordic art histories. Unlike art and architecture, which were more consistently understood as a dialogue between the national and international, the dominant culture in the world of design emphasized national heritage and tradition as the benchmark of quality. This was particularly true of textiles, where the structures for the teaching, exhibiting and marketing were all substantially in the hands of organizations whose origins lay in the recovery of folk textiles.

Gustavsberg, Minerva range, production 1866–92 It is important to remember that the elite art objects shown in Paris were only the tip of the material culture iceberg, even within the confines of the homewares, ceramics, glass, furniture and textiles focused upon here. Alongside the one-off pieces by named designers, there existed a far larger world of objects designed and manufactured across the Nordic countries. The Minerva Range by Gustavsberg is an example of the sort of design that does not make it into history books (Figure 2.5). The range was in production from 1866 to 1892 and this twenty-five year run gives an indication of its long-standing popularity. The design took the form of a frieze of foliage and flowers interspersed with medallions featuring heads in profile in an antique style. In the centre of each plate or given similar prominence on tureens, jugs, coffee cups and so on, was a female profile wearing a plumed helmet and identified by the title of the range as the Roman goddess Minerva. The design was by an anonymous member of Gustavsberg staff, rather than one of the artists and architects we have seen brought into the ceramics industry to bring an artistic stamp of quality to industrial production. The design itself is a hybrid. It makes reference to Classicism, but the flowers and foliage resemble waterliles or lotus flowers and hence an Asian association, not the acanthus that would more properly be associated with the Roman classical world of Minerva. Similarly, the frieze is finished off by a motif of hearts that would be associated with folk art more than anything else. This design was printed onto creamware, in the manner of the Norse Revival vase described in the previous chapter. It could be purchased in blue and white or green and white or a pricier version in black and gold. The existence of a green version from 1877 in the National Museum where the Minerva medallion from the centre of the plate is replaced by the coat of arms of the



FIGURE 2.5   Gustavsberg AB, Minerva range, produced 1866–92 © National Museum of Sweden.

Royal Värmland Volunteer Corp suggests also that bespoke themed ranges could be commissioned. Ranges like Minerva existed alongside still cheaper ranges, with designs printed on earthenware, and more expensive porcelain services. They represented the expanding world of industrially produced goods that began to furnish the homes of the growing middle classes of the Nordic countries. The transformation in material culture was marked, especially in the growing cities and towns, which only added to the perceived value of the traditional handcrafts and homes of the peasants. Iceland had a long way to go in terms of such material abundance. It was sparsely represented in Paris 1900. The exhibition ‘Northern Dwellers’, by the Danish antiquarian Daniel Bruun, was arranged in the Colonial Pavilion and showed artefacts of the people of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Though the Icelandic intelligentsia protested this arrangement, it demonstrated the precarious position of Iceland as a colony, which could still be grouped among the colonial displays of cultures regarded as primitive (Naum and Nordin 2013, 97–98). This idea of the primitive saw Iceland as both ‘unspoilt’

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


guardian of Nordic culture and as backward. A similar attitude prevailed, to a lesser extent, in relation to Norway. Willumsen’s letters back from Jotunheim reflect both his awe at the landscape and his distaste for the way of life of the peasants he met there (Branth Pedersen 2006, 103, 111). To a greater or lesser extent, this contradictory attitude extended to all engagement between middle-class adventurers and tourists and local peasant peoples. The idea of the peasant was celebrated and cherished, while the reality was frequently described as smelly, backward and immoral. These attitudes reveal the persistence of class divisions and render the idea of a brotherhood united by ethnicity a bit more suspect. Though the ideal of the peasant and his communion with the national landscape remained rooted at the heart of the national ideal, the twentieth century saw a concerted effort to ensure the individual peasant became cleaner and more enlightened in a way that emulated the urban, middle classes.

Ásgrímur Jónsson, Mount Tindafjöll, 1903–04 On 18  December  1900 the Icelandic journal, Þjóðólfi, published an article by the young author and linguist Sigfús Blöndal, commenting on the recent World’s Fair in Paris and the positive reception achieved by Nordic artists, he lamented the absence there of any art from Iceland and the under-developed state of Icelandic art culture (Ólafur 2011, vol. I, 76). His comments reflect the expanding ambitions of the Icelandic intelligentsia. Across all fields efforts were being made to establish and support the development of Icelandic culture. These efforts ran parallel to political efforts to secure independence from Denmark. In 1895 the first government stipend to support painting was granted to Þórarinn Þorláksson (1867–1924) to facilitate studies in Copenhagen and in 1900 he returned to Iceland and presented his work in the first recorded art exhibition in Iceland. His slightly younger contemporary Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876–1958) was originally a furniture painter, just as Þórarinn was originally a book binder. The applied art trades functioned as the route in for this first generation of professional artists. The small Icelandic middle class was not yet large enough to support many artists. Þórarinn made the majority of his income by teaching and running a stationary and art supply shop. These additional activities had an impact on his art practice and he had all but stopped exhibiting by the 1910s (Ólafur 2011, vol. I, 111). Ásgrímur was the first Icelandic painter to successfully support himself solely through his painting. Through a long career he was one of very few professional painters in Iceland and had a great influence on younger artists up to his death in 1958.



Mount Tindafjöll, 1903–04, was painted after the conclusion of his studies at the Copenhagen Academy. It demonstrates the influence of the Danish landscape tradition and the National Romantic trend in Nordic painting. As  we have seen, through the examples of work by Dahl, Willumsen and Bergh, landscape was used as a vehicle for ideas ranging from national identity through to the identity of the individual. Mount Tindafjöll was started during the summer of 1903, when Ásgrímur had returned to Iceland to spend the warmer months working from nature and hold his first solo exhibition in Reykjavik. The  final painting was worked on during the winter, back in Copenhagen. Between 1903 and 1906 Ásgrímur continued to spend summers in Iceland and winters in Copenhagen. His travels included a year in Rome between 1908 and 1909, paid for by an Icelandic government stipend. Ongoing governmental support remained a vital part of the art cultures of the Nordic countries, allowing artists to study elsewhere and bring back new ideas. These years of frequent travel were a common and desired feature of the early careers of many Nordic artists. The repeated pattern was the division of time between winters in the foreign city and summers back in their native countryside. Unlike the majority of his Nordic contemporaries however, Ásgrímur never made it to Paris. Mount Tindafjöll was shown at the Academy show in Copenhagen in 1904 (Plate 6). The scale of the painting, 80 × 125.5 cm, gives an indication of Ásgrímur’s ambitions to be taken seriously as a painter. It represents a fusion of influences and aims. The overall composition is balanced, with a third given over to the grassy foreground, a third to the mountain range in the background and a third to the sky. The carefully delineated mountain landscape takes us back to Dahl’s influence, with the attention paid to the particular topographic features of a particular place. The qualities of light and atmosphere connect the painting to that interest in the native landscape and the characteristics of specifically Nordic light that were shared by many Nordic artists at this time. The softer, looser handling of the paint indicate that Ásgrímur was comfortable working outside of the Academic conventions he learnt as part of his studies. The focus of both Ásgrímur and Þórarinn on the Icelandic landscape as their principal subject matter reflected their ambition to be Icelandic painters. The landscape chosen by Ásgrímur, with its characteristic features of dark grey volcanic rock, slate grey of the cold sea and low, moistureladen clouds, alleviated by the bright yellowy-green of the grass and lightreflecting snow was not conventionally beautiful or idyllic. It was very much recognizable, though, as Icelandic. The low clouds and contrasting patches of sunlight breaking through on the snow of the high slopes communicated the idea of the ever shifting weather that characterized Iceland’s maritime climate.

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Unlike Dahl’s landscape, we are not given a place to stand in the foreground of the painting. There is no suggestion of this as a stopping point on a hike. Instead the viewer floats somewhere above the sparse patches of pasture, broken by the crags and fissures of dark rock. Our view is drawn across the water towards the mountain range beyond whose dark forms are softened, as though by the moisture-rich atmosphere. The forbidding character of the landscape contrasts with the uplifting glimpse of the purity of the high snowfields illuminated by breaks in the cloud. The suggestion of the atmospheric evocation of mood within the haunting beauty of this desolate landscape makes the painting more than solely a topographic record of a particular place. From the 1900s onwards Ásgrímur also produced paintings of scenes from Norse mythology and this sense of a connection to the ancient days of the sagas can also be traced in his landscapes. His work can be seen as both a part of the wider Nordic tradition of national landscape painting, imbued with symbolic overtones, and as a key landmark in the development of independent Icelandic art practice.

Helene Schjerfbeck, The Seamstress (The Working Woman), 1905 Despite the popularity of landscape motifs, the notion that national identity and national themes dominated the arts around 1900 is, as we have seen in relation to the work of Hansen, an exaggeration. It was a theme in the work of a number of artists, architects and designers and was certainly prominent in the rhetoric of many organizations who sought to support the development of culture in their countries. It was, however, a strand that ran in parallel to a number of other influences and concerns, in particular, the search for new forms of art to respond to the new challenges of the modern and modernizing world. The Seamstress (The Working Woman), by Helene Schjerfbeck, is a work whose focus on inner subjectivity and the exploration of the evocative potential of colours and forms on canvas is an example of this turn towards the Modern. Schjerfbeck studied at the Finnish Art Society drawing school, before its move to the Ateneum building. Her talent was noted at a young aged and she started her studies when she was eleven years old. She travelled to Paris in 1880 and attended Académie Colarossi at the same time as Bergh. In works like The Wounded Soldier (1880) she took on large-scale paintings of historical subjects, competing with male artists on their own territory. Her work was purchased by the Art Society and she was successful in securing a number of state grants to fund her studies abroad (Holger 1997).



Through the 1880s, she worked in Paris, Pont-Avon, Brittany and St Ives, Cornwall in the company of a number of other women artists, with whom she maintained long-standing collegial bonds (Konttinen 2010, 111–118, 141–144). Her work of the 1880s was marked by the same innovative fusion of French naturalist technique with complex psycho-emotional content as we have noted in relation to Bergh and Gallen-Kallela. She returned regularly to Finland. In Art Society exhibitions her work was not always well received. Schjerfbeck and other women artists were particularly singled out as too susceptible to new and foreign influences (Konttinen 1992, 48–51). This hostility reveals the extent to which women artists were travelling and bringing new currents of thought into their work, to the consternation of the local art establishment, as well as the extra hostility their work often attracted. In addition to France and England, Schjerfbeck travelled through the 1890s to St Petersburg, Vienna, Florence and Norway. The Seamstress was painted in 1905 when Schjerfbeck was living with her widowed mother in the small town of Hyvinkää, outside Helsinki. Health problems and limited finances through the 1890s had put an end to a decade and a half of European travel. Schjerfbeck did not focus on either landscapes or subjects of a conspicuously patriotic nature and this put her out of step with the expectations of a number of her contemporaries. Instead, through the remainder of her career she focused almost exclusively on portraits and seated figures, the majority of them women. This period marks a shift away from Naturalism towards a focus on mood and ambience conjured by means of misty surface handling and restricted colour palettes (Bonsdorff 2012, 288–289). The Seamstress is striking in a number of ways and is representative of this shift in Schjerfbeck’s oeuvre (Plate 7). The palette is dark and limited in its range. The composition is spare and the work is marked by a striking engagement with both the formal concerns of painting and the complexity of its content. The seated female figure is shown in profile, the black form of her dress is almost entirely without modelling, so that her shape is largely flattened. Modelling is restricted to the facets of the face and hands and to touches of highlights on the chair. This sets up a tension between depth and surface. This tension is exacerbated by the ambiguity of the space occupied by the figure. There are no corners, windows or doors to mark out the space, only the band of the skirting board and the shadow beneath the chair to suggest an interior. The flat expanse of wall and the hazy line of the skirting board that melts away towards the left-hand side of the painting undermine the sense of depth created by the shadow. The gentle left to right diagonals of the skirting board and struts and arms of the chair are counter-balanced by the forward lean of the figure and the stripe of green ribbon suspending the scissors from her belt.

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


The clasped hands and downcast eyes suggest repose, yet the rocking chair she sits in conveys a sense of arrested motion, as it rests back on its rockers, readied to tilt forwards again in response to any shift by the sitter. The muted colours are arranged across the canvas in a delicate relationship to one another. The oil paint is heavily diluted, so that in places the charcoal under-drawing shows through and the weave of the canvas is traceable across the surface. These factors emphasize the nature of the painting as forms and colours arranged across a flat canvas, as opposed to the illusionist evocation of depth and space. The smoky, transparent boundaries between the different forms add to the elusive character of the painting. As you look at it, it shifts between two and three dimensions and between tension and repose. The subject matter of seamstresses attracted attention through the nineteenth century, as it offered both the opportunity for the portrayal of diligent feminine activity and a social critique of the plight of the hand-worker and the exploited and vulnerable working-class girl (Harris 2005). Schjerfbeck’s painting is again unconventional. The only allusion to the sitter’s profession are the scissors hanging from her belt. It is not a painting of an occupation, nor of physical activity at all. Stripped of social markers, the poise and serious demeanour of the sitter mark her as an individual, not a representative or stand in for a group or profession. The light falling on the hands and face draw attention to these points in the painting where the sitter’s state of mind is most prominently expressed. The pallor of the face, slope of the shoulders and shadows around the eyes might be taken to indicate fatigue. Similarly, the bareness of what can be seen of the room and the severely plain black dress of the sitter might suggest a certain degree of poverty, but this is secondary to the presence of the woman as an individual in a private moment of contemplation and tension. That absence of narrative details, from the hand of painter who excelled at history painting and genre scenes, is intentional. The face cast into shadow renders the already ambiguous expression more obscure. The private thoughts of this woman remain private. The painting is at once opaque in meaning and transparent in execution. As viewers we are not invited to pity or judge the sitter, or even given the illusion that we understand her. In 1905 the painting was exhibited as part of the annual Artist’s Association Lottery in Helsinki. At this stage it was referred to simply as Portrait. This makes clearer its focus on an individual sitter, rather than a genre-type focus on a profession or social issue. The female figure in seated profile and the muted palette place the artist in a dialogue with other prominent artists, such as James McNeill Whistler and Vilhelm Hammershøi. Like both these artists there is also a reference in palette and lighting to Dutch masters, such as Rembrandt, which indicated an artist who understood her practice extending across geographical and chronological boundaries.



Schjerfbeck’s gender has had a marked effect on the reception of her work. Her biography: the early death of her father, financial struggles, physical disability and recurrent illness, disappointment in love and so on, have been used as part of the image of a tragic and isolated artist. This was established already in the first biography of her, by her friend Einar Reuter whose understanding of her work was shaped by his views on the trope of the suffering artist (Görgen-Lammers 2012, 72–73; Kivirinta 2014, 85–88). This perception of Schjerfbeck and the idea of her withdrawal from Finnish art life in the 1890s is substantially a distortion. It is true that she faced serious challenges to the pursuit of her career in the form of financial hardship and ill health. Similarly, that she spent her adult life living with and keeping house alongside her widowed mother, where a male artist might have the freedom to live alone or, if married, have a wife to keep house for him. But to focus on these challenges and speculation as to her possible depression and isolation from the mainstream of the Finnish art world is to miss the key fact that she did keep working and sustained her identity as a professional artist. She did not step back from the ongoing challenge of pursuing new ideas in her work and she did not stagnate, but continued to develop throughout a long career. Hyvinkää was a major railway junction and through the summer Schjerfbeck received regular visits from members of her network of female artist friends, often every few days (Konttinen 2004, 266–274). These friends also sent news, periodicals, books and so forth that helped Schjerfbeck continue to nourish her practice (Holger 1992, 58–59). Despite the pressures, she painted and exhibited annually right up to her death (Ahtola-Moorhouse and Holger 1992, 302–328). The Seamstress with its ambiguity of space, surface and psychological content shows an artist intent on exploring the boundaries of painterly representation. Arguably, it was the challenging Modernism of her work, rather than her physical remove from Helsinki, that delayed public acclaim for her later work.

Eliel Saarinen, Helsinki Railway Station, 1904–14 The years around 1900 saw a lively search for new forms in architecture and design. Though this is now discussed in relation to the label ‘Art Nouveau’ or, ‘National Romanticism’, at the time these works were consistently described simply as ‘new’ or ‘modern’. New languages of ornament were developed that departed from historical tradition and employed new motifs drawn from nature, as we saw in relation to the Finnish Pavilion, or were otherwise symbolic of the buildings function.

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This period of experimentation drew to a close early in the twentieth century. The shift away from the effusive, experimental variety of the late nineteenth century towards the resurgence of a new classical idiom can be traced in relation to the Helsinki Railway Station architectural competition in the spring of 1904 (Figure 2.6). The competition was won by Eliel and Saarinen one of the designers of the Finnish Pavilion. Like the majority of designs submitted, it featured the rusticated Finnish granite, pitched roofs and gables, and illustrative, carved stone ornament. Two young architects took issue with the general approach of the competition. Gustaf Strengell and Sigurd Frosterus had both graduated from the Helsinki Technical University in 1902. Over the winter 1903–04, they had both worked abroad, Frosterus in the Weimar office of Henry van de Velde and Strengell in the London office of C. Harrison Townsend. Both architects had submitted designs to the Railway Station Competition. Strengell’s entry did not place and has been lost. Frosterus submitted a striking composition with sweeping fluid lines, which indicated the influenced of Van de Velde’s Art Nouveau. The large areas of glazing and smooth curves of the design displayed a wholehearted response to the possibilities offered by the building’s construction materials, iron and reinforced concrete. His design was not, however, well received. The jury commented: The designer has put a lot of unnecessary work into his creation and the result has not been successful. The whole architectural arrangement appears imported and foreign and not particularly appealing. (Gripenberg 1904, 35)

FIGURE 2.6   Eliel Saarinen, Railway Station Competition, first-prize entry, Arkitekten, 1904.



In May  1904 the pair aired their criticisms in letters to the leading Swedishlanguage newspapers in Helsinki, they also published their opinions in a pamphlet, A Challenge to Our Opponents. In this pamphlet they attacked the romantic trend in Finnish architecture, which they portrayed it as a digression from the design reform aims that had originally inspired the rejection of historicism: After starting off on purely rationalistic grounds with a proclamation on TRUTH as the guiding principle in architecture, the new movement in Finland has surrendered surprisingly quickly to utter arbitrariness, to subjectiveness no longer steered by any rational considerations, into a quasi-nationalistic, archaic archaeological romanticism … . (Strengell and Frosterus 1982, 58) Frosterus referred to the fact that it had become generally accepted that it was inappropriate to imitate stone in plaster or wood. He related this point to the idea that it was equally unsuitable to render in iron and concrete and precision cut stone the rough surfaces and heavy structural forms devised for ancient brick and stone architecture. Both authors then applied these ideas to the question of the new Railway Station. They maintained that the modern, technologically advanced character of the project should be celebrated in stone, glass and iron, rather than the romantic, picturesque forms submitted and admired in the recent competition. Frosterus presented new technology as the model for future developments, as well as suggesting a revision of the nation’s understanding of itself: We have more to learn about form from the construction of machinery, bicycles, cars, from battleships and railway bridges, than from historical styles. Such knowledge may seem imported, but the fact that this country is not a leading centre of civilisation should not discourage us from profiting by the gains of culture. Even in Finland we do not rely on hunting and fishing any more, as in the old days, and decorative plants and bears – to say nothing of other animals – are hardly representative symbols of the age of steam and electricity. (Strengell and Frosterus 1982, 75) Their manifesto triggered a brief debate in the Finnish press throughout May  1904. In general the results of the Railway Station Competition were defended, but much of the thrust of their attack seems to have resonated. There was surprisingly little public response to the pamphlet, beyond a short exchange in the press with Armas Lindgren, who defended the designs (Hausen 1990, 281–282). Its importance lies more in the fact that it is one of the only overt statements of a need for a change of course in the field of design to be found in the Finnish design press at this time, and yet it coincided with a marked and decisive change across the profession. Whether

1890–1910 – A New Style for a New Age


the manifesto acted as a catalyst, or simply reflected something of a more widespread change of heart in the architectural profession, 1904 marked the beginning of the end for rugged granite, medieval towers and bear ornaments in Finland. As early as the autumn of the same year Saarinen revised the designs for the railway station. The pitched gables and cupolas were replaced by plainer, shallow, arched gables and the stone bear ornaments were removed. Vertical windows were placed, running up the tower’s height, which reflected the iron and concrete of the construction better than the medieval slit windows of the earlier design. These windows and the large, glazed arch of the main entrances appear to be directly comparable to features in Frosterus’ competition entry. The design for the station and its interior continued to evolve through 1905–14. The final design maintained the overall plan layout, which had been devised by railway administration engineers (Figure 2.7). The granite of the original proposal also remained, though it was now smoothly dressed, rather than rough rubble. The general horizontality of the complex was offset by arrangements of vertical stone fillets and piers that suggested the appearance of fluted columns and colonnades, without actually employing classical details. Simple geometric shields and the muscled, atlas-like, male figures holding globe lamps at the station entrance similarly evoke a tradition of European heraldic and classical ornament, but without specific reference to the historical past. The result is a building typical of the difficult to classify architecture of the late 1900s and 1910s. The geometric ornament relates to the Central European Art Nouveau, while the monumental scale and massive

FIGURE 2.7   Eliel Saarinen, Helsinki Railway Station, 1904–14.



stone walls forge a connection between the robust medievalism of 1900 and the Classicism of the 1920s. Importantly, this building represents continuity as much as it represents a break with the National Romanticism and Art Nouveau of 1900. The architects are the same and the patron is the same as those behind the medievalized National Romantic design of the 1904 competition. The vernacular, medieval and nature-based influences of 1900 were features of a search for new ideas to replace traditional historicism. This new style was conceptualized as going beyond surface decoration, to incorporate the materials, construction and function of the building. The imagined past and shared national heritage was turned to as an alternative realm of ideas. When this began to appear as too fantastic and too removed from modern life, new common ground was sought by re-approaching, non-historicist classical and geometric forms, which could provide the solution to the search for the Modern.

3 1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


his chapter bridges a period that is uncomfortably placed within traditional schemes of art historical styles. The experimental culture of the turn of the century, associated with Art Nouveau, National Romanticism and the ‘golden age’ of Nordic painting had substantially run its course by the 1910s. The story of ‘Scandinavian Modernism’, with its white render, walls of glass and streamlined forms, does not reach full bloom until the 1930s. The two decades of the 1910s and 1920s were, however, no more a period of transition than any other, marked by both change and continuity. Continuity, in particular, is more readily traced in the Nordic countries than the rest of Europe because of the reduced impact of the First World War, which elsewhere is often used to bracket off the long nineteenth century from the twentieth century. Denmark (including Iceland as its possession), Sweden and Norway were all neutral countries. Finland’s loyalty to the Russian Empire was considered so questionable by 1914 that Finns were not called up to serve on the Russian front. The Bolshevik Revolution, the Finnish declaration of independence and the Finnish Civil War of 1918 all marked Finland in particular ways, as shall be commented upon later. The absence of the war as a dominant period marker makes it easier to trace the rising influence of Classicism from the early twentieth century up to the 1930s. This Classicism is marked by both the persistence of ideas related to the design reform movements of the previous century and by the continued search for a new style for a new age.

Ragnar Östberg, Stockholm City Hall, 1902–23 I start this chapter with another city hall, Stockholm City Hall by Ragnar Östberg (1866–1945). This offers an opportunity of comparison back to the



Copenhagen City Hall, which opened Chapter 2, and forwards to the Oslo City Hall, which will feature in Chapter 4. There are clear resonances between the three buildings, not least in terms of the red brick they all employ, signalling the ongoing cultural connections between the different countries in the Nordic region. These city hall projects were, as we have already seen, prestige buildings on a comparatively lavish scale, allowing architects to pursue their design principles with relative freedom. They were buildings of considerable and acknowledged local and national symbolic significance. So they were understood as designs freighted with meaning. They were also projects marked by extensive collaborations between architects, artists and designers and demonstrate sustained belief in the value of such collaborations. Östberg was an architect whose career reflected a number of the trends that marked the development of design thinking through the 1890s and up to the Second World War. The Stockholm City Hall is an ambitious and ambiguous building in terms of the stylistic labels that float around the long period of its gestation and build: Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, National Romanticism, Classicism Modernism. It is marked by elements that can trace a connection to all these different movements and so demonstrates how imperfect the idea of one movement cleanly following on from another is. Art History, as it is created within the national institutions of public education, has a tendency to place an emphasis on national stories of art. The Stockholm City Hall is a part of the story of Swedish architecture. But at the same time, as a building it claims a place in a wider story of international art culture, one that blurs both geographical and chronological boundaries. It is also one of those buildings that captured attention outside the Nordic countries, particularly in the English-speaking world, and therefore is part of the story of Nordic art and design, as written from outside (Pihl Atmer 2011). Part of the richness of the Stockholm City Hall comes from its long period of development and then construction (Cornell 1965, 67–161). Its origins can be traced back to the 1890s when Östberg began to develop his ideas for a new public building for Stockholm. He trained as an architect at the Institute of Technology and the Stockholm Academy and went on to work in the office of I. G. Clason (1856–1930), one of the leading Swedish architects of the 1880s and 1890s. Crucial to the development of his city hall project was a study trip across Europe during the period 1896–99 that enabled him to gain first-hand experience of  new buildings, including the Copenhagen City Hall. He also travelled to the United States in 1893 to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The gestation period for the city hall was a particularly long one. There were conflicts within the municipality as to where it should be located and exactly how many functions it should be expected to house, as well as the ideological and aesthetic issues at stake. It took twenty-one years from the announcement of the design competition for the new city hall in 1902 to its

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


opening in 1923. The Copenhagen City Hall took thirteen years and the Oslo City Hall over forty years, reflecting the slow pace of civic decision-making and the labour put into these highly crafted buildings (Chattopadhyay et  al. 2014, 60). Despite winning the competition in 1902–03, Östberg ended up walking away from the project when the location of the building was shifted from the site he had set his heart on. In 1911, though, it was decided to return the location of the planned building to Kungsholmen Island, jutting into Lake Mälaren in North Stockholm, and Östberg was re-engaged as architect. The  significance of the competition system and the protracted process of what would now be called stakeholder engagement made the building a subject of public interest and debate in the press. Architecture mattered and the commissioning of prominent state and municipal projects were decided not by individual patrons or architects but by committee and subject to public scrutiny. This ongoing discourse had an impact on the way architecture operated in the Nordic countries and to degree to which the general public was informed and therefore opinionated about architecture and design issues. The construction process took a further twelve years, reflecting the scale of the project, the degree of craftsmanship involved and the effects of the First World War which made materials hard to come by. The building was highly significant for both the architect and the client, representing the city of Stockholm and therefore to a large extent the nation. Like the Copenhagen City Hall, the Stockholm City Hall marked the expansion and shift of focus in the city, from the cramped, historical Old Town to the expanding new commercial and residential districts. The most striking feature of the new city hall was the dominant material, red brick (Figure 3.1). Östberg’s original designs from the 1890s had called for stone facades, but for reasons of economy red brick was ultimately chosen as a cheaper material that still embodied the principle of truth to materials. The material also suggested, as it had in Copenhagen, a reference to the Baltic brick tradition. This allusion was amplified by the building’s location on the edge of the water, with its associations with the medieval and early modern sea trading routes on which Stockholm’s wealth was originally based. The east facade, in particular, emphasizes the Northern Renaissance brick tradition in its evocation of gothic decorative brickwork. The south facade, which looks out across the water, is more varied in its historical allusions. References are suggested to the Doges Palace in Venice, through the long waterfront arcade and the tall, square, red brick form of the town, suggesting St Marco’s campanile. Classical and Gothic references are merged in the pedimented rectangular windows of the first floor and the pointed and cusped windows above. Venice’s long history of culture and sea power was one that Stockholm was happy to evoke. Similarly, the city hall



FIGURE 3.1   Ragnar Östberg, Stockholm City Hall, Stockholm, 1902–23.

tower had associations, as in Copenhagen, with both the medieval city halls of the German and Italian city states, references to the traditions of European civic power. The building was simultaneously rich in references to Swedish history. It included the symbol of the three crowns of the Swedish coat of arms, prominent statues and busts of great Swedish statesman and a statue of St George that references a number of historical statues of the same subject already associated with Stockholm. Throughout the building art, craftsmanship and design coincide. Östberg’s background in the Arts and Crafts ethos of the 1890s informed the construction of this building into the 1920s. Crafts workshops were set up on site, where sculptors, iron and copper smiths, textile workers, carpenters and stone-masons could all work, close to the build and close to each other. The craftsmanship and artistry brought to every detail of the project make it a prime example of the persistence of the total work of art concept that emerged at the fin de siècle. Every element of the building, from the overall impact of the building’s masses and silhouette as viewed from across the lagoon to the specially caste door handles, was considered as part of an artistic whole. The building was arranged, as Nyrop’s was, around two square courtyards: a Great Courtyard, open to the sky, and the second closed courtyard that contained the Blue Hall. Access corridors ran around the inner walls of these

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


two courtyards, while offices were arranged around the outer walls of the building. The principal formal spaces of the city hall, in addition to the Blue Hall, were on the first floor, with the Council Chamber taking up the east wing, the Golden Chamber taking up the central wing and the Prince’s Gallery running along the south facade between the two. Alongside the representative sculpture and the brick gothic associations were architectural references to various periods of Swedish architecture. The Great Courtyard featured giant pilasters with Corinthian capitals and roundels containing stone busts that suggested a relationship with Gustavian Classicism, associated with the reign of Gustav III (1772–1809). Elsewhere, whitewashed brick vaulting in stairs and corridors evoked the whitewashed brick interiors of medieval Swedish castles and churches. In all these cases, the relationship was one of loose evocation, not a reproduction of authentic historical features. The capitals were not true Corinthian and the vaulting was visibly sculpturally decorative, rather than structural, drawing attention to its modern function as symbol. The effect of these varied features as you move through the city hall is striking. Unlike nineteenth-century historical revivals that sought to transport the individual back into the authentic past, as an immersive experience, the patchwork of different styles and periods within the building function as a tapestry of allusions to the past (Lane 2000, 193–197). The artificiality of the transitions from one space to the next remind the visitor that they remain very much in the present, albeit with a link to the past. This effect is compounded by the other dramatic interiors in which the reference to Swedish history is absent or very much secondary. The massive Blue Hall fuses black and white marble flooring, panelling and processional staircase that evokes the traditions of Italian palazzo, with red brick walls that reach the full height of the building. The decorative brickwork of the lower level suggests the classical tradition, while at the top corbeled, pointed niches again make reference to Brick Gothic. In between these two zones, rectangular apertures with ornamental lattices let light into the corridors that wrap around the hall. The association of the lattice work and gilded canopies over each aperture is Moorish or Arabic; though again no concrete historical allusions are actually being made. History is invoked, but its ultimate authority is denied. Contrasting references and styles are synthesized through the emphasis on proportion and materials. This helps keep these disparate elements in balance and provide an underlying core of quality craftsmanship to anchor the whimsy of the design. Arguably the most striking of the city hall interiors, the Golden Hall, is covered floor to ceiling in gold and coloured glass mosaic. The style of the mosaics invokes the tradition of Byzantine mosaic work, with stylized figure, animals and plant motifs against a continuous gold background. The effect of



the materials is lavish, with a white marble floor and carved ceiling beams. The entire north end of the hall is taken up by a pictorial representation of the ‘Queen of Lake Maelaren’, shown seated on a throne, like a Byzantine Madonna, holding a miniature version of the city hall in her cupped hand. National imagery executed in a manner that makes far wider cultural references. The city hall is marked by a conspicuous emphasis on craft and materials that makes it heir to Arts and Crafts design reform thinking of the 1890s and 1900s. Similarly, it shares the ethos of these decades: that the past can be turned to inform the present. It was designed to speak to a public who had learnt to read meaning into both materials and architectural ornament. The message regarding materials remained consistent: quality materials (marble, granite, limestone, oak, copper, ironwork etc.) all used in a fashion that was deemed appropriate to that material. The message regarding ornament is rendered more ambiguous through the multiplicity of historical references made: to different periods of Swedish history and, more broadly, drawing freely on decorative influences from across the world and across time. This mannered ambiguity makes the building Modern as well as National Romantic. The building was well received in Sweden and abroad, and was particularly admired by British and America critics. Östberg was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1926. The 1926 English-language guide to the city hall, written by Östberg, emphasizes the resonances with history suggested above. The visitor is encouraged to understand the building in the context of the historical development of Stockholm, ‘a maritime town from the Middle Ages’, then in the context of the European tradition of city halls, by means of a reference to it as: ‘“Town hall” or “City Hall”, “Hôtel de Ville”, “Palazzo Municipale”, “Rathaus”’ (Östberg 1926, 5, 8). A larger, richly illustrated English language book on the city hall, again by Östberg, was published in 1929 (Östberg 1929). This indicates ongoing international interest in the building. This book again emphasizes the craftsmanship of the building, inside and out. We can see a similar message repeated by the British architectural critic, Francis Yerbury, who was to play a significant role in disseminating knowledge of modern Swedish and Danish architecture and design through his publications, photographs and his role at the Architectural Association. His preface to Swedish Architecture of the Twentieth Century emphasizes that Swedish architecture is marked by craftsmanship and by respect for national tradition, without the need to copy from the past. There are some who say that fine craftsmanship produces fine architecture, but from what is seen in Sweden, one feels disposed to suggest that the fine architecture produces the fine craftsmanship. For here perhaps

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


craftsmanship is on a higher level than in almost any other country, and this is a direct result of the efforts of architects themselves who have produced the craftsmen by providing them with opportunities for their work. This is particularly so in the case of the Stadhus at Stockholm, perhaps the finest modern building in the world, which is a veritable exhibition of a modern school of craftsmanship entirely brought into existence and nourished by the architect, Ragnar Östberg. (Ahlberg and Yerbury 1925, vi) Yerbury’s emphasis on craftsmanship makes it clear why the city hall so appealed to him. The enduring significance of the idea and ethos of craft in the architectural communities of both Britain and America, with their own nationally significant Arts and Crafts movements, provided the foundation for their response to Nordic architecture and design. Ahlberg’s short essay introduces the principal content of the book, which are photographs, clearly addresses and international, primarily English audience. It is marked by the typical structural device of traditional art history, the story of generation succeeding generation. A potted history of Swedish architecture since the Middle Ages is followed by the arrival of Clason at the end of the nineteenth century who is presented as the father figure of Modern Swedish architecture. Östberg is presented as Clason’s heir, a representative of the ‘older generation’, in relation to Ahlberg, who was then twenty-four years old. Though he echoes Yerbury’s praise, and could hardly do otherwise as Yerbury was the instigator of the book, certain reservations about Östberg’s city hall creep in. He describes it as ‘at times also excessive of fantasy and arbitrariness’ and later suggests that ‘the structure itself has possibly lost here and there something of its simplicity and orderliness’ (Ahlberg and Yerbury 1925, 14). It is clear that he feels that the decorative richness and whimsy of the public rooms of the building are at odds with the principles of rational architecture. This suggests that already in the mid-1920s there is the beginning of a divergence between what foreign writers are looking for in Swedish architecture and what Swedes are looking for. It is in texts such as these, alongside newspaper and journal articles in different languages, that ideas about architecture are formed and mediated.

The Baltic Exhibition, Malmö, 1914 Just as the city hall alluded to Stockholm’s history of maritime trade and international relations, so Sweden continued to seek to enhance and maintain an international outlook. In 1908, the board of the Industry Association of the city of Malmö took the decision to start planning for an international exhibition.



This exhibition, planned for 1914, was to feature the industry, art and culture of Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Russia, the four countries that lined the Baltic Sea. Malmö was an industrial town and the third largest in Sweden at this point. It was an ambitious project. The exhibition was laid out on a green-field site outside the town and composed of an extensive park and series of temporary wooden buildings designed by the architect Ferdinand Boberg (1860–1946) (Walton 1994, 29–87). Over the course of his career, Boberg developed a speciality as an exhibition architect. He had designed pavilions for the 1897 Stockholm Exhibition, Paris World’s Fair in 1900, the Turin Exhibition of Applied Art in 1902, the Sports Exhibition in Berlin 1907 and the St Petersburg Exhibition of Applied Art in 1908. This steady flow of projects illustrates just how regularly the international community came together to celebrate and compete in the arena of exhibitions like this. The  ephemeral nature of such exhibitions makes them difficult subjects for later historians, but their significance in the art and design cultures of the period remained crucial. The Malmö exhibition was open from May through to October of 1914. Despite initial tensions arising from Stockholm’s scepticism that a regional town like Malmö could effectively host such an event and low levels of interest from other countries, the opening of the exhibition was greeted with the usual lavish enthusiasm. Huge areas of floor space were devoted to the display of industrial products and applied arts by each participant country. For Sweden, following fairly closely on the loss of Norway in 1905, the exhibition was an important opportunity for recovering prestige. The design of the exhibition grounds represented the coexistence of new and old ideas (Figure 3.2). The whitewashed walls of the majority of the exhibition buildings glowing in the sunshine contributed to the spectacle of the event. Comparisons were drawn to the ‘White City’ as the Chicago exhibition grounds of 1893 had been called and Malmö was referred to as the ‘White Summer City’ (Christenson et al. 1989, 14). At the same time as recalling this international comparison, the whitewashed walls and stepped gables of many of the buildings evoked the medieval traditions of the local Skåne region. This represents the continuation of the use of such national historical resonances in architecture and design, especially in an exhibition context. Similar references could be found in the national pavilions. The Russian pavilion presented various interiors that made reference to Old Russian styles. The Danes presented a pavilion that made reference to Danish baroques palaces. The general tone of the Historicism used was more restrained than it had been in 1900. There was greater emphasis overall on areas of plain, unornamented wall surface and on simplified classical forms in all the pavilions. They can all be seen to be moving towards the pared-down Classicism that characterized much European architecture of the 1910s and 1920s (Knauff 2012).

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FIGURE 3.2   Map of the Malmö Baltic Exhibition, 1914. © Malmö City Archives. The exhibition grounds were a key sight, not just for the performance of new and old identities for the nations that took part, but also opportunities for the many visitors to partake in that performance. The roller coaster that was the central attraction of the fun fair within the exhibition was Norse themed. Wooden trains with dragons-head prows careened up and down wooden scaffolding runs through a scenography of snow-capped mountains in an effective synthesis of national imagery and popular entertainment. Visitors could, in a partial sense, undertake the journey back in time to the age of the Vikings and experience the thrills and terrors Willumsen experienced on his encounter with Jotunheim, simulate by means of the peaks and swoops of the rollercoaster. Alongside this experience of the Norse past, visitors were simultaneously invited to experience the delights of the modern world. Electricity was provided for the exhibition grounds and pavilions and for the fun fair. Two electric lifts operated in the tower: no longer the technological novelty they had been at the Nordic Exhibition in Copenhagen, but offering enjoyable views over the exhibition grounds and surrounding countryside. This represented a technologically driven aerial encounter with the wonders of the fair and the Swedish landscape. The emerging women’s movement was showcased in a replica of the castle inhabited by the mid-nineteenth-century Swedish feminist,



Frederika Bremer, which contained displays focused on the emancipation of women. A Baltic Olympics was held, along with an agricultural fair. Like all these events, highbrow and lowbrow, art and industry, work and leisure all rubbed shoulders in a temporary burst of international and national enthusiasm. The art pavilion featured contemporary art from the four participant countries, Finnish artists’ work made up a distinct and equally large section alongside Russia´s contribution. The art pavilion displays were extensive, with 3,526 works on display (Christenson et al. 1989, 94). This offered visitors an overview of the art cultures of the Baltic, going back to around the 1880s. The artists of the 1880s and 1890s who had pioneered a new engagement with nature and contemporary subject matter, inspired by French Naturalism, were represented. As were the artists who had moved from there on to Symbolism and members of the Russian, World of Art group. Artists who were to become heroes of the emerging art histories of the Nordic nations, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Prince Eugene, Richard Bergh, Wilhelm Hammershøi and so on, were all represented in a contemporary foretaste of later international Nordic art exhibitions (Hayward 1986; Gunnarsson, Haverkamp, and AhtolaMoorhouse 2006; Jackson et al. 2012). The wider Baltic scope of the exhibition meant that Nordic audiences had an opportunity to see a greater range of international contemporary art than was usually available to them and, as in Copenhagen in 1888, this had an impact on local artists and audiences. The new Expressionist work of German and Russian painters, such as Ernst Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz and Wasily Kandinsky, were a dramatic new current suggestive of a younger generation taking art in new directions. In terms of the Nordic art on display, the Swedish section included the work of a new group of artists, who had only recently returned from their studies with Henri Matisse in the south of France in 1911. Isaac Grünewald, Sigrid Hjertén and others, who represented the incorporation into Nordic art of these new trends, were greeted with confusion and wariness by the Swedish press (Christenson et al. 1989, 134–137). A significant impetus behind the exhibition was the opportunity to win foreign markets for Swedish applied arts (Ahlström 1915, 27). But this was against a background in which the benefits had to be balanced against the danger of exposing local manufacturers to foreign competition. Over half a century of international exhibitions had served to reinforce the understanding that art and design competed and existed in an increasingly international market place. The regional character of the exhibition, restricting participation to Swedish, Danish, German and Russian contributors, was felt to offer the preferred balance of exposure and protection. Applied arts were displayed in the Industry Pavilion alongside general industrial goods. The only exception to this was the display in the Danish section of the art pavilion of wall plaques and large ceramics by Bindesbøll.

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In the context of what was substantially a trade fair, art and design objects were resolutely separated. The various displays were carried out by the design societies of the participating countries who were by now adept at putting together such representations of their country’s work. Though industrial design was beginning to be discussed, the general criteria remained focused, as it had been in 1900, on aesthetic value and traditional craftsmanship. Handcrafts were given great prominence, with the Swedish section, which presented a 150-metre-long Handcraft Way that would take you from region to region, offering an experience analogous to a visit to the open-air museum of Skansen: Sweden in miniature (Christenson et al. 1989, 142–143). Large-scale pictorial tapestries by the Friends of Handicrafts pushed at the boundaries between art and design, but were still excluded from the art pavilion. Despite the overall traditional focus of the displays and the recurrence of nature and folk themes and mythology in the designs, there were indications of change too. Hjertén presented a rya rug, a traditional Nordic technique, whose design reflected her absorption of the lessons of Matisse. This attempt to bridge the gap between the traditional techniques favoured in the culture of the Swedish applied arts movement and a more international idiom of imagery is comparable to Hansen’s Milky Way tapestry from 1900. Dissatisfaction with the elite quality of the objects on display was voiced in the Swedish press. The Stockholm Dagblad critic with the byline ‘Sir Ensen’ (Hilde Mar Sorensen) commented that ‘the architect Westman has used the opportunity to create hall furniture that would fit well in a very large castle, where one afford to set aside a special room for the eating of cucumber on hot summer days’ (Christenson et  al. 1989, 157–158). Similar dissatisfaction was shown with the decision to focus the glass and ceramic displays on large-scale art wares, rather than more affordable table wares. The German and Danish ceramics of the Meissen, Rosenthal, Bing & Grøndahl and the Royal Copenhagen factories all attracted more attention in the international press than the Swedish offerings. The small number of participating countries threw such comparisons into far greater relief. Negative comparisons between the applied arts displays of Sweden and her near neighbour and immediate competitor, Denmark, were particularly disturbing for Swedish audiences. Only textile art was felt to have held its own (McFadden 1982, 91). Younger designers and design theorists closely involved with the Swedish Society of Craft and Design were particularly critical of the emphasis placed on high status art objects rather than everyday design. The critics Erik Wettergren (1883–1961) and Gregor Paulsson (1889–1977) rejected the focus of the Swedish displays on elite, luxury applied arts. Following on from this event Wettergren and textile artist Elsa Gullberg (1886–1984) founded the Contact Bureau to help establish more ties between artists and industrial



manufacturers. Wettergren particularly felt that the future of the applied arts lay in mass production and that that was where the energies of professional designers should be concentrated, not in individual art practice (Ericsson et al. 1996, 440). Inspired by the Deutsche Werkbund and by Swedish reformers such as Ellen Key and Paulsson, who became director of the society (1920–34), the Swedish Society of Craft and Design advocated the pursuit of beauty and quality through mass produced objects. As part of the campaign initiated in response to the Malmö exhibition, Paulsson authored the pamphlet, Better Things for Everyday Life in 1919 (Paulsson 2008). In it, the aims of the society were reiterated: the preservation of handcraft traditions alongside the promotion of quality design in manufacturing, to protect and promote Swedish products in the face of international competition. Paulsson’s emphasis though shifted the balance significantly in favour of industrial rather than craft production. It primarily addressed manufactures and retailers, with the aim of impressing upon them the advantages of engaging with professional artists and designers in the production of everyday wares. This new course was to prove to be the foundation for a shift in approaches to design through the midtwentieth century. It is necessary, however, to balance this narrative of change against the continuity we see through the same period, in particular the enduring importance of high-status art wares. The aims of Swedish Society of Craft and Design reformers were partially realized, in particular in regards to the integration of professional artists and designers into industrial practice, but the volume of affordable, good quality everyday goods in production did not immediately increase in any marked way. In Paris in 1925 the emphasis on luxury objects very much persisted, as we shall see (Ivanov 2004).

Edvard Munch, Murals for University of Oslo, 1916 The division suggested above in relation to the older generation of artists who had dominated at the fin de siècle and a younger generation of artists, influenced by continental Fauvism and Expressionism, is also an oversimplification. Many artists whose careers had bloomed at the turn of the century continued to work well into the twentieth century. Edvard Munch (1863–1944) is probably the best known Nordic artist outside the Nordic countries. His fame is based substantially on the work produced during the period he spent in Paris and Berlin between 1889 and 1907, but he continued to work up to his death. He exhibited in international exhibitions and was collected by international collectors. The innovations in painterly and stylistic approach that characterized

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Munch’s work through the 1880s and 1890s, its reinterpretation of European Symbolism and the emphasis on universal themes, made it easier for Munch to be fitted into a story of European Modernism than many other Nordic artists. At the same time, Munch was adept at curating his public reputation, emphasizing his individual creative genius and contributing to established stereotypes of the tortured artist. This image of him has, over time, distorted perception of his relationships to the art world of his day, both at home in Oslo and as part of the international circles he moved in (Berman 1994; Clarke 2009). A focus on his most important domestic Norwegian project for this later period of his career allows us to consider his work in a new way and reflect on its relationship to the art scene in Norway. The project was a series of murals for the new assembly hall of the university. This was a 1911 extension by the architects Holger Sinding-Larsen and Harald Bødtkerat at the rear of the main university building by Schinkel and Grosch, which we have already looked at. The new hall was built as part of the celebrations for the hundredth anniversary of the university and murals were envisaged as key elements of the design. The hall was lit by roof lights, rather than windows, allowing for large, uninterrupted wall surfaces. The proposed mural scheme can be related to the growing importance of the mural the art cultures of the Nordic countries. Mural commissions offered significant opportunities for painters to work on large-scale schemes and secure public exposure for their work. This was both a reflection of the relative paucity of extremely wealthy patrons likely to collect or commission on a grand scale and also an indication of the emphasis on public art and art as a manifestation of shared national culture that characterized Nordic art. As public art projects began to assume a more prominent role in the art cultures of the Nordic countries, it became necessary to establish systems by which such commissions would be conferred. Following the model of architecture, public competitions for large commissions, officiated by a jury of convened experts and interested parties, increasingly became the norm. This had an effect on art practice, in that tensions between traditionalists and new schools of art often came to a public head in the findings of such competitions and in the press discussion of results. The implicit framing of many of these competitions as seeking out art to represent the ‘nation’ or ‘people’ set up a different context for the art community: art with a social function, rather than art for art’s sake. In contrast to Munch’s dramatic overshadowing of all other Nordic artists in the art historical canon, his securing of this particular commission was not a forgone conclusion. Munch was not one of the artists invited to participate in what was initially a closed competition. Almost at once the selection of artists was contested, with different artists, including Munch, championed



by different factions within the Norwegian art world. By the end of 1909, the selection of artist competing was narrowed down to Munch, Eilin Pettersen, Gerhard Munthe and Emanuel Vigeland. Pettersen and Munthe were both artists whose work could be classified within a naturalist and National Romantic vein, as represented by the art community gathered in Lysaker. Vigeland was a young artist with experience of decorative painting and fresco, included at the insistence of the project architects (Berman 1989, 108–113). The project for the university was ideologically loaded with meaning. One of the first major public art projects since Norway ceded from the union with Sweden in 1905, it was transparently significant as a monument to independent Norwegian culture. Its context in relation to the university centenary also placed it at the heart of an important classical building and institution. The assembly hall extension was built in a pared down Grecian classical style and the competition stipulated that the mural cycle should not clash with this scheme. The competing proposals sought to respond to this with classicized compositions, often featuring figures in togas. Munch’s evolving design differed from the others in seeking an alternative visual language to express the ideals behind the project. His final scheme reflects the conceptual ambition of his earlier Frieze of Life. There he developed an expressive and experimental language of form, colour and imagery to express an understanding of human life, very personal to him but reaching towards underlying shared human experience. In the hall friezes he attempted an even broader synthesis, of the national with the international and the universal, blending the classical idiom of Western culture with his own distinct and individual ethos and self-expression. Munch’s new designs were publicly exhibited in Oslo in 1911. The exhibition drew great crowds, though there was division within the jury and the competition was suspended. Critical and public support for Munch’s proposal, including international acclaim for the designs which were exhibited in German, eventually led to the university accepting the paintings, and the eleven monumental scale canvases were finally installed in 1916. The murals can be understood as a departure from individualistic selfexpression of Munch’s work in the 1890s, towards a more universal language. But at the same time, Munch’s career-long habit was to refer to his paintings as interrelated, connected both thematically and formally. This made the frieze cycle a particularly comfortable medium for him. Similarly his resistance to the gilt-framed commodification of the art of his day also sat more easily with such a unique installation. Munch was interested throughout his career in reaching a wider public with his art, both to secure more income and to share his work, which he believed could speak to all. His exhibitions ran late into the evenings, allowing people to visit after work, and he also diversified into lithographic prints in the 1890s for the same reason (Boym and Woll 1993,

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10–13). The university paintings have certainly attracted less international attention than earlier work, on which his reputation as a troubled genius and Modernist trailblazer is based. This has been partially corrected in Norway by a number of publications related to the 200th anniversary of the University of Oslo in 2011 (Munch et al. 2011; Pettersen et al. 2011). Munch’s work following his return to Norway in 1909 contains both elements of continuity with the art culture of the 1890s and 1900s and a response to the changing context of a newly independent Norway. The three largest paintings in the scheme were History, Alma Mater and The Sun. History represents an old, Norwegian man, seated beneath an oak tree, passing his wisdom on, orally, to a young boy at his knee (Figure 3.3). The idea of knowledge passed down through the ages makes a particular nod to the Norwegian oral tradition of the sagas. Alma Mater, on the opposite wall, represents the nurturing principle of the university. A child is suckled at the breast of a powerful maternal figure, again in Norwegian rather than classical dress. Further nude children, sustained by her care, have graduated on to independent investigation of the world of nature and of ideas. The presentation of these key figures as Norwegian, rather than generically classical, positions the cycle firmly in relation to the national ideology of the commission. This is balanced through the frieze cycle by the preponderance of the nude. The nude human figure carried associations back to antiquity as the dominant subject of classical art, yet capable of transcending that historical association, to achieve a timeless, universal quality. The iconography of the sage old man beneath the tree of knowledge and the nursing mother are forms that Munch uses to hover between different languages of representation, both Latin and Norwegian (Berman 1989, 131). So, the male figure in History is simultaneously evocative of the Greek poet and sage, Homer, the ancient

FIGURE 3.3   Edvard Munch, History, Murals for University of Oslo Assembly Hall, 1916.



poets of the sagas, perhaps even the figure of Odin and Yggdrasil, the tree of knowledge and, finally, Børre Eriksen, the old sailor Munch had hired to work on his home at Kragerø, where he lived on his return to Norway (Boym and Woll 1993, 42–47). The Sun dominated the end wall of the hall (Plate 8). It stands at the centre of the cycle and at its heart bursts a white glowing sunrise, shooting coloured rays of light across the canvas, which are echoed in the companion canvases (Flaatten 2013, 106–113). The light is simultaneously the light of knowledge, common to all mankind, and the light of nature, specific to the Norwegian coastal scene it immediately illuminates. Alongside these three large scenes are eight smaller canvases featuring nude human figures, rather than landscape. These depict The Awakening of Men in a Flood of Light, Spirits in a Flood of Light (positioned to either side of The Sun); twin compositions entitled Towards the Light; Chemistry and New Rays (to either side of History) and Women Harvesting and The Fountain (to either side of Alma Mater). The cycle is united by means of colour and handling and the motif of light rays, but it does not depict one single coherent pictorial space. The landscape backgrounds vary, while remaining distinctly Norwegian, so that though clearly intended to be experienced as a whole it is a whole made up of distinct elements, contrasting but complementary ideas: the past and the future, science and nature, male and female, the material and the spiritual, the specific and the universal. The handling of the paint is loose and freely gestural, which connects the paintings to Munch’s early work, similarly marked by his interest in the expressive action of painting and in paint upon the canvas surface, scratched, scraped, dribbling and weathered. This handling is seemingly at odds with the formality of the marble and gilt cladding of the hall that mark it out as a formal and high status space. At the same time, the monumentality of the scheme, the giant nudes and broad vista of the scenes presented are in harmony with the transcendent principles of the interior. This is just one of the examples of the tensions that the cycle strives to keep in balance. Munch provided a text to accompany the exhibition of his paintings in 1911. In this he stated: ‘I want the decorations to represent a complete, self-contained world of ideas, artistically expressed in a way that was at the same time essentially Norwegian and also universal’ (Prideaux 2005, 275). The classical interior of the hall, in its balanced proportions and absence of windows, presents a perfect space for the literal encapsulation of a ‘world of ideas’. Turning inwards, away from the mundane world, the world of the human intellect is boundless. The aspiration towards the simultaneously national and universal reflects the evolution of Norwegian nationalism and much of the nationalisms of the Nordic countries. Without rejecting the emphasis on nature and folk life that had characterized the cultural expression of the 1880s and 1890s, a synthesis of these values with the Western intellectual and cultural

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tradition represented by Classicism was sought. As with the Stockholm City Hall and the Helsinki Railway competition, this shift was managed as natural progression rather than break with the past. This is indicated by the classical character of the commission from its outset and the broadly classicizing submissions of all participants (Berman 2011, 48–61). The practice of mural painting in particular sat easily within this transition from or synthesis with the search for new forms of the 1890s and 1900s. Murals and frescoes could be linked simultaneously to Roman wall paintings and to medieval church murals. The revival of mural painting in the nineteenth century was fostered by a desire for a more intimate connection with viewers and with the desire for the integration of art and life, breaking the bounds of the picture frame. The German Nazarenes and English Pre-Raphaelites championed the European fresco revival earlier in the nineteenth century. Notable fresco projects from around the turn of the century include Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze murals, which Munch saw at the 1902 Secession Exhibition in Vienna. In the Nordic countries, mural art was associated with the development of new nineteenth-century public buildings, such as museums, schools and city halls. Around the turn of the century, this effort was closely tied to the project of nation-building, public education and pursuit of social harmony in the face of a growing workers movement (Facos 2003). The conflicts that marked the years of the competition and the ongoing debates as to whether architecture should be subordinate to the decorative scheme or the decorative scheme complement the architectural character of rumbled on through the twentieth century (Hedström 2002). Architects and artists, rather naturally, took opposing positions. The principle of the decoration of public buildings with specially commissioned art survived these debates to occupy a key position in the cultures of the Nordic countries throughout the period.

Sigrid Hjertén, Studio, 1917 The late 1910s and 1920s saw the emergence of a new generation of Nordic painters who took their work in a different direction from the artists who had dominated the fin de siècle. As previously mentioned, they were all exhibited alongside one another in Malmö in 1914. The new forms of the next generation were, however, not so well received. The talented Isaac Grünewald has become lost in his own maze, his wife’s talent, in contrast, one must seriously doubt … Göteborgsposten, 16 May 1914. (Christenson et al. 1989, 134)



Throughout her career, Sigrid Hjertén (1885–1948) contended with comparisons of her work to the work of her husband and fellow artist, Isaac Grünewald (1889–1946). The quote above is telling. Not only is the comparison pejorative in its assessment of Hjertén’s work, the terms of the comparison (‘Grünewald’ and ‘his wife’) hold her independent identity as an artist at arm’s length. This tendency was exacerbated by the fact that her work was not exhibited as part of a solo exhibition until 1936. Prior to that she always exhibited alongside Grünewald and other male artists and never escaped comparison, positive or negative, to their work. Hjertén’s career is a complex story of the emergence of Modern art in Sweden and the particular challenges that women artists continued to face. Hjertén initially studied to become a teacher, specializing in textiles, at the School of Applied Arts in Stockholm. In 1909, however, following her graduation, she changed course and took herself to France, with money inherited from her grandmother, to study painting under Henri Matisse, one of the most celebrated Modern artists of the day (Weibull 1997; Wallgren 2008, 128). This was a bold course for a young woman with no fine-art training. The  choice of Matisse’s studio indicates an engagement with the latest currents in international art. Matisse’s school had only opened the year before and a number of young Swedish painters, all men, had made their way there rather than continue their studies in Sweden (Meister et al. 2014). The view of this younger generation, presumably shared by Hjertén, was that it was not possible to really push the boundaries of their practice if they remained influenced only by Swedish art. Like the previous generation, they were drawn to France, which still conceptually dominated the European art world. They turned to new schools like Academie Matisse, rather than the opportunities of the Paris Salon or the big private schools, Academies Julian and Colarossi, which had drawn Nordic students in the 1890s. Matisse’s reputation had been greatly raised by the scandal of the Fauves exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in 1905 and he took students from 1908 to 1911. The vast majority of these students were not from France and a great many of them were Swedish. Though the Academie Matisse represented Hjertén’s first experience of formal training as a painter, her work was regarded particularly highly by Matisse, to the surprise and sometimes consternation of her fellow students (Behr 1988, 8; Behr 2012, 152). On her return to Sweden in 1911 and as the only female member of ‘The Eight’, as this group of artists from the Matisse school were called when they exhibited together in 1912, she was in a privileged position of presenting her art alongside the other emerging Modern Swedish artists. Yet, as indicated above, the development of her career was fraught with challenges. The young artists of the new Expressionist school attracted a great deal of criticism in the press. Grünewald, as the de facto leader of the group, was particularly

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attacked, often in antisemitic terms because he was Jewish. Hjertén, as his wife, was caught in the crossfire. The critic August Brunius was one of her few champions, suggesting that she was an even more original talent than Grünewald, rather than a poor imitator, as the majority maintained (Lidén 1999, 38). It seemed impossible for her work to be considered distinct from her husband, though these critics were capable of discussing Grünewald’s work without constant reference to Hjertén, indicating one of the ways her gender coloured her reception. The birth of Hjertén and Grünewald’s son, Ivan, in 1911 had a profound impact on her ability to practice as a professional artist. Her time was thereafter stretched between her identities as an artist, a wife and a mother (Bertorp Borgh 1999). Studies into the experience of Swedish women artists, since the admittance of women to the Academy in 1864, have traced the high number of women who ended up giving up or significantly curtailing their art practice later in life (Ingelman 1984). It has been shown that among those women artists who went to study in Paris, those who married and returned to Sweden were very likely to give up their practice (Röstorp 2013). Domestic responsibilities, whether it be the duty to care for elderly parents or for husbands and children, consistently influenced women’s departure from the profession. Despite the early opening of the Swedish art world to women, or perhaps because of it and the large numbers of women artists graduating, there remained great pressures against overtly competing directly with men. Social pressures contributed to a reticence among women artists to place themselves in the firing line and push themselves forward, for example, through the vehicle of solo exhibitions, have also been traced (Ingelman 1984). These patterns feature in the course of Hjertén’s career. Despite her evident determination to keep painting – she exhibited her work regularly up to 1921 – the challenge was an ongoing one. The pressures of the situation can be traced in her 1917 painting, Studio (Plate 9). The painting is evidence of the formal experiments of this group of Swedish Modernists: bright, non-naturalistic colour and perspective and the abstract and decorative arrangement of these colours and forms across the canvas surface. The subject of the painting, modern urban life, was in line with The Eight’s shift away from a National Romantic focus on nature. But in the imagery of this painting there is something else going on and a greater psychological tension in the subject matter than was generally characteristic of the male members of the group. The subject of the painting is recognizable as a studio interior filled with figures, but there is no attempt to evoke naturalistic depth of space or modelling for the figures. Their limbs create a series of large and small curves and arabesques across the canvas, animated and full of movement. As the



majority of the figures are seated, this movement imparts a sense of erratic energy. Strong colours draw all the figures together in and arrangement of interrelated shapes that float in the pale blue field of the studio interior, which is defined only by the linear forms of the large window and the fall of the curtain to the right. The delicately painted oriental pattern winding down the curtain and picked out on the china tea service set up a resonance with the decorativebut-not patterns of colours and shapes across the whole canvas surface. At the centre of the composition a trio of smaller figures sit on a sofa. These figures have been identified as Grünewald and another artist, Einar Jolin, talking animatedly over the head of Hjertén herself (Lidén 1999, 40–42). Her hands in her lap, her ankles decorously crossed, she is a conspicuously quiet figure in comparison to her companions, whose animation is indicated by means of febrile, twisted limbs and gesturing hands. Hjertén is literally mute, her face indistinct in comparison to the vivid, dark eyes of the other figures and the mouth barely indicated. Photographs of Hjertén from this period show an elegantly dressed, fashionable woman. This identity, traditionally a way for a woman to secure her social position, repeats in many of Hjertén’s paintings, but with the same conflicted sense of inner tension, ill-served by this chic, respectable persona. Across from this trio and dominating the composition is another trio. A strikingly vivacious female figure clad all in black is the polar opposite of the small figure opposite. In fact it is likely that this was her intended significance, as alter ego or antithesis, because all the other figures in the painting are clear portraits of known subjects (Haglund and Grünewald 1985, 22; Weibull 1985, 32). The women in black’s pose and aspect are dynamic. Her crossed limbs and informal, extended arms, one hand resting on her knee, the other propping her head, elbow resting on her companion mirror the angled poses of the men opposite. Her red-lipped, open, smiling mouth and bright, slightly hooded, black eye, the black dress with its feathered hem suggest a very different female allure to the demurely seated figure opposite. Her male companion is Nils Dardel, another member of their circle, and he is depicted casually seated, observing the company through lowered lashes. Dardel was a dandy and bisexual. This resistance to social norms may have served to underline the non-conformity of this foreground group. A third element is young Ivan, who appears to literally climb into the composition, though interestingly he is hanging of Dardel’s arm, not that of the woman. His round black eyes look out at the viewer innocently. There is perhaps the suggestion of a familial resemblance to the black eyes of the female figure. The setting of the studio indicates that this is not merely a social scene but, as a depiction by an artist of her own studio, a commentary on her practice and

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identity. The seated women are not the only female figures in the composition. On the wall hangs a painting of a peasant woman with a child in her arms and to the left, upon a plinth, stands the sculpture of a bowed, female nude. The women in art, as muse, nude and as idealized maternal figure, complicate the path of the woman who strives to be an artist. The other elements in the interior, the tea set upon the table and the child’s hobby horse indicate the further intrusion of the domestic into this studio scene. What this indicates is that the very elements identified by feminist scholars as impediments to women entering and prospering in the artistic realm are here recognized and wrestled with directly by the artist concerned. Studio was exhibited at the Expressionist Exhibition in 1918. This exhibition presented the work of three artists: Hjertén, Grünewald and Leander Engstrom, another ex-pupil of Matisse. The exhibition caused scandal in the Swedish art world. It was packed with 450 works and can be understood as a bold repost against those National Romantic painters who revolutionized the Swedish art scene in the 1890s and continued to dominate it into the twentieth century (Bertorp Borgh 1999). Grünewald contributed 220 works, Hjertén 170 and Engstrom 66. Hjertén’s significant contribution indicates her ongoing ambitions as an actively practising artist and the scale of Studio, 176 × 203 cm, again attests to the aim of being noticed and taken seriously. The exhibition was well attended, but much of the critical response was hostile or at least disconcerted. It ranged from equating the art on display to a Bolshevik attack on the Swedish state to the suggestion that it was so overly marked by international influences as to be irrelevant to the Swedish art world. The departure from Naturalism led to suggestions that the art was naive, childish, unmasculine or degenerate. Hjertén’s work was attacked on all these counts and the presence of a woman painter only served to highlight the unmanly qualities of the whole show (Wallgren 2008, 124–128). This is in line with the cultural norms of the day that gendered Modernism and nearly all cultural endeavours of significance as masculine (Suleiman 1990; Behr 2012, 149–161). Hjertén and the Matisse school of painters continued to look south, to Paris, as the previous generation had done, but now drew on new influences of Expressionism and Cubism. At the same time, the narrative and psychological concerns that marked earlier Swedish art continued to manifest and persist. This indicates the different trajectory of Modernism in the Nordic countries: the co-existence of forms and content that could be regarded as both modern and anachronistic. The desire among artists, as well as the necessity within small markets, to communicate more broadly resulted in the persistence of narrative in new forms.



Einar Erlendsson and Einar Jónsson, The Einar Jónsson Museum, Reykjavík, 1916–23 and Lorentz Ree and Carl Buch, The Vigeland Museum, Oslo, 1921–24 If one looks for his spiritual ancestors, I am inclined to think they are soonest found among the Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek artists who create animal figures with human faces, gods with animal faces, sphinxes, centaurs, a Pan, a Winged Victory etc. But I believe his nearest spiritual ancestors are the old Icelandic skalds [poets] and here the kinship is not only spiritual but also a blood relationship. (Finnbogason and Stefánsson 1925, 75) This quote by the Icelandic philosopher and psychologist Guðmúndur Finnbogason describes a suggested fusion of influences that also help us to understand the transition from turn-of-the-century National Romanticism into the revised classical forms of the 1920s. The associations of Classicism with order, balance and the Western intellectual tradition are well established. From the fall of the Roman Empire onwards, many ages have turned to the inspiration of the antique world to make connections with the ideals and ideologies they understand as resonating with their own day (Greenhalgh 1978). Through the allusion to great moments within the European cultural canon, ancient Egypt and Greece and so on, Guðmúndur signals Einar Jónsson’s (1874–1954) significance and his claim to a place within this canon. At the same time, the primitive, pantheistic power of animal deities and the Dionysian revels associated with the god Pan indicate a point of contact between classical antiquity and the primitive mysticism associated with the days of the Norse sagas. The suggestion of a link between Einar and the scalds conveys the idea of an unbroken line of Icelandic creative genius, manifested in both a spiritual and a blood relationship to the past. We have seen this invocation of the power of the past to validate contemporary art numerous times in the last two chapters. The addition of the connection to the classical past serves to underscore the idea of Einar, not simply as an Icelandic artist, but simultaneously as a European artist. In contrast to the  criticism of Schjerfbeck, Hjertén and Grünewald as overly ‘foreign’, we see the fluidity and  subjectivity of the distinctions drawn between national and foreign influence. The point of connection between Einar’s work and the classical tradition is located in his treatment of the nude human body. The nude as a subject of art, and particularly figural sculpture, played a prominent role in the art culture of the 1910s and 1920s and not just in the Nordic countries. In Britain,

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France and Germany, the classical body was in the 1920s a way of repairing the torn body of European civilization, made manifest in the mutilated bodies of the soldiers of the First World War (Carden-Coyne 2009). The classical was also understood as a rappel a l’ordre, a return to traditional forms in art and a rejection of the chaotically varied, experimental languages of the fin de siècle. The sculptural form of the human nude played a central role in this (Silver et al. 2010, 17). In Nordic scholarship, the turn towards Classicism has been more frequently described in terms of a turn towards collective ideals in reaction against a period of pronounced individualism and conservatism. In particular, the evocation of simpler Greek forms as an allusion to republican and democratic ideals (Nielsen 1988). Einar Jónsson’s work was dominated by the human figure, as was the work of Norwegian Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943), who will be discussed shortly. Here, the universalism that had been sought by the previous generation in the figure of the peasant or in the contemplation of nature metamorphosed into the naked human figure, as a timeless vehicle for human ideals and identity. In Einar’s case, these figures, in their classical musculature, drapery and attributes, such as horses or wings, spoke of a clear line of continuity back to antiquity. At the same time, they were vigorous and stylized rather than academic and polished and could, without incongruity form compositions with dragons, trolls or Norse swords. The recurring motif of deep reliefs and figures set in profile in Einar’s work also reinforced the associative link to Egyptian art. This was not without wider European parallels, for example the work of British sculptor Eric Gill, who pursued a similar effect of evoking connections to more primitive dimensions of the antique tradition. Vigeland’s work in Norway shares a number of parallels. Both artists can be understood in relation to a series of overlapping paradigms. Both men became celebrated within their lifetime as national artists. So celebrated, in fact, that arrangements were made so that they spent the last decades of their careers living and working within buildings built to become national museums to their work. This unprecedented state and public support is evidence of their perceived importance to their contemporaries. Alongside this, however, they both studied in Denmark and their identity as ‘national’ needs to be tempered by an understanding of their education within the evolving Danish classical tradition and the contemporary Danish art scene as a regional centre (Friborg 1996; Bencard and Miss 2002). Furthermore, they were, as nearly all artists of their day were, closely networked within a wider European art culture. Many of the philosophical ideas that shaped their often mystical perception of the role of art in the world were ideas that resonated across Europe and aspired to universal, cosmic significance. Understanding their careers as interlocking webs of ideas that are national, regional and international in origin and national, regional and universal in



aspiration gives us a more nuanced way of reflecting on their posthumous reputations as national heroes. Einar was born into a farming family in Southern Iceland but, determined to become a sculptor, took himself first to Reykjavik and then to Copenhagen to study in the studio of the Norwegian sculptor Stephan Sinding (1846–1922) who worked there. He was awarded a grant from the Alþingi in 1895 that enabled him to remain in Copenhagen and enter the Academy studying under the Danish sculptor Wilhelm Bissen (1836–1913) from 1896 to 1899. He lived in Copenhagen, only visiting Iceland, until 1914. Academy prizes and renewed stipends from the Alþingi enabled Einar to spend 1902 in Rome (Auðuns 1982; Ólafur 2011, 46–75). Vigeland was from a small town where his father was a carpenter. He began to study in Oslo with sculptors who had returned from their own studies abroad. Government stipends from 1893 onwards enabled him to travel to Copenhagen, where he spent a year also in the studio of Bissen. He also travelled to Paris, Berlin, Florence, Rome and Naples (Malodobry and Golubiew 2010, 228–230; Wikborg 2010). There are certain parallels in the early careers of both artists. Iceland had no sculptural tradition to speak of and Norway very little, so Copenhagen was an obvious destination for further study. Of the sculptors who helped them on their way, Bissen was an evident shared influence. He was trained by his father, Hermann Wilhelm Bissen (1798–1868), who himself had trained under Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), a Danish Classical sculptor of international repute and leading figure of the Danish classical tradition. Their initial training in Oslo and Reykjavik was also under sculptors who had been trained by Bissen. This is characteristic of the ‘small world’ factor in Nordic art that contributes to the cohesiveness of culture across the region. Others of their teachers had augmented their classicist training with study in Paris and exposure to French Naturalism (Wikborg 1981, 309–375; Granat et al. 2004; Flor 2010). Both young artists, therefore, were exposed at the end of the nineteenth century to the two dominant currents within sculpture: the classical tradition, which harked back to the Renaissance and antiquity and in which the figure of Thorvaldsen still loomed large, and Naturalism, which emphasized an engagement with the contemporary world and with contemporary social relevance. In both these schools of thought, the human figure dominated as a formal focus and vehicle for meaning. As indicated, both artists also broadened their education through travel and through engagement with the new art of their day. They both encountered the Renaissance and the Antique at first hand in Italy and the work of the celebrated French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, in Paris. On his way to Italy, Vigeland spent some months in Berlin, where he was assimilated into the Modernist art circle around Edvard Munch, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and the Polish critic Stanisław

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Przybyszewski who championed Vigeland’s work in the international art press. Einar became part of the Modern art circles in Copenhagen, exhibiting with The Free Exhibition and The Free Sculptors associations, both break-away groups from the Academy (Berman 2007, 179–219). They both rejected the dominance of Academic Classicism and the dogmatic precision of Naturalism in favour of the development of personal idioms that drew freely on both these sources. Przybyszewski, in an article on Modern Art published in German, Danish and Czech in 1896 and subsequently as a book in 1897, took Vigeland as one of his examples. He described the path of the artist as follows: Artists follow twofold paths in their quest for the ultimate truth of life. Some try to render their sense impressions faithfully, others to listen to the sacred mysteries that take place in their heart of hearts, where in the abysmal mirror of the soul exterior events and experiences refract and combine into new forms, hitherto unseen by the human eye, where mysteries become revealed, never solved before. (Przybyszewski 2010, 253) Einar and Vigeland can both be seen to embody that second image, of the artist motivated by their inner vision that characterized the turn-of-thecentury conception of artistic genius. Through their translation of this vision into the universal language of the monumental human form they made the transition to the new Classicism of the 1920s. The 1920s also saw them establish the second phase in their careers as national artists, returning to their homelands and synthesizing their international experiences into their national art cultures. Both artists’ careers could be described as undeniably successful. From an early age they won stipends and prizes that enabled them to pursue paths that few of their rural working-class background could hope to aspire to. They secured the support of key critics and favourable reviews that helped them maintain these careers. The ultimate validation came in the agreements forged, Einar with the Alþingi and Vigeland with the City of Oslo, that their work should be collected and preserved for posterity, that new buildings should be erected to house these collections and that studios should be provided for them for the remainder of their lives. What this narrative obscures is that they both underwent substantial hardship to pursue and maintain their artistic careers and until relatively late in their careers their financial positions remained precarious. A positive critical reception was not the same as a steady income. Despite Vigeland’s growing reputation, on his return to Norway in 1897 he struggled to find work and ending up producing Gothic-style sculptures for the restoration of Trondheim



cathedral, a long-running project similar to the Lund Cathedral restoration. Einar, too, struggled to achieve financial security. His offer of all his work, in return for its transportation from Copenhagen and a building to keep it in, was originally made in 1908. It was only on the repeating of this offer in 1914 that the Alþingi finally accepted it. The budget for the new building assigned by the Alþingi was doubled by public subscription, a powerful indication of the popular feeling in Iceland surrounding the repatriation and preservation of the work of this Icelandic sculptor. Despite this affirmation, it was only in 1917, following receipt of a prestigious and well-paid commission from America, that he was financially secure enough to be able to marry Anna Jörgensen, to whom he had been betrothed for fifteen years. The building for the Einar Jonsson Museum was largely designed by Einar himself, with advice from the architect Einar Erlendsson in 1916 (Figure 3.4). The location for the building was also chosen by the artist, on a hill just outside the then boundaries of Reykjavik. Early photographs show it standing, isolated and temple-like on a raised mound on a barren rock-strewn hillside. It was the first dedicated museum to art in Iceland and opened in 1923. The temple form, based on symmetrical cubic masses with a clear central axis, reflects, like the Helsinki Railways station, the transition from the romantic, medievalized forms of turn of the century to the new Classicism of the 1920s. The front facade is severe. A firm horizontal emphasis is provided by the two equal side wings and the row of windows across the facade, while a

FIGURE 3.4   Einar Erlendsson and Einar Jónsson, The Einar Jónsson Museum, Reykjavík, 1916–23.

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row of shallow pilasters balance this with a vertical emphasis. These pilasters have no capitals and support no entablature, but they nonetheless suggest the columns of a classical temple. At the same time, the squared tops of the pilasters suggest the idea of castellated battlements. The rear facade is more sculptural. Its most striking feature is the central over-sized column that supports a jutting portion of the central bay of the building and in fact houses a spiral stair up to Einar’s apartment above the museum. The whole building is clad in a skin of roughcast to protect it from the elements and this and the lack of detailing and shallow recessed windows creates the effect of a smooth and united whole. A building that is at once a temple, a castle and clearly contemporary architecture. Vigeland’s offer to the City of Oslo was made in 1919 and accepted at once, with the formal contract being signed in 1921. The inspiration for both him and Einar was probably the Thorvaldsen museum which they both would have seen in Copenhagen. Thorvaldsen’s cultural status in Denmark was and remains largely unassailable. His return to Denmark from Rome towards the end of his life in 1838, in a ship sent for him by the Danish King, saw him greeted by a crowd of 40,000 Danes keen to welcome back their hero (Jørnæs 2011, 212). The enshrining of his work in a public museum was a key step in the establishment of a national, rather than courtly, art culture in Denmark. This museum, which served also as his mausoleum, would surely have exercised some fascination for young sculptors, setting out on their careers and similarly hoping to make their mark on their own national art cultures. A marble copy of Thorvaldsen’s Self-Portrait with the Statue of Hope (1859) can still be found in the preserved interior of Einar’s apartment. Vigeland’s museum was designed by the architects Lorentz Ree (1888– 1962) and Carl Buch (1892–1968) and constructed between 1921 and 1924. The building is an example of the new Classicism of the 1920s (Figure 3.5). With minimal historical detail, a sense of authority and balance is maintained throughout the form of the building. It is arranged around a square internal courtyard. Apart from the central entrance bay, containing the residential apartment above, the building is single storey, but with very high ceilings, similar to the Thorvaldsen Museum. The Vigeland museum is however equipped with roof-lights throughout, so that the light comes from above and gently filtered through the courtyard cloister. The building is rectilinear and symmetrical, with a firm horizontal emphasis, broken only by the cubic form of the lead-clad tower above that was intended for and now houses Vigeland’s funerary urn. The effect is understated but carefully orchestrated to combine a sense of both simplicity and elegance. The balanced proportions and regularity of ornament prevents the building having the mannered drama that characterized the Stockholm City Hall and many Classical buildings of the 1920s.



FIGURE 3.5   Lorentz Ree and Carl Buch, The Vigeland Museum, Oslo, 1921–24.

The secure permanence of his position in his own museum led Vigeland to turn his attention to the furnishing of his apartment, which he occupied from 1924 until his death in 1943. He designed light fittings and chandeliers in wrought iron that he had made up and textile designs to be woven by his wife Ingrid. He also devised a scheme of his own paintings for each room. In this way, through the careful choices of imagery and pattern, colour on the walls and painted furniture and varied, handcrafted materials used, the apartment in this classical building maintains a relationship to the artist’s home exemplified by Munthe’s home at Lysaker. Einar, too, designed the interiors and furniture for his and his wife’s apartment. Accessed via a spiral stair from the studio opens onto a small gallery with windows looking out in three directions over Reykjavik and to the sea and glaciers beyond. The centre of the staircase rises up to contain a small sculptural figure of an angel that forms a bracket for a lamp. Around the walls are plaques with the fusion of Christian and esoteric religious imagery that characterized his later work. The whole small apartment is a similar mix of Biedermeier, domestic cosiness and a temple to the spiritual life of its two inhabitants. Colour plays an important role here and in the museum below, with carefully chosen combinations of blues and rich mahogany upstairs with further vibrant blue, yellow and red in the galleries, off-setting the white of the

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plaster sculptures on display. Again, though the colours differ, the Thorvaldsen museum interior is also marked by strong colours. On their return to their homelands and ensconced in their own museumstudios, both Vigeland and Einar ceased to exhibit internationally, or in Vigeland’s case at all (Wikborg 2010, 195). This did not, however, imply a narrowing of their vision. Both artists maintained extensive libraries in their apartments and kept up with a broad array of European literature. As was discussed in relation to the university murals, one of the characteristics of art of the 1920s was a desire to translate the intensely personal and selfexploratory experimental forms of the 1890s and 1900s into something that was simultaneously relevant to the individual and to the collective. Building on an original project for a fountain in 1906, Vigeland’s contract with the City of Oslo eventually expanded into a monumental sculpture park surrounding his museum. The scheme of the park, entirely designed by Vigeland, consisted of a processional arrangement of paths and steps, culminating in a central monolith and animated by more than 200 separate sculptures in granite, bronze and wrought iron. Every piece is focused on the nude human form and the wider theme of humanity. The scale of the park and of the work is undeniably epic. It is devoid of traditional religious or national symbols, with the exception of the curling dragons of the wrought iron gates, so that the weight of meaning rests entirely on the human figures. The scheme is made up of isolated figures, wrapped in their own thoughts, sometimes in despair, or pairs and groups of figures exploring the multiple dimensions of human relationships and love. It can be read as a rejection of Vigeland’s strict, pietist, religious upbringing with its emphasis on selfdenial and abstinence. A humanist vision of the universe, where meaning or consolation for its absence, are sought in the relationships between man and woman, parent and child. The vast scale of the undertaking and the almost compulsive repetition of this theme suggest that this was a void Vigeland did not find easily filled. Einar, in a different way, sought to explore universal themes in his work. Rather than rejecting the faith of his childhood, it was transformed by his exposure in 1910 to the writings of the Swedish eighteenth-century mystic and religious reformer Emanuel Swedenborg. From there Einar was drawn towards Theosophy, a religious and philosophical movement that sought to expand the parameters of human understanding, drawing on a range of religious and spiritual sources from around the world and across time. His sculpture, Rest, which he started in 1915 and worked on periodically until 1935, exemplifies his search for sculptural form and imagery that could communicate this new vision of universal enlightenment (Figure 3.6). In Rest, the bust of a beautiful and contemplative young man is seen to emerge from an enshrouding skin of craggy, basalt rock. The faceted, craggy



FIGURE 3.6   Einar Jónsson, Rest, plaster, 1915–35. © Einar Jónsson Museum. forms of the rock lies like a scaly crust over the unrevealed side of his face and head, blanking out his features. Behind him, the polygonal column forms characteristic to the volcanic rock and thus to the Icelandic landscape, spring forth around the revealed side of the face. These emanations suggest rays of light or the physical manifestation of the enlightenment achieved by the

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emerging soul. Beneath the head stands a smaller figure of a sculptor in a leather apron holding before him a stylized hammer. In an early study for the piece, this smaller figure was instead a crouching nude, sunk in contemplation, with his head resting on his hand in a manner reminiscent of Rodin’s The Thinker. The final piece indicates the contribution of the artist to the pursuit of enlightenment. The figure’s muscular arms and hands rest upon the hammer simultaneously create the suggestion of a cross. The work has been linked to the writings of the British theosophist Annie Besant, which Einar had in his library (Ólafur 2011, 66). In particular, her use of the figure of the sculptor, hewing his work from the rock, as an analogue for pursuit of self-realization and enlightenment: Oh if you could see with the inner eye, and not only with the outer; if you could realise in the spiritual life what the great artist, the artist of genius, realises in the artistic life when the great creative impulse comes down from the heavenly spheres into his brain. […] Ask the sculptor what he is doing when he faces the block of unhewn marble with the creative impulse strong upon him. He will tell you that he sees within the marble the statue that shall be, and that it is his work only to hew away the superincumbent marble which hides the Beautiful within it from the eyes of men. O friends! such is also the work of the God within you, of all. (Besant 1912, 161; Besant and Schiøtt 1920, 96) Besant’s text, which speaks euphorically about the divine potential within all humanity for spiritual transformation, and the role of the sculptor intuiting the presence of the divine within the rough forms of the unhewn rock, seem to align closely with this piece. The imagery used resonates on a number of levels. First, it is clearly intensely personal to the sculptor, who was deeply engaged with Theosophy. According to the artist Ásgrímur Jónsson, who was a good friend of Einar, he could not tolerate any disagreement in this area of discussion (Ásgrímur et al. 1962, 41). Within the long history of Romanticism, that persisted in the Nordic countries, the figure of the heroic artist whose vision surpassed and offered leadership to his society also continued to resonate. The graphic use of the formations of basalt rock and the craggy head of the unperfected side of the sculpture that also evoked the troll and giant figures of Icelandic myth means the imagery could be read on a national level. The  perfect beauty of the emerging youth, finally, evokes classical Greek sculpture and its identification of divine order, harmony and beauty within the human form. It is this fusion, of the individual vision of the artist with the timeless value of the antique and of the skaldic heritage of Iceland, we have seen celebrated in the quote with which this section began.



Martti Välikangas, Puu-Käpylä, 1920–25 High status, specialist buildings, represented by the museums above, need to be understood in the context of the broader field of architectural production of the period. From the 1890s onwards, one of the dominant issues grappled with by architects was the provision of housing in the rapidly growing towns and cities. Public and critical condemnation for ‘barrack-like’ large-scale housing blocks reflected the discomfort many felt in relation to the increased density and uniformity of urban housing. Camillo Sitte, who was an Austrian architect and planning theorist, had a pronounced influence on town planning across the Nordic countries. His book, City Planning According to Artistic Principles, was published in 1889 (Sitte 1889). He reacted against the formal, grid-based block plans and long sweeping avenues that had dominated town planning in the nineteenth century. His book emphasized the picturesque and responsiveness to natural topography to create an urban milieu with the character and charm of a medieval streetscape. The English Garden City concept, propounded by Ebenezer Howard in his book Garden Cities of Tomorrow, was also highly influential (Howard 1898). Coverage of this idea in architecture and design periodicals ensured its rapid spread of influence across Europe and the Nordic countries. Middle-class villa districts sprung up around all the big Nordic cities, but the idea also started being considered for workers’ housing, an area of urban provision that was in particularly urgent need of attention. The Puu-Käpylä housing development, built 1920–25, was an early example in Finland of an attempt to develop a new residential neighbourhood outside of the city centre (Nikula 2006, 35–36). The overall plans for the area of fifteen large city blocks were drawn up by the Helsinki Town Planner, Birger Brunila (1882–1979) and fellow-planner Otto-Iivari Meurman (1890–1994). The actual buildings for the district were designed by a young architect, Martti Välikangas (1893–1973). They comprised of detached two-storey wooden houses, divided into multiple small family homes (Figure 3.7). The degree of overcrowding in working-class housing in this period and the pressing need for new homes is indicated by the fact that housing planners believed that the best achievable standard for new workers housing was based on one room and a kitchen per family. This was a common standard in Sweden also (Almqvist 1921). Välikangas qualified as an architect from the Helsinki Technical University in 1917. He was taught by the aging Gustaf Nyström and by Armas Lindgren, who was shortly to replace Nyström as Professor of Architecture in 1919. The very short tradition of professional architecture in Finland can be understood in personal terms. Nyström had been taught by F. A. Sjöström, the Swedishtrained first professor of architecture in Finland. Nyström then taught multiple generations of Finnish architects, between 1879 and 1919. Lindgren, taught

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FIGURE 3.7   Martti Välikangas, Puu-Käpylä, Helsinki, 1925. himself by Nyström, taught alongside him until taking over his own death in 1929. For fifty years then, between 1879 and 1929, every locally qualified architect in Finland was taught by one or other of these two men. On graduation, the opportunities for employment for Välikangas were limited due to the general crisis in the building industry connected to the First World War slowdown. He managed to get employment in South Russia where he worked on industrial housing projects alongside a number of other Finnish architects, all similarly drawn in search of employment. The advent of the Bolshevik Revolution, though, meant a hurried return to Finland in 1918. The declaration of Finnish Independence and the brief but harsh Civil War that then broke out between the Reds – primarily workers, sympathetic to the Bolshevik cause – and the anti-Bolshevik Whites brought the country to a standstill. Though the Whites triumphed and newly independent Finland remained outside the new Soviet Union, social tensions and trauma continued to reverberate through the 1920s and 1930s. Providing better housing for workers could be understood in terms not just of public welfare but of public order. Välikangas was only twenty-six and had just opened his own architectural office back in Helsinki when, in 1920, he was offered the commission for the 165 workers residences in Käpylä. The Puu-Käpylä project allowed for a fusion of modernity and tradition. The public provision of housing was itself a modern phenomenon, as was the range of expertise drawn upon, from architects, city planners, sociologists and welfare specialists. The building was financed



by the Helsinki People’s Housing Company, one of the real estate companies set up by the municipality to tackle the issue of the urban housing shortage. The buildings were largely prefabricated and based on newly introduced building standards. Standardized construction brought the cost of each individual building down. The Finnish Association of Architects and Finnish Union of Master Builders had established a standardization committee in 1919 and in 1921 new standard dimensions for windows and doors were introduced (Norri et al. 2000, 41). A similar effort was made in Sweden at the same time. During the period 1919–20, Swedish Association of Engineers and Architects set up a standardization committee run by Sven Markelius. Standard dimensions for windows and doors were introduced in 1920 (Caldenby et al. 1998, 61). The dissemination of fixed proportions for different building elements and subsequent regularity of appearance sat comfortably with the new Classicism of the 1920s (Nikula 1981, 67–70). The proportional uniformity of the Käpylä buildings was alleviated by simplified classical details that helped differentiate the houses and confer a sense of modest elegance and status. These details took the form of the suggestion of pilasters at the corners of the buildings, simplified pediments or scrollwork over windows and doors, picked out in white. They indicated a desire not to simply house the working classes, but provide them with homes they could be proud of. This was characteristic of the Nordic response to the social challenges of the period. In the face of escalating class-conflict, an effort was made to achieve national consensus and secure rapprochements with the potentially volatile worker’s movement. This classical spirit that dominated the public housing architecture of the 1920s emphasized a shared nobility and democratic elegance. In other building sectors the classical references varied quite markedly, from monumental solemnity, such as the Finnish Parliament Building and the Copenhagen Police Station, to elegance and whimsy, seen in Gunnar Asplund’s Villa Snellman, indicating the versatility of Classicism (Paavilainen 1982). The buildings of Puu-Käpylä were of wooden construction, which suited the straightened circumstances of the Finnish building industry in this period. Traditional construction in interlocking, squared logs, with vertical weatherboarding, put less strain on limited resources of building materials and skilled labour. The relationship to tradition was augmented by the colour scheme of red and yellow ochre with white trim, which referenced the anonymous architecture of the old wooden towns of Porvoo and Rauma. These old towns had begun to attract attention as national heritage sites at the end of the nineteenth century (Sparre 1898). Weather-boarded one- and twostorey wooden houses with simple classical details appeared in Finnish towns in the 1700s and represented a continuous tradition up to its reinvention in stripped down modernist terms (Nikula 2005, 132).

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The vision for the neighbourhood was the provision of a new solution to workers’ housing that was an alternative to the apartment block. The Garden City ideal was wholly embraced. The Helsinki Building Commission had visited Letchworth and Hampstead Garden Suburb in England. The houses did not stand isolated from one another, but were connected into a wider whole by means of fences and covered arcades creating a network of yards. One of the ideas incorporated in the project was that households should be able to grow their own vegetables, so there was a generous amount of outside space between the houses. As this was not an established feature of urban workingclass life, a garden consultant was hired to teach Käpylä residents about growing produce (Lehto 2006, 190–191). The project represented a vision for a new way of living that ameliorated the alienating realities of urban life with elements based on the more traditional farmstead. Building of Puu-Käpylä took place over three phases, 1920–21, a second phase in 1921 and a third in 1922. Over this period the emphasis shifted from uniform arrangement of houses with varied classical ornament to more playful and picturesque arrangements, concentrated on the creation of vistas and courtyards. Välikangas made a trip to Italy in 1921 where he particularly studied Italian vernacular architecture. The anonymous Classicism of Italian towns and cities provided an alternative model for a cityscape that was flexible and informal, but not romantically medievalized. Italian vernacular architecture continued to be an influence on Nordic architects throughout the mid-twentieth century (Tuomi 1999). The need for more housing was similarly pressing across the Nordic countries. The solution of small family homes was one particularly favoured in Sweden, whereas in Denmark there was a preference for building larger scale apartment complexes. Inspired by Key’s work, Östberg published a model book of small workers homes already in 1905, also titled Ett Hem, that attempted to facilitate the translation of the Swedish domestic ideal into affordable housing (Östberg 1921; Lane 2000, 120–121). The Office of Small Houses of Stockholm ran a scheme of self-built homes from prefabricated elements and plans for small houses were made available by the National Building Office (Caldenby et al. 1998, 62). The acute urban housing shortages continued to be a major problem in the Nordic countries into the post-Second World War period. Puu-Käpylä was a fusion of national and international vernaculars as well as contemporary national and international theory regarding the challenge of mass housing. It has come to be regarded as an exemplary project in its synthesis of social and aesthetic concerns. It was not a template that was repeated however. The development was part of the early 1920s municipal provision of public housing with strict regulation of the quality that, it became felt, repelled private companies from the sector. The relaxation of these rules



led to more privately financed housing, in the form of apartment buildings closer to the centre of town (Heinonen 1986, 189). The tension between quality and quantity was to remain an enduring one in the field of public housing, not just in the Nordic countries but internationally.

The Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, Paris, 1925 Similar tensions between quality and quantity also continued to reverberate in the area of the applied arts. Mass manufacturing and an ever expanding world of goods continued to excite anxieties in relation to comparison to objects made elsewhere and objects from the past. The displays at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925 offer a snapshot of a moment in the evolution of swiftly changing tastes and values in the Nordic countries. The range of objects displayed and the domestic debate that surrounded them indicate the competing values that shaped the period, from the arts and crafts ethos of excellence in technique and materials, on the one hand, to good design for all, on the other. The Exposition was another key event for the reception of Nordic design internationally and it set up many of the expectations for ‘Scandinavian Design’ that would resonate through the twentieth century. Norway did not participate and there were no objects from Iceland included in the Danish displays. Only Sweden and Denmark had their own pavilions, while Finland had a dedicated hall within one of the larger pavilions. This imbalance would continue to play out in other international events over the century, ensuring the international picture of ‘Scandinavian Design’ that began to emerge was skewed towards certain objects and certain areas of production. The Swedish Pavilion by Carl Bergsten (1879–1935) represented a continuation of the simplified Classicism already noted as characteristic of the period. The emphasis was firmly on polish and elegance and on a free engagement with the historic past, as noted in relation to the Stockholm City Hall. The city hall itself had finally opened in 1921 and its interior design was widely discussed, setting up expectations for the reception of Swedish design in Paris (Ericsson et al. 1996, 154, note 19). The form of the pavilion referenced a classical temple, with fluted columns, a reflecting pool and a urn monument, but it was stripped down and elongated to create a stylish, contemporary quotation of the classical, rather than directly historicist. The interior contained exemplary pieces of Swedish applied art: furniture, glass, ceramics, textiles, book binding and iron work. Alongside the pavilion, Swedish design was also

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


displayed in the Grand Palais and in the pavilions of individual manufacturers along the Boulevard des Invalides. Paulsson served as design commissioner and the displays by the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design represented the beginnings of the new direction being taken by this organization in response to the critique that had followed the 1914 Baltic exhibition. Though there was a range of high- and low-status material on display, it was the impressive art pieces that attracted the most notice. Simon Gate’s (1883–1945) Paris trophy of 1922 was one such piece that contributed to the general acclaim won by the Swedish glass firm Orrefors at this event (Figure 3.8). The piece was 85 cm high in total and testament to an impressive degree of technical skill. It had been presented to the City of Paris in 1922, as a diplomatic gift from the Aldermen of Stockholm on a visit to the city, and had been placed in the Paris City Hall. During the exhibition it was lent back to Sweden for display in the pavilion (Ericsson et al. 1996, 144). The shape of the piece is clearly ceremonial rather than functional, with a suggestion of a reference to a classical urn in the wide hip, lid and finial top. The scale gave ample scope for the demonstration of a range of skills: glass blowing for the form, spun details for the finial, glass cutting around the scalloped edge of the dish and intricate engraving work all over. The richly decorated surface of the cup weaves together a range of different symbols with baroque flare. Dragon’s heads allude to the Swedish origins of the gift, while elegant female nudes suggested the shared classical culture of both countries. The lid displays the coats of arms of Paris and Stockholm and overall the surface is lively with delicate foliated ornament. The trophy was crafted by master glass blowers Knut and Gustav Bergqvist and the engraver Gustav Abels, whose contributions were vital in the realization of Gate’s design. This nuancing of authorship and collaborative effort also plays out on the larger stage of the Orrefors firm’s success through the twentieth century. In 1913, the small glassworks producing mostly glass bottles was acquired as part of a larger holding by the industrialist Johan Ekman. Ekman began to take personal interest in glass design and to pursue new avenues for the development of the factory. He appointed a skilled manager, Albert Ahlin, who set about hiring new technicians, glass blowers, decorators and draftsmen from other Swedish factories and from the well-developed glass industry of Bohemia in Central Europe. They approached the graphic artist, Gate, who was working for a publishing house and who joined Orrefors permanently in 1916. Wettergren and the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design were also interested in the development of the firm, and Wettergren included Orrefors in an exhibition of Swedish craft and design at the prestigious NK department store in Stockholm. The relationship with NK was an ongoing one for the firm, as was the relationship with Wettergren, who acquired Orrefors pieces for



FIGURE 3.8   Simon Gate, Paris Trophy, Orrefors 1922 © Musee d’art moderne, Paris. All rights reserved. Roger-Viollet Agency.

the National Museum in his role as director of the arts and crafts department and then of the whole museum between 1920 and 1950. This straddling of the realms of commerce and culture was important for the survival of the firm and its legacy. Gate’s cup won Orrefors a Grand Prix in 1925, but the

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


commissioning of the Paris trophy in 1922 indicates that the process of establishing Orrefors’ international reputation cannot be traced to a single event. The prizes gained by Orrefors were among the thirty-one Grand Prix achieved by Sweden. Paulsson later attributed this success to the quality of the mass produced objects in the displays, but contemporary coverage largely emphasized the luxury goods like the trophy (Desfeuilles 1968, 112). The exhibition displays were accompanied by a concerted effort to communicate with the international community about developments in Swedish design. Around 15,000 copies of the catalogue of the Swedish section were published in French (Exposition internationale 1925). The text emphasized efforts made in Sweden to raise the quality of industrial design for everyone and the democratic and art-conscious nature of Swedish society. Wettergren’s own book about the exhibition displays was also published in French, English and German (Wettergren and Pinot 1925; Wettergren and Walter 1926). He presented Swedish design as rooted in Swedish nature and peasant crafts but simultaneously open to international influences: The character of the modern Swedish style […] may be expressed as a compound of a national and rustic element, of the classical harmony inherited from the Swedish-French culture of the 18th century, and of modern industrial rationalism with important incitements from Germany. (Wettergren 1926, 4) The book showcased Swedish crafts while also maintaining the importance of the steps taken to render mass produced items beautiful too and celebrating the advances made in Swedish industry. The rapid development of the Orrefors factory since 1917 was particularly celebrated. Though the achievements in the field of ordinary table glass are noted, the illustrations in the book are almost entirely of richly engraved art glass pieces. The domestic tensions regarding art wares versus everyday production were not played out in the international arena, which consistently painted a harmonious picture of the achievements of Swedish arts, crafts and design. Texts like these and the prizes awarded ensured that the international reputation of Swedish design was provided with a firm foundation. A selection from the Paris display was shown in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Exhibition of Swedish Contemporary Decorative Arts and travelled on to Detroit and Chicago (Ericsson et  al. 1996, 141–142). The show was a striking success, visited by 54,970 people in the first six weeks and selling 4,000 copies of the catalogue (McFadden 1982, 19). Regular exhibitions would continue over the following decades and the concepts used to explain Swedish design would remain largely constant, even while the appearance of the pieces shown changed dramatically (Jones 2011, 115–134).



The Danish Pavilion by Kay Fisker (1893–1965) was, in contrast to the Swedish one, overtly Modernist in form. Fisker had trained at the Copenhagen Academy and was successful from a young age and notable for his housing projects, such as Hornbækhus, Borups Alle, 1922–23, which were typical of the large scale of such schemes in Denmark (Paavilainen 1982, 60–61). Fisker was also to have a significant influence over subsequent generations of Danish architects, as a professor at the Copenhagen Academy from 1936 to 1963. In the Danish Pavilion, he took the brick he worked with in the Hornbækhus and designed a dramatic, geometric form, devoid of details other than the graphic linear coursing of the brickwork. The cube-like form of the design and the elongated main entrance portal placed it somewhere between the influences of the classical temple and the stripped down forms of international Modernism. The absence of historical ornament placed the emphasis instead on Euclidean geometry as an alternative universal language. This is similar to the effect of Le Corbusier’s pavillon de l’esprit nouveau, also at the Exposition. The white walls and glass of Le Corbusier’s pavilion were soon to become the formal hallmarks of Modernism, while Fisker’s brick created a more tangible connection back to the traditions of Danish brick architecture and the evidence of craft rather than a machine aesthetic. Inside the pavilion the range of applied arts goods on display were more varied and overall more traditional in their style. Ceramic wares by Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl were well received, as they had been in 1900. Small ceramic sculptures by Jean Gauguin (1881–1961) for Bing & Grøndahl and Kai Nielsen (1882–1924) for Royal Copenhagen and the silver work shown by Georg Jensen (1866–1935) exemplified the emphasis on art pieces and luxury goods. Alongside the Danish Pavilion and the displays in the Grand Palais, the ceramics manufacturers Bing & Grøndahl and Royal Copenhagen also had their own pavilions on the Esplanade des Invalides. Like the Swedish pavilion, it was high-status art pieces that ended up dominating the displays and press coverage. The French language catalogue accompanying the pavilion, like the catalogue of the Swedish section, emphasized the democratic flavour of the Danish displays in its copy, the desire of artist to give a more pleasing aspect to the necessities of everyday life. At the same time, the introduction sought to differentiate Danish culture from its Nordic neighbours, emphasizing the comparative paucity of a folk art tradition and the comparative richness of Danish high-cultural heritage (Österby and Hansen 1925, 9–10). One element of the Danish displays that signalled another direction in thinking on design was the PH Lamp series by Poul Henningsen (1894–1967). Henningsen had trained, though not graduated, as an architect. He was part of the literary and artistic circles in Copenhagen, through which he secured

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


his initial architectural commissions. Working alongside one of his assistants, Kund Sørensen, Henningsen had devoted more and more of his time to the challenges of lighting design through the 1920s (Rehr 2008). Electricity had been used in domestic lighting more and more widely since the 1890s. The aesthetic response to the new technology of electricity and the particular qualities of electric light was still very much in its infancy. Bare bulbs, with resulting glare, or silk screens and glass shades which more or less obscured the light were the standard solutions adapted from gas lighting. Henningsen and Sørensen’s experiments were based around charting the course of light originating from the bulb and using multiple shades as a means of directing the light rays as desired, not simply shielding them (Jørstian and Nielsen 1994, 88–102). Their design for a new lamp was submitted to the Danish exhibition selection committee in 1924 and was awarded a prize. The process of design, product development and manufacture was necessarily rushed by the required deadline of the exhibition opening. The lighting firm Louis Poulsen agreed to work with Henningsen to produce the lamps and a French manufacturer was found to make bulbs to their exact specification. Three table lamps were shown as well as three different pendant lamps. The PH series was shown as part of a dedicated Louis Poulsen display, which included wall-mounted drawings explaining the rationale and research behind the designs. In addition, the six-shaded ‘Paris Lamp’ was used to light the Danish displays of ceramics in the Grand Palais and the largest, a metre diameter globe pendant formed of a dozen separate shades, was the centrepiece of Fiskar’s pavilion interior (Figure 3.9) (Jørstian and Nielsen 1994, 106–116). Henningsen was awarded a gold medal for his lamps, but in the context of the shower of medals achieved by the Danish and Swedish displays this did not constitute the acclaim that Henningsen felt the originality and quality of the work merited. The PH lamps were a new design response to a modern problem. In contrast, the majority of the work to gain attention in Paris utilized traditional materials and reworked traditional forms or motifs to create pieces that were recognizably contemporary, but which spoke of a relationship to the past at the same time. Henningsen’s lamps and Le Corbusier’s pavilion were among the few exhibits that put forward an aesthetic that was substantially unfamiliar and based explicitly on the search for new design solutions to contemporary problems. The Finnish hall and its murals were designed by the artist and designer Henry Ericsson (1898–1933). Ericsson’s career was marked by work across a wide range of media, from etching and murals to stained glass, furniture, theatre design and glass (Ericsson 1983). This reflected the ongoing permeability between fine and applied art practice the we have traced since the nineteenth century. The comparative sparseness of professional art



FIGURE 3.9   Kay Fisker, Danish Pavilion interior, Paris 1925. Featuring globe lamp by Poul Henningsen, 1925. © Danish National Art Library.

opportunities in a small nation, especially one recovering from civil war like Finland, also lent itself to artists remaining flexible in their practice. Ericsson worked as a glass designer for the Riihimäki glass factory from 1928 until his premature death. In his Barcelona trophy for the 1929 Barcelona

1910–1930 – Classicism and the Universal Vision


World’s Fair, we can trace the direct influence of his exposure to the work of Orrefors in Paris (Maunula 1990, 163). As we have seen, across the wider Nordic region nations, institutions and companies looked to one another’s achievements as a source of inspiration and competition and a suggestion of what was achievable within a Nordic context. What the Swedes achieved, for example, acted as a spur for the Finns in the way that French, German or British achievements could not do, in the spirit of, ‘if they can do it, so can we.’ Overall, the Nordic displays were well-received and, as before, international acclaim, particularly from the French whose cultural authority remained highly valued, was important. It acted as a bolster to national self-confidence and an affirmation of the increased investment in the engagement of professional artists and designers by industry. An ongoing pattern of success was also germane to the continued availability of government resources devoted to design education and to the cost of attendance at international design events. This pattern was also relevant in relation to future invitations to exhibit and the quality of exhibition spaces allocated at international fairs. The preponderance of textiles, ceramics, glass, silverware and furniture shown by the Nordic countries were marked by quality craftsmanship and manufacturing that reflected the proceeding half-century’s efforts in design reform and education. The presentational literature emphasized this craft and heritage foundation and the ongoing state investment in design reform, as it would continue to do through the twentieth century. This reflected both an element of historical reality and the early formation of Nordic design’s unique selling point in the international arena.

4 1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


he interwar period continued the trends of massive social and cultural change in the Nordic countries. Art and design reform efforts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were increasingly bearing fruit as the art scene expanded and professional artists and designers engaged directly with industry. This design reform ethos, which had previously driven the rejection of Historicism, continued to evolve its response to the desire for design to meet the needs of a changing society. As we saw at the end of Chapter 3, the Paris exhibition revealed the parallel paths of thinking in Nordic design. On one hand there was a growing theoretical engagement with good design for the general public, mass production and new needs. New thinking on design was filtering in, represented by the Bauhaus School in Germany, the work of the Russian Constructivists and Le Corbusier, all of which were followed by the design press and familiar from international exhibitions like Paris. On the other hand, the craft ideal of the nineteenth century remained strong and truth to materials, skilled execution and a connection to the craft traditions of the past continued to have a place.

The Stockholm Exhibition, 1930 The Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 was a decisive public relations exercise in the popular dissemination of Modern design (Habel 2002, 29–57). The exhibition project was spearheaded for the city of Stockholm by Paulsson and the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design. The aim was to propel the latest international thinking on design and social housing from the inner circles of architects and designers out into the public arena.



The lead architect of the exhibition pavilions was Gunnar Asplund (1885– 1940). Asplund was already an established figure in the Swedish architecture scene. A graduate of the Stockholm Royal Institute of Technology, he was part of a group of students who took part in the independent Klara School in 1910, rather than the Stockholm Academy, in protest at the conservative teaching there. At the Klara School he was taught by Östberg, among others, and developed his interest in materials and responsiveness to local conditions and traditions (Blundell Jones 2006, 22–25). His trip to Italy in 1913–14 mirrored that of many Nordic architects, for whom the vernacular architecture there provided a conceptual bridge between the rusticity of National Romanticism and the more regular forms of Classicism. Though the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 was a purely national event, in that it featured only Swedish displays, it was international in its conceptual framework. Paulsson was inspired to propose the event by the Deutsche Werkbund exhibition of the Weissenhof Housing Estate which he had seen in Germany in 1927. This had featured houses designed by Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and other leading Modernists. Building on his Better Things for Everyday Life thesis, exemplary modern housing solutions lay at the heart of his plans for the exhibition. Towards the end of the 1920s, Asplund’s own work had turned increasingly away from classical references towards abstract geometric relationships between forms. The criticism of Asplund’s 1928 Stockholm Library by his student, the architectural theorist Uno Åhrén (1897–1977), shares some parallels with the criticism and conceptual shift noted in relation to Saarinen’s work on the Helsinki railway station. Åhren regarded the persistence of historic and symbolic elements in the design, such as the library clock with its traditional Roman numerals, as unnecessary hangovers from the past and contrary to the true function of a modern public library (Rudberg 1981, 46–47). Rather than attempting to refute the views of his younger colleague, they appear to have chimed with an emerging new interest on Asplund’s part in the Modernist approach Åhrén advocated. The firming up of this new direction took place over the course of his work on the 1930 exhibition, facilitated by a research trip across Europe with Paulsson, on which he had the opportunity to study the emerging forms of Modernism at first hand. This smooth transition by the leading Swedish Classicist to the new style reflects, as it did in Saarinen’s case, the substantial degree of ideological continuity that marked these otherwise dramatic changes of direction. Within National Romanticism the idea had already been established that architecture could do more than simply be beautiful. It could have a direct impact on psychology of the individual and that new building could – and should – both reflect new social values and contribute to them. This had given architects and designers a new and enlarged sense of the importance of

1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


their mission. The home with its emphasis on family life and well-being had displaced, at least in theory, the home as a display of wealth and status in the architectural discourse. A simpler language of design inspired by the craft and way of life of the folk could evolve, as it did in Paulsson’s career, into a broader programme of design for the people. It also became increasingly accepted that this necessitated reconciliation with mass production. The development of standardized units in the building industry, previously commented on, indicates that this process was already underway. With the rise of the Social Democratic movement through the twentieth century, a broader conception of who constituted ‘the public’ also gained momentum. The Social Democratic Party came into office in Sweden in 1932 and was to dominate the political landscape for the rest of the century. Housing remained a key issue for the party and a key plank of the social consensus that warded off the threat of Bolshevik Revolution by means of a concerted effort to improve the living conditions of the worker (Mattson and Sven-Olov 2010, 17). Architecture had already been politicized as part of national movements, so that its politicization in relation to the Social Democracy was not a total departure from established thinking in relation to the literal and figurative building of the nation. A planned society would, it was envisaged, eliminate poverty and alleviate the social ills that had accompanied rapid industrialization and urbanization. Rational design, in the form of Functionalism, as Modernism was to be known in the Nordic countries over this period, was to play a direct role in this process. Over the next forty years housing planning and design for the domestic environment was a substantial part of this process. In order for the model of social consensus to work, however, it was important that the general public be brought on board with the plan. Exhibitions as a vehicle for educating the public were an extension of their nineteenth-century design reform origins that focused on the education of public taste. The fact that they had, in parallel, operated as trade fairs and promotion opportunities for consumer goods led to situations, such as Paris 1925, when the spectacle of luxurious consumer goods trumped the avowed goal of showcasing modern design. There was, however, an established culture of domestic, educative exhibitions in the run-up to the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930 (Perers 2001). The directing of consumer tastes and expectations by experts, be they experts in design, health and hygiene or social welfare, was to take on a growing significance through the mid-twentieth century in Sweden and across the Nordic countries. This can be seen as the beginning of concerted efforts to foster the development of an educated consumer whose desires were driven not by individualist fantasies but by a sense of their place in a collective, Swedish future (Mattson 2010, 74–99). This emphasis on introducing Swedish audiences to the principles, forms and aesthetic of European Modernism made the 1930 exhibition slightly different from Copenhagen 1888, Paris 1900



or Malmö 1914. Rather than the pavilions being ostentatiously idiosyncratic, designed to stand out from one another, catch the eye and convey their own message to the rapidly circulating crowds, there was far greater emphasis on homogeneity. In particular, in the model housing section, pavilions were designed to be understood as real, though strikingly modern, solutions to the housing needs of the middle and working classes. Paulsson emphasized that the difference lay in the exhibition having a specific message to communicate, rather than simply presenting a picture of the current state of industry, design and the arts sectors (Rudberg 1999, 35–37). The medley of historical references customary in exhibition architecture was replaced by a consistent formal language of white walls of asbestos, cement or plywood, exposed structural steel and walls of glass. A tall, openwork mast carrying neon advertising signs offered a central point of orientation. After dark, neon lights picked out the forms of the pavilions. Unlike the theatrical spectacle of the multi-colour, electrically illuminated waterfalls and fountains of the previous fairs, the lighting design of Stockholm emphasized the geometric forms of the pavilions and their interrelationships, a future city reflected in the waters of the lagoon. In the daytime, the stark appearance of all the steel, white walls and glass was alleviated by means of brightly coloured awnings, signage and flags. The exhibition still represented fantasy architecture. But it was a fantasy of an imminent future, rather than a fantasy of the past. The unity of the designs and the careful consideration within the interiors of the relationships between space, light and details demonstrated ongoing awareness of the power of the total work of art. The bright cheerful colours and most of all the white walls and sheet glass must also be understood in relation to the ongoing narrative around light in both Nordic and European Modernism. Going back to Ellen Key, light and air were established as key elements in relation to both modernity and healthfulness. ‘Why is a light airy drapery around a window more beautiful than a heavy dark one? Because the latter is contrary to the principle of a window, which is to let in light’ (Key 2008, 50). Light was rational and beautiful. The need for light and air in the home was not simply a matter of ambiance. Tuberculosis was a massive health problem across Europe through this period and poor housing and working conditions were explicitly linked to the disease. In the absence of a vaccination, light and air were the only known preventative and curative solutions to this very real threat to public health (Campbell 2005). Despite the coherent programme of the exhibition organizers, the reality of the exhibition remained broad ranging. It was open from May to September and during this time it was visited by over four million people. The modernist design platform was mediated by a series of popular attractions. Arranged around a long promenade parallel to the water, it featured a series of pavilions designed by Asplund: a Planetarium, the Paradise Restaurant, the festival

1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


square with its concert stage, the Svea Viken pavilion with exhibits on Swedish history and identity, a funfair and numerous small kiosks and stands. Pavilions with displays of Swedish applied arts, from manufacturers like Orrefors, Gustavsberg and displays by the Friends of Handicrafts, represented continuity with the fare of earlier exhibitions (Rudberg 1999). The Paradise Restaurant was the most celebrated buildings in the exhibition (Figure  4.1). It could seat 1,000 in main dining room, plus 400 in each of two banqueting rooms and included a dance hall. The visible structure of the supporting steel joists could be traced from the ground level, up the height of the building behind its walls of glass. This transparency of structure places it on a par with the most advanced Modern architecture of the day, such as Mies van der Rohe’s German pavilion for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. The large drum of glass on the corner of the building and the curved bay breaking up the long facade add elements that are both in harmony with the geometric principle of the design, but add a sculptural, somewhat playful element to the building. The colourful flags and awnings, terraces and long mezzanine galleries inside along with the proximity to the water lent the pavilion a nautical feel. The orientation of the pavilion in relation to the water and as the focal point of the exhibition layout gave the event a social heart. This

FIGURE 4.1   Gunnar Asplund, Paradise Restaurant, Stockholm Exhibition, 1930. ©National Museum of Sweden/C.G. Rosenberg.



again makes it different in conception from the uniformity of Le Corbusier’s Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants plan, exhibited at the Salon d’Automne 1922, in which local terrain and human experience was overwritten by geometric perfection. Housing exhibits were central to the reformist aims of the exhibition. A range of model homes were displayed, from exhibits by the cooperative housing association, HSB (The Tenants Savings and Building Society), to model rental apartments and various experiments in small house architecture, villas, bungalows and terraces. The committee of architects who worked on both the latter sections took as their starting point in depth-research into the current housing situation, the need for space and light, the different functions accommodated within the home and sizes of households needing accommodation at different income levels. The challenge was pronounced. High rents and low incomes meant architects faced a challenge of providing optimal housing conditions while taking up as little space as possible. This marriage of sociological research and design was also to mark Nordic architecture and design over the coming decades. Apartment 7 by Sven Markelius is an example of the general character of the new domestic environments proposed in the exhibition (Figure  4.2). The  apartment was 55 m², intended for a household of four to six people with an annual income of 4,500–7,000 SKR, representing an attempt to accommodate a working-class family. Markelius prioritized a light airy living space, with a glass wall illuminating the main room and a mezzanine floor accommodating two bedrooms and a bathroom. This meant the kitchenette, dining area and study on the ground floor and the upper rooms could all have low ceiling heights to save space, without resulting in the whole apartment feeling cramped and airless. One of the principle ills of working-class housing identified by the architects’ team was the common arrangement of having to use the kitchen as a sleeping space. This was considered particularly unhygienic. It was countered in Markelius’s design, as it was in the majority of the designs, by having a kitchenette instead, freeing up space that could be used in other ways. He created a partition in the living room beneath the mezzanine level for a study that could double as extra sleeping space if needed. In this design it would no longer be necessary to sleep in the kitchen or for parents and children to share sleeping space. This prioritization of personal space came mostly at the expense of the woman of the household, whose cooking and washing duties would now have to take place in a tiny, low-ceiled space at the rear of the flat, often without direct natural light (Saarikangas 2006). There was a rationale for this reallocation of space. New technology in the form of electric ovens and refrigerators was supposed to streamline domestic chores. The solution to the housing situation was never going to

1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


FIGURE 4.2   Sven Markelius, Living Room, Apartment 7, Hall 36, Stockholm Exhibition, 1930. ©National Museum of Sweden/Karl Alfred Schultz.

be an easy one. But it remains relevant to note that despite the emphasis on empirical research and rationalization, subjective judgements continued to be exercised by the male architects in regards to what was most important. The  arrangement was also criticized by contemporary women’s groups (Rudberg 1983, 207). The kitchen/kitchenette debate presented a microcosm



of the modern rationalization of domestic life, from the equipment and design of home to the practices within. The College of Domestic Science opened in Uppsala in 1895, producing professional experts on home management. These ideas were disseminate out to Swedish women through women’s organizations, women’s magazines and women’s programming on the radio (Hagberg 1994). As well as a new rationale for how to arrange the home, the exhibition also presented a new aesthetic for the home. In place of the cheerfully painted wooden furniture advocated by Key, architects like Markelius made use of tubular steel as a strikingly modern alternative. Smooth white walls and no cornices or mouldings on walls or furniture all made for an ostentatiously clean, dust-free space. Furniture was all light-weight and moveable, easy to clean around and facilitating a flexible use of the small space. The adjustable, wall-mounted light could be angled over the table or over the armchair by the window. The minimal furnishings again strove to create a sense of space in the small apartment. The severity was mediated by means of a few brightly coloured textiles. The colourful rug, sheer curtains and pot plants on the window sill, though taking new forms, can be traced back to the design reform treatises of the turn of the century. The exhibition occupies a key position in the history of Swedish Modernism. It can be seen as the breakthrough moment for a new aesthetic and a new attitude to design (Råberg 1972). But whatever its future significance, its reception in 1930 was mixed. From both the right and left of the political spectrum the central reservation voiced was that it represented an attempt at imposing a foreign style on the Swedish people. This perspective makes sense in the light of the proceeding decades of art historical and design discourse that had emphasized the moral and philosophical rightness of a return to forms rooted in Swedish cultural history. The distinction here needs to be drawn between Modernism as an aesthetic style and Modernism as an ideology or a movement. As a style, series of formal elements, white walls, walls of glass, exposed steel structure and so on, it was new to Sweden, lacking any local precedent and relying on international examples such as the work of Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe mentioned above. Ideologically, though, the emphasis on a responsiveness to function, truthfulness in regards structure and materials and a valorization of simplicity can be seen as an organic extension of domestic debates on design. It was just such an argument that was put forward in acceptera, the manifesto of the exhibition authored by Asplund, Åhrén, Markelius and Paulsson along with fellow exhibition architects Wolter Gahn and Eskil Sundahl was published in 1931 (Åhrén et al. 2008). The manifesto presented the ideology of the new design that had appeared in the exhibition and its central aim was to refute the idea of this being foreign

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to Sweden. The title, which translates as ‘accept’, encapsulated the central thesis which was that social change and Sweden’s aspirations for the future necessitated ‘acceptance’ of new ways of living and working. The front cover, with its horizonless image of a huge crowd of people, presented the reality of mass society the authors pressed their readers to recognize. The san-serif font without capital letters reflected the influence of the new typography coming out of the Bauhaus and the bold departure from traditional, hierarchical ideas (Bowallius 2002, 217–218). This and the unconventional layout, presenting the text of the first paragraph, overlaid with the authors’ names in a manner reminiscent of collage, graphically illustrated the book’s premise that the time had come to dispense with the conventions of the past. The book was extensively illustrated and used image comparisons with succinct captions to hammer home its message. Images of the past contrasted with those of the future and images of rational construction contrasted with the dishonest application of faux-historical cladding on modern constructions. The  past was not rejected however. Examples of Swedish vernacular architecture were used to argue that Sweden had a long history of rational design, in the sense of the development of forms and use of materials guided by function and utility. The use of vernacular material again tied the new debate in to the established rhetorical forms of the National Romantic movement, which had used the same vernacular buildings to argue for a return to a Swedish culture of design (Arrhenius 2010). The simple forms of home-crafted objects were presented as analogous to modern design to help reconcile Swedish consumers to the simplified forms of standardization and mass production the authors believed they must learn to embrace. While the text emphasizes a collective conception of a future society in which everyone was better off, this was not done through a denial of individual, psychological engagement with design. Instead, the weight of the didactic text, images and captions seek to encourage the individual to identify with the goals of modernization and recognize these goals as in harmony with their own aspirations. The organisation of the world’s resource and the improvement and stabilisation of the living conditions of individuals are what we are working toward. But these are merely means to enable richer lives to be led. If that end is distant, we have to make even greater endeavours to perfect the means. (Åhrén et al. 2008, 338) The exhibition certainly did not change public taste overnight. As with all the shifts in taste and perception noted over the period covered by this book, a range of goods and approaches continued to be available. Visitors could still find floral and folk-inspired textiles in the Textile Hall and oriental-inspired



vases or dishes with classical figures upon them in the Gustavsberg pavilion. In 1931, the timber firm Borohus that made prefabricated homes advertised designs that ranged from a folkish National Romantic style option, a classical villa, a luxury Modernist design called ‘Hollywood’ as well as a simpler Modernist house called ‘Funken’ (Rudberg 2002, 154). Whatever the ideology of the architects of acceptera, Modernism could be commercialized as an aesthetic style just like everything else. The impact of the exhibition was felt across the Nordic countries. Press coverage and the subsequent publication of acceptera made the images and ideas it presented accessible to those who were unable to visit. The size of the event underscored the real arrival of the new style, which had already appeared here and there in the preceding years. Alvar Aalto and Erik Bryggman’s 700th Turku Anniversary exhibition in 1929 in Finland had, on a much smaller scale, presented Modernism to Finnish audiences. Nordic architects worked closely with one another through this period on their shared goals of bringing Modernism to their region and maintaining connections with the European design elite further south.

Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson, Oslo City Hall, 1931–50 As the publication of acceptera indicated, there was not an immediate and whole-hearted swing over to the crisp, white forms of Modernism. Particularly in relation to monumental and symbolic projects, there remained a need to maintain a more overt relationship to heritage as well as signal an engagement with the future. This is exactly what was attempted in the Olso City Hall. The city hall took thirty-five years from conception to completion. The first competition for designs was held in 1915–16, the cornerstone was laid in 1931 and the building was opened in 1950 on the occasion of the city of Oslo’s 900th jubilee. The relationship to the prominent city halls of Norway’s neighbours in Stockholm and Copenhagen was direct in the form of the inclusion of both Martin Nyrop and Ragnar Östberg as jurors for the 1915 competition. The protracted period of development of the project took the design through crucial years of Norway’s development as a nation, a period of rapidly evolving tastes from National Romanticism, through Nordic Classicism and on to Modernism. The devastating interruption of the Second World War and Nazi occupation also left its mark on the project (Grønvold et al. 2000). Independence from Sweden in 1905 gave a new significance to civic art and design projects in Norway. Proposals for a new impressive city hall, comparable to her neighbours in Denmark and Sweden were met with

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general enthusiasm and funds were quickly raised from leading families and public subscription to get the project off the ground. The proposed site on the harbour would serve to link the waterfront with the main public axis of the principal street of Karl Johans Gate and, not incidentally, clear away a slum neighbourhood that had developed there (Grønvold et al. 2000, 47–48). The new city hall would provide the city and the nation with an architectural symbol of its recent growth and prosperity and present it as a Nordic capital alongside its larger neighbours. The initial open competition in 1916 was followed by a second round in 1918 of six teams selected from the first round and this second round was won by the paring of Arnstein Arneberg (1882–1961) and Magnus Poulsson (1881–1958). The entries from this stage of the project were all characteristic of their time. The symbolic responsibility of representing the city of Oslo and the regionally established conventions of city hall architecture resulted in designs that maintained a strong connection to history, very much in line with the models of Copenhagen and Stockholm. Imposing walls and towers gave a flavour of Baroque or Medieval castles, though in a historically loose, simplified form recognizable as the product of the 1910s. Arneberg and Poulsson had both studied at the Royal School of Drawing in Oslo under Herman Major Schirmer (1845–1913), who was notable for the extensive programme of expeditions he organized to study and document Norwegian vernacular architecture. This practice has already been noted as part of Nordic architectural culture, indicating the significant ongoing role of handson architectural history studies in architectural training. This foundation in local vernacular craft traditions and history was common to the next generation or two of Nordic architects who were taught by the pioneers of the 1890s and who practiced through the mid-twentieth century (Solbakken 2012). Poulsson and Arneberg completed their education at the Stockholm Royal Institute of Technology, Poulsson from 1903 to 1905 and Arneberg from 1903 to 1906, as it was still not possible to complete a full architectural training in Oslo. They subsequently worked in the offices of a number of leading Swedish architects. The system by which newly qualified architects worked as draughtsmen within established architectural practices, often abroad for periods, was another means by which influence passed between the generations and from country to country. The early years of their joint practice were marked by the influence of this older generation of National Romantic architects. Arneberg had grown up in Lysaker, while Poulsson worked there, giving them both personal connection to the ethos of the artist community there. The plans for the city hall went through a long and involved period of redrafting and public debate following the formal awarding of the commission to Arneberg and Poulsson in 1919. The architects were keen to take their ideas



in new directions, while the conservative municipality was wary of both the costs and aesthetic risk of the new building. The significant costs surrounding Vigeland’s museum and park were a competing drain on their resources and Vigeland, himself, attacked the city hall project, fearing it would divert funds from his own work (Grønvold et al. 2000, 80–81). The City Hall went through a number of different variants, from its National Romantic origins, to the paired down Classical form of the 1920s, via an ambitious tower block 55 metres high. These different iterations all shared an emphasis on monumentality of form, in which the surface ornament remained subordinate to the mass of the building. Östberg’s support for the project, which he had been involved with on and off since judging the original competition, was crucial in pushing through acceptance for the final design. This design shrugged off almost all historical references to bring the monumentality of rectangular masses to the fore (Figure 4.3). The large cubic block of the main ceremonial portion of the building facing the water and two rear tower-blocks of office space made up a strong group. These three main elements dominated the appearance of the building from the south, while to the north the rectangles were broken up with decorative fillets and an entrance colonnade. This design was accepted in 1930 and was, without substantial changes, the project built. The bold massing and clear functional divisions brought the design, if not to the cutting edge, then at least in line

FIGURE 4.3   Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson, Oslo City Hall, 1931– 50. ©Oslo Museum/ Leif Ørnelund.

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with the new Functionalist trend in Nordic architecture. The building’s symbolic function and its articulation of a relationship to Norwegian cultural history was maintained through materials, ornament and artistic embellishment. These two ideological positions were somewhat at odds with one another, making the solution of the city hall a unique one and making its reception within subsequent Art History more complex. The building was allocated a prominent location in the city. The old neighbourhood of Vika was entirely demolished, opening up a broad seafront onto the fjord and to the North the crescent form of the new Fidtjof Nansens Plass and Roald Admudsens Gate – named for the two great Polar heroes – leading up to the main East–West axis of the city centre. The crescent and entrance colonnade ties the arrangement into the Classical tradition of public buildings and theatrical city planning. The principal drama of the design lies in the two great towers and the windowless, crenelated mass of brick of the thirteenth–fifteenth floors. These housed archives and artists’ studios, but clearly this was not a solution determined first and foremost by simple practicality. A tower was an essential element of all the city hall proposals. Indeed towers were generally considered so intrinsic in respect to such civic buildings, that the Aarhus City Hall, designed in Denmark by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller in 1937, had a tower added on the basis of the general outrage of the public that they be represented by a city hall that lacked such a key feature (Lund and Manley 2008, 59). Symbolism, though it had no place in the rhetoric of Modernism, continued to have a place in architectural practice. Poulsson and Arneberg acknowledged this in the careful attention given over to the messages communicated through the building. The overall masses of the different block elements are uncompromisingly ahistorical. The  symmetrical, paired towers shift the references away from the Italian palazzo and the traditions of city hall architecture. At the same time, the rich surface ornament of patterned red brickwork, veined grey marble and extensive scheme of applied arts inside and out connect the building back to the Arts and Crafts impulses of the turn of the century. This surface detail attempts to negotiate the transition from a building of imposing and severe scale and volume to an accessible people’s palace. The embellishments reach out to engage the passers-by with an iconography of familiar symbols and figurative works that signal the building’s role in celebration of Oslo and Norwegian citizenship and history. The same balance is struck through the interior. The prestige of the building, particularly the ceremonial public spaces, is signalled by means of sheer scale, marble panelling and moulding and art works. Unlike the largely ahistorical modern forms of the exterior, the interior makes clearer references to traditional palace architecture, with a processional staircase and sequence of grand reception rooms that form a public piano nobile comparable with that



in Stockholm. The language of stripped down Classicism appears in the form of massive, rectilinear columns and lintels and coffered panelling. The Central Hall is clearly designed to hold its own in relation to Östberg’s Blue Hall in Stockholm and the central hall of the Copenhagen City Hall. The city hall committee was very conscious of the comparisons to be made with Stockholm and Copenhagen. The investment in materials and artwork is a clear response to the lavish decorative interiors of these earlier buildings. The same effort to showcase Norwegian craftsmanship and artistic skill is achieved, alongside a festive air of decorative jubilance. As in Stockholm and Copenhagen, a range of artists and crafts people contributed to the furnishing of the interiors. This work took place over the ten years after the building itself was completed in 1940 up to its grand opening at the centenary jubilee of Oslo city in 1950. The effect is again that of the total work of art and though the beauty here is not found in relation to simple, everyday objects there is a sense in which the city hall, like the previous city hall projects, was marked by the democratic principle of beauty for all. Painters, such as Axel Revold (1887–1962), Per Krohg (1889–1965) and Alf Rolfsen (1895–1979), contributed extensive frescoes across the interiors. These artists became known internationally for the establishment of a local tradition of contemporary fresco art in Norway (Blomberg 1937). Their striking compositions reflected the bright colours and primary role of the human figure Krogh and Revold had learnt during their studies with Matisse in Paris, where they had worked alongside Sigrid Hjertén and Isaac Grünewald. This influence was married to a monumentality that sought to include an interest in space and volume gained through contact with Cubism, in Paris. Rolfsen, though slightly younger, trained in Copenhagen and then also in Paris, where he was influenced by, among others, the Mexican mural artist Diego Rivera. Though the Norwegian Academy of Art had been founded in 1909 with Krohg’s father, Christian Krohg, as one of the professors, none of these three artists trained there. The desire to explore pictorial volume without pursuing an illusionistic disruption of the flat wall surface made Italian early-Renaissance frescoes an important source. After the First World War, European travel, to Italy and the South of France became easier. In many ways their work was a synthesis of national, regional and international currents and solutions that looked both back to the past and forward to the future (Askeland 1995, 8–10). Fresco art, as has been commented on in relation to Munch’s frescoes, was also suited to the new demands of integrating art with architecture and with public life in general. The socially oriented, legible subject matter favoured by these artists also made their work appealing in terms of democratic relevance to the wider public. Rolfsen’s fresco for the north wall of the central hall, Working Norway: From the Drift Nets to the Forests of the East, is an example of the narrative

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quality of his work (Plate 10). The fresco technique, that involved painting onto wet plaster, created enduring luminous colours but required careful pre-planning of the scheme. The theme of the piece is the working people of Norway. The  vast wall of the fresco is broken up into fractured fields containing different elements and figures. There is no story, as such, but a montage of ideas and associations. Two national heroes frame it to either side: Fritjof Nansen, the explorer, scientist and holder of a Nobel Prize for his humanitarian work, to the west, and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the writer and holder of the 1903 Nobel Prize for literature, to the east. Between these two, literally and metaphorically giant, who were figures of both national and international renown, lies a varied field of more anonymous figures representing the Norwegian people and allusions to the Norwegian way of life. To the west the sea and the coast loom large, with flocks of seabirds and fishermen at work. In the centre, industry is represented, while towards the east arable land merges into the taming of the forests. In line with the theme of labour, most of the figures are male, but there is also a female farm worker and a schoolgirl, creating the sense of the entire nation working together. The images tessellate in an irregular fashion, a set of fleeting glimpses, with associations of the bustle and energy of the activities taking place. The picture surface is animated with forms and fields of colour that overlap from one image field to another. This fracturing and faceting borrows from the work of Paul Cezanne, whom Rolfsen greatly regarded and Cubism, which he understood as being substantially derived from Cezanne’s work (Askeland 1995, 7). The fresco as a whole is unified by means of colour, with the recurring dominance of greys and pale blues of the sea and ice to one side and the billowing smoke of the fires of forest clearance to the other. Notes of richer colours also reoccur. The fresco integrates with the space of the hall, the greys and blues picking up the grey of the marble walls and floor. The facets and diagonals of the fresco, in particular the flight of seagulls resonate with the tessellating abstract pattern with which Rolfsen covered the majority of the east and west walls. In the context of the dominant greys of the marble clad interior, the glowing fields of colour in the frescos enliven and bring warmth to what might otherwise have been a cold space. Alongside frescos, textile artists were commissioned to produce wall hangings, woven curtains and upholstery fabric and further tapestries designs were solicited through competition in 1940. This was the first competition directed specifically towards securing designs for textiles, as opposed to fine art. Prize-winning designs by the artist Kåre Jonsborg (1912–77) were adapted and executed in collaboration with the textile artists Else Halling (1889–1987) and staff and students of the Norwegian Home Crafts Association. The themes, colours and media of pieces such as the townspeople of Lilletorget, depicted



in the central tapestry of the Festival Gallery, create an explicit link to the past and to Norwegian cultural traditions. The subject of eighteenth-century Oslo life and the pictorial style of flattened, somewhat geometric forms, and the rich but subtle colours of the vegetable dyes used, tied the work back to the great Norwegian tapestry revival of the 1890s and further back into the Norwegian tapestry tradition. Halling was interested in research and restoration of old textiles. She also taught at the Women’s Industrial School in Oslo from 1941 to 1963, training another generation of textile artists. As we have seen, despite the relatively small size of the Nordic nations, there were a plethora of societies and institutions set up to further the respective causes of art, architecture and design and these continued to play key structural roles, guiding policy, providing training and employment and acting as hubs for ideas. The national and international acclaim garnered by the tapestries of the city hall was a further impetus to the developing status of textile art in Norway. Textiles, as a traditional medium, resonated well with other attempts to communicate a relationship to the past through the city hall interiors. Painted ceiling beams, ironwork, blown glass and carved wooden furniture all clearly articulated a connection back to the Arts and Crafts foundations of Norwegian design culture established at the turn of the century. Colourful murals, textiles and painted woodwork also sustained the argument made by art historian Andreas Aubert (1851–1913) back in the 1890s about the essential coloursense of the Norwegian people (Aubert and Schnitler 1917, 178). This, by now, well-established idea resulted in the accumulation of works attempting to articulate Norwegian identity through this colour principle, creating its own self-sustaining logic. The furnishing of the city hall was carried out down to the finest detail. This included the provision of table settings for municipal banquets. In 1947 a competition was held for table linen, ceramics, glass and silverware. The series of design competitions held in relation to the city hall are evidence of the continued faith in the practice of anonymous competition as a means to stimulate the art and design world. It was also important in ensuring soughtafter commissions were allocated in a fair and transparent manner. Though this could not completely rule out bad feeling, it was a vital mechanism for the smooth running of small-nation art cultures in which the majority of players knew or were related to one another. The goldsmiths firm of David-Andersen won first and second prize for in the silverware category. Founded in 1876, the firm had developed to be a key player in Norwegian design by the mid-twentieth century. The firm typically contracted in professional designers for the development of new products. Thorbjørn Lie-Jørgensen (1900–61), who won the second prize, was an independent designer with a long history of collaboration with David-Andersen. He had been apprenticed with a jeweller from 1914 to 1918 and subsequently

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studied jewellery design at the National School of Craft and Design which had been formed out of the Royal School of Drawing in 1911. He also studied fine art at the Oslo Academy under Revold, from 1929 to 1930. His cutlery produced for the City Hall struck a balance between tradition and modernity that mirrored the City Hall project as a whole. The form and  proportions of blades and tines were largely familiar from nineteenth-century silverware, but the smooth, fat, tapering handles brought the range a note of modern simplicity and robustness. Other than a single hip as the  handle broadened and the stamped coat of arms of the city, the design was free from embellishment. The city hall Committee had hoped to commission the service in stainless steel for reasons of practicality, but the silverware sector in Norwegian did not have the capability to do this. Silver itself was in short supply and so the service was manufactured in silver plate (Grønvold et al. 2000, 217). The prize-winning entries in the ceramics categories were also found to be too expensive and complex to manufacture. Instead, the Porsgrund Porcelain Factory was approached directly. Porsgrund had been founded in 1885 to compete with the large Danish and Swedish manufacturers, like Royal Copenhagen, Bing & Grøndahl and Rörstrand, and was the leading ceramics manufacturer in Norway. Without the time to design a wholly new service, elements were chosen from existing services and given a new decorative theme by the architects: a simple gold band on white and a device of swans flanking the city coat of arms (Figure 4.4).

FIGURE 4.4   Nora Gulbrandsen, Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson, Oslo City Hall Coffee Service, Porsgrund, 1950. ©Jiri Havran.



The inclusion of pieces by the designer Nora Gulbrandsen (1894–1974), who had been Porsgrund’s artistic director between 1928 and 1945, added more interest to the service that otherwise comprised of standard catering flatware. Gulbrandsen had also trained at the National School of Craft and Design. Her employment with Porsgrund was arranged by her teacher at the school while she was still a student in 1927. She was rapidly promote to artistic director and contributed to a new contemporary edge to the firm’s range with her use of bright colours and bold forms. Her coffee service, which was integrated into the City Hall service, featured smooth, geometric forms especially in the handles and knobs that added a stronger design note of cubic Modernism preventing the service appearing entirely neutral. The straightened circumstances of the war and immediate postwar years necessitated ease of manufacture and economy of form and materials. These compromises propelled the tableware of the city hall towards a simplicity of design that favoured a reconciliation of traditional references with the pared down forms of mass manufacturing. This pragmatism and the various compromises wrought between a cautious municipality and the ambitions of artists and designers meant that the city hall was criticized as old fashioned from when it opened. But it remains important as a document of the realities of public art and architecture through this period.

Guðjón Samúelsson, Church of Hallgrímur, Reykjavík, 1937–85 Churches, like the city halls we have looked at, represented important opportunities for the creation of total works of art. Their religious function also prompted architects to attempt to make connections to the long history of ecclesiastical architecture as well as to address contemporary liturgical needs. As sites of spiritual significances, they were also buildings whose function called for psychologically affective design. As we saw with the Lund Cathedral restoration, church architecture was invested with great local and national significance. Across the Nordic countries, the Lutheran church was a powerful social and cultural presence throughout the period covered by this book. Growing populations and growing cities meant growing parishes and increased prosperity also meant that church building was an important arena for high status architectural and design practice. Though each period marked this in its own way, they offered architects opportunities to build buildings marked by a particular degree of symbolic significance and psychological resonance. The old cathedral in Reykjavik from 1787 to 1796 was, despite the addition of an extra storey, far too small by the early twentieth century to function as the

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principal church of the growing city. The State Architect, Guðjón Samúelsson (1887–1950), was assigned the design of a new church. The position of State Architect had been inaugurated in 1904, the year Iceland was granted Home Rule from Denmark. The post-holder was responsible for state building projects, such as schools and other public buildings, where previously architectural expertise from abroad would have been sought. The  post was first held by Rögnvaldur Á Ólafsson (1874–1917) who is regarded as Iceland’s first native architect, though the dividing line between builder and architect is a hazy one (Sigurðsson 1973, 1995). The site chosen for the new cathedral was on the top of the Skólavörðuholt hill. This prominent site was already home to the Einar Jónsson Museum and a middle-class residential neighbourhood that had grown up around the slops of the hill. Guðjón was the first Icelander to graduate in architecture from the Copenhagen Academy. Rögnvaldur had had to cut his studies at the Academy short due to ill-health. Guðjón took over the post of State Architect in 1920 and went on to occupy a central place in the history of Icelandic architecture until his death in 1950, both in terms of architecture and urban planning. One ambition of his was a plan to develop the Skólavörðuholt hill area into a cultural district with a new museum of art and a museum of natural history as well as a new city cathedral. In the end, only the cathedral was built (Dennis 2000, 76). The issue of the local availability of building materials remained a central one in Icelandic architecture. The increased use of concrete as a construction material offered a potential solution for a country that had to import all the timber, brick and corrugated iron used in the building industry. The aggregate ingredients of concrete could, in contrast, be sourced locally (Hörður 1998, 262–266). The Church of Hallgrímur was constructed entirely from concrete and this represented a significant advance in the use and application of this material. Initially concrete had been used to simulate unavailable materials, in the form of concrete bricks. But the potential of the material for more adventurous structures began to be explored in the 1930s (Cachola Schmal et al. 2011, 21). Despite the novelty of the construction, the church design alluded back to the form of the great gothic cathedrals of Europe (Figure 4.5). By this means, Iceland could be provided with a great architectural symbol, which the realities of centuries of poverty had denied it. At the same time, the church was clearly modern, rather than the product of a historical or revival style. Though the design referenced that of gothic stone, the form made use of the particular qualities of concrete. Guðjón had been influenced by the idea of a new Icelandic architecture, put forward by the Danish-American architect Alfred Jensen Rådvad in his book Icelandic Architecture (Rådvad 1918). In a slightly belated engagement with the National Romantic themes that had been explored in the other Nordic countries around 1900, Guðjón made reference



FIGURE 4.5   Guðjón Samúelsson, Church of Hallgrímur, Reykjavík, 1937–85.

in his domestic architecture to Iceland’s vernacular heritage in the form of the low, pitched-roof of traditional turf houses. In the Church of Hallgrímur a connection was made to the national context by means of an allusion to the faceted forms of volcanic rock, as has already been noted in relation to Einar’s sculpture. The repetition of this form, as well as its familiarity from the landscape, established it as an explicitly Icelandic symbol. The faceted columns merged effectively with a suggestion of the fillets or fluting of gothic architecture to create a building that spoke simultaneously about a specifically Icelandic identity and a connection to a wider European heritage. The Church of Hallgrímur can be seen as analogous to a number of other projects through the interwar years which sought to synthesize National Romantic and Modern influences. In particular, Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint’s (1853–1930) Gruntvig Church in Copenhagen (1921–40), which expresses a similar effort to transform the gothic tradition in new materials, here yellow brick. Again, allusions are made to local traditions, while at the same time the building remains uncompromisingly recognizable as a product of the twentieth century. Similarly, both designs represented a fusion of architectural history with natural forms: the facets of basalt rock and crystals that embodied the

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engineering power of nature from the smallest unit to the greatest (Jensen 2009, 290). The search for transcendent, universal laws to anchor the potentially infinite mutability of architect’s response to a rapidly changing world can be seen at work here, just as it had been in relation to the turn towards the vernacular and the classical. This transcendent synthesis of the material and spiritual worlds was particularly richly explored in Nordic church architecture. The Lutheran reticence when it came to applied ornament lent impetus to designs in which the principal drama of the interior was achieved by means of space and light. Both churches are remarkable for their unified, vaulted interiors in which, in the absence of applied ornament, the diffused natural light and repetition of slender columns and ribs create a sense of infinite order and peace. The extended building periods of these major churches meant that both architects died before completion. In Hallgrímur Church the project was completed by a series of architects in the State Architect’s Office. Phase one was consecrated in 1948, and the building was finally completed in 1986. The Gruntvig Church interior was completed by Jensen-Klint’s son, Kaare Klint (1888–1954).

Alvar and Aino Aalto, Villa Mairea, Noormarkku, 1938–39 Though public commissions such as churches and civic buildings were projects that accrued the greatest prestige and resources, domestic architecture continued to feature prominently in architectural practice. Social housing was an ongoing issue in the Nordic countries, but rising urban populations also created demand for more middle-class homes. The problem of the modern home, of finding a new solution for modern patterns of living and the modern family, preoccupied architects across the Nordic countries (Saarikangas 1993, 71–84). Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea is an example of a private villa in which these new ideas were explored alongside the architect’s engagement with international Modernism and the development of his own particular take on the movement’s principles. Central to the Villa Mairea project was the patronage of the Gullichsens: Maire Gullichsen an artist and wealthy heiress and her husband Henry Gullichsen, a businessman and industrialist (Kruskopf 1999). Aalto is, like Edvard Munch, one of the few Nordic figures to occupy an established position in the European canon. The early support of the Gullichsen’s made a vital contribution to setting up the conditions for Aalto’s international success, as shall be discussed below. The home they asked him to design falls into the



category of the elite private commissions, which though not abundant in the Nordic countries, were an important part of the professional landscape. These were key opportunities for experimentation and the fulfilment of design ideals, in contrast to the tight budgets of many state and municipal projects. Though the occasions where an architect was given a virtually unlimited budget, as Aalto was on the Villa Mairea, were certainly rare. Aalto (1898–1976) was a near contemporary of Välikangas and trained at the Helsinki Technical University between 1916 and 1921. He set up his own architectural practice in Jyväskylä in 1923. In 1924, upon their marriage, the office became a joint partnership with Aino Marsio-Aalto, which lasted until her death in 1949 (Kinnunen 2004; Suominen-Kokkonen 2007). His early success in architectural competitions, first for a public library in Viipuri in 1927 (completed 1932–35) and for the Paimio Sanatorium in 1929 (completed 1933), propelled him rapidly to national and international prominence. It was not only his work as an architect but the network of contacts he built up during this period that enabled him to establish and maintain his status in the international community. Aalto was quick to reach out and establish relationships with key figures across the profession. He became good friends with Asplund and Markelius in Sweden and in 1929, on Markelius’ recommendation he was invited to join the international architectural organization CIAM (Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne) and attended the second International Congress in Frankfurt. Here he established excellent relations, not only with older international colleagues such as Le Corbusier and Gropius but also with the group secretary and architectural critic, Siegfried Giedion, and the English architectural critic Philip Morton Shand who both became a warm and influential supporters in the international arena (Pelkonen 2005; Pelkonen 2009, 93–115). Back in Finland, his meeting in 1935 with the Gullichsens was the beginning of a long-running and fruitful relationship. The Aaltos undertook a number of commissions for them, including a factory complex at Sunila for the Ahlström Company. The Aaltos shared with the Gullichsens a belief in the relevance of art, design and the individual to society. This philosophy was a natural extension of the Arts and Crafts ethos to find beauty for all through materials, good design and fitness for purpose, especially in relation to the home (Lahti 1999). Lindgren, Aalto’s teacher at the Helsinki Technical University, represented a personal connection back to this turn-of-the-century ideology. The continuity of these values within Modernism and within Aalto’s personal practice and rhetoric is marked. The home, too, repeats as we have seen as a key site for the exploration of these values. The commission for the Villa Mairea was proposed in 1937 and the house was completed in 1939. In the project Aalto was able to continue to evolve his engagement with the ideas of Modernism he encountered through his

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international contacts. In contrast to the Minimum Dwelling, that had been the theme of Frankfurt CIAM conference, and the majority of designs featured in the Housing Section of the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, the Villa Mairea was a luxury villa for a wealthy family. At the same time, this freedom from economic constraint made it a project within which new ideas about art and the domestic environment could be explored. Like the artists’ villas of the turn of the century, there remained a tension between the emphasis on quality materials, craftsmanship and design and the desire for design solutions applicable to everyday life and not just the elite. Aalto asserted in relation to Villa Mairea: ‘One-off architectural commissions can be used as experimental laboratories where things can be done which are not possible with today’s methods of mass production, but which will gradually spread further and become available to one and all as production methods advance’ (Schildt 1984, 154). This statement makes an attempt to reconcile the principle of design at the service of the masses with the reality of the continued significance of high status projects. Villa Mairea looks at first glance like the crisp white forms of international Modernism in the process of metamorphosis into wood and stone, curves and complex tessellating forms (Plate 11). It fits the narrative established by Aalto’s early international press, particularly that of Giedion, that presented him as the leading proponent of the new rational forms of Modernism, but with more natural, organic and ‘irrational’ elements (Giedion 1949, 618–621). This difference was and continues to be attributed to the influence of Aalto’s Finnishness and consequent closeness to nature. Gidieon’s quote: ‘Finland is with Aalto wherever he goes’ continues to ring true for much of his reception, then and now, in that his Finnishness and the equation between this and a sensitivity to natural has an enduring currency (Chevallier and Wittman 1999, 65–105; McCarter 2014, 7). This resonates as part of a wider tendency to ascribe a particular sensitivity to nature and place to Nordic architects and designers generally (Norberg-Schulz 1996). The truth or otherwise of these assertion downplays the extent to which Aalto’s and other’s interpretations of Modernism was informed by the currents of cultural influence he was subject to, both national and international (Pelkonen 2009). The architects and designers of the first generation of Modernism were, across Europe, all influenced to a greater or lesser extent by their early exposure to ideology of the Arts and Crafts movement and National Romanticism. The extent to which this was highlighted in the critical commentary surrounding their work differed markedly. The principles championed by the design reform movements of the late nineteenth century continued to resonate well into the twentieth century. In particular, the concept of design that responded to the intrinsic qualities of the materials used continued to be highly valued, as did sensitivity to the specificities of place, history and landscape (Canizaro



2007). These ideas can be experienced in Villa Mairea through a design closely integrated into its wooded site. Early sketches incorporated perspective views that showed the relationship of the building to the landscape (Isohauta 2008, slide 6). The granite foundation and the plantings around the villa tied its foundations into the landscape. The wooden panelling and use of groups of slender pine poles, with the bark still on, as part of the porch tied it into the surrounding forest. This connection to site can be found in many early-twentieth-century Finnish villas, such as those by the partnership of Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen, but the principle can hardly be considered uniquely Finnish. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water Villa (1936–39) built over the same period demonstrates a similar incorporation of modern geometric forms and romantic integration with site and natural features. The sculptural arrangement of architectural shapes in nature was also inspired by the Italian hill towns the Aaltos had visited on their honeymoon in 1924, just as they had inspired Välikangas and a generation of Nordic architects (Tuomi 1999). The ground floor plan of Villa Mairea takes the overall L-shape of the main building and extends it round to the separate sauna building to form an internal yard, in the centre of which is a swimming pool (Isohauta 2008, slide 11). The L-shape is fragmented and overwritten by other forms, both rectangular and curved, creating a complexity that makes the basic structure less legible and more dynamic. The internal arrangement of the ground floor presented one large main living and entertaining space. This space flowed from the main entrance hall past a partitioned library space, with a seating area around the hearth and a dramatic main staircase to one side, and on to a music area around the piano. In the other direction, around the staircase, the room opens onto a separate dining room. The remains of the ground floor are the kitchen and servants quarters. This was, after all, a luxury villa for a company director and his wife not a minimum dwelling. The large open living area has been interpreted as a re-working of the traditional Finnish ‘tupa’ the shared living space of the farmhouse in which all the principal business of living, cooking, eating and sleeping took place (Pallasmaa 1994, 264; Menin and Samuel 2003, 135; Weston 2004, 86). But the translation from vernacular to modern was not simple or unmediated. Open-plan multi-functional living spaces were a feature of the Modernist home, as we saw in relation to Markelius’ model apartment in 1930. Since the 1890s the ‘tupa’ was referenced in Finnish architectural discourse alongside discussion of the open-plan hall of English Arts and Crafts domestic architecture. A fusion of this idea with the fin-de-siècle open-plan living room can be found in many influential villas and artist studios of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, such as Gallen-Kallela’s own studio-villa at Ruovesi (Lindqvist 2008, 173–222). The point of departure for these homes

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was local vernacular architecture but they simultaneously drew from a range of sources, including the Norse Revival and contemporary European domestic architecture (Korvenmaa 1991, 126–127; Wäre 1991, 163–175). Determining the respective ‘Finnishness’ of this arrangement is a slippery endeavour. A comparison to Saarinen’s living room of his villa, Hvitträsk (1903), illustrates this point. The house was a fusion of National Romantic ideas with contemporary British and Central European design innovations. The living room was an enormous open-plan area that included a number of seating areas, a vast stove and open fire and a side room that included another stove and the dining area. The house was extensively reviewed in the Finnish and international design press, not just at its completion but steadily through the twentieth century and must have been known to Aalto (Hausen 1990, 273). Parallels between the two spaces include the central roles of the fireplace and the prominent use of wood to create both material and psychological warmth. Where Hvitträsk evokes vague medieval and vernacular associations in a fantasy of an ancient Finnish castle, Villa Mairea blends familiar Finnish elements with the white walls of Modernism and rattan-wrapped columns that evoke more exotic, Japanese associations. Both interiors can be described as total works of art. From small objects of applied art, to the interrelationship of different spaces and materials and a focus on light and ambience, both interiors offer the resident a chance to step into another world. The world Alvar and Aino’s interior evokes is one of comfort and informality in which the inward gaze towards the fire and family and guests is balances with an outwards orientation, both literally to the nature outside and figuratively through connections to the wider world of international thought and culture. The main staircase that flows into the living room of Villa Mairea is a key sculptural and decorative element in the interior. The irregular screen of slender posts similarly works on multiple levels, an evocation of the upright trunks of pine in the forest, contemporary abstract art and an allusion to Japanese architecture. In addition, this arrangement, along with that supporting the porch outside, may well have reminded people of Aalto’s recent, well-received design for the Finnish Pavilion in Paris in 1937, thus functioning as a ‘trademark’ signalling Aalto’s own authorship. The large mass of the white rendered living room fireplace, the layout of the property around a central yard, with the house and related sauna with its turf roof, summer stove and the rough fieldstone perimeter wall are all elements tied to Finnish vernacular architecture. But this was a vernacular culture mediated by decades of investigation by ethnographers and architects that had enshrined these elements in the public consciousness. For example, all these elements are noted in early studies on Finnish building culture and can also be traced at the Finnish open-air museum of vernacular architecture, opened 1909 (Heikel 1887; Kiljunen-Siirola et al. 2000). The history of the use



by Finnish architects of these key elements to signal Finnishness and root their buildings in the local architectural context needs to be understood alongside the suggested naturalness of Aalto’s incorporation of such Finnish motifs. The analogues between Aalto’s sensitivity to nature and his Finnishness also need to be revisited in relation to the broader European cultural context of which he was emphatically a part. The abstract, flowing forms seen, for example, in the cut-away element of the large white mass of the living room fireplace differentiated Aalto’s work from the more consistently geometric designs of his some of his architectural contemporaries, such as the German architect, Van der Rohe. The wave form that first appeared in the lecture hall ceiling of the Viipuri Library and for which Aalto became famous in work such as the 1936 Savoy vase and the 1939 Finnish Pavilion, New York is a central feature in the critical construction of Aalto’s ‘irrationalism’. The appearance of the natural or organic at the heart of a period that embraced the rectilinear, reproducible and modular may at first seem idiosyncratic. However, they can also be understood as Aalto’s synthesis of principles from both contemporary architecture and art, in particular, his relationship with the Hungarian artist, Laszlo Maholy-Nagy (Schildt 1984; Pelkonen 2009, 143–157). The dynamism noted in the plan of the Villa Mairea, the geometric elements of the external and interior space arranged as if in motion, and the shifting, graphic sculptural effects of the columns and screens recall Maholy-Nagy’s photographic overlays. The smooth abstract shapes of the fireplace and the porch canopy also reflect the influence of the French artist Jean Arp, to whom Aalto was also introduced by Giedion. To Giedion Aalto’s affinity for contemporary artists, he mentions Ferdinand Léger Arp and Brancusi, is part of the dual nature of his Finnishness, standing between East and West and between the ancient and the modern (Giedion 1949, 620–621). It can also be understood as an extension of the blurring of the boundaries between art and design and the search for new universals beyond the authority of past styles. The integration of fine art and design can be seen in the foundations of the Villa Mairea project, which was intended as both a home and a setting for the art collection and art practice of Maire Gullichsen. It was Aalto’s idea to integrate the display and storage of art works within the domestic space, rather than construct a separate gallery space for the collection. Marsio-Aalto designed much of the furnishings for Villa Mairea. The Aaltos had already designed the furniture for the previous home of the Gullichsens in Helsinki in 1936 and Villa Mairea was initially furnished with a lot of pieces from there (Suominen-Kokkonen 2007, 149–150). In 1935 the Gullichsens had financed the launch of the Artek Company to promote and retail contemporary Finnish art and design (Korvenmaa 2009, 116–123). Maire was a co-director alongside Marsio-Aalto and the art critic Nils-Gustav Hahl (Suominen-

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Kokkonen 1997). The firm allowed the Aaltos to market the furniture and other interior elements designed for their architectural projects. In charge of their own retail operation, they also had an unprecedented degree of control as designers over how their designs reached a wider public. The success of the design dimension of their practice was also augmented by its showcasing in international exhibitions, in particular the Milan Triennale in 1933, the Paris World’s Fair of 1937 and a one-man show of Aalto’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1938. The integration of design showroom with the exhibition of fine art was also a feature of Artek that represented a synthesis of the interests of the Aaltos and Maire Gullichsen. Ever since living in Turku in the late 1920s Aalto had also developed a close working relationship with the master joiner and furniture manufacturer Otto Korhonen. In collaboration with Korhonen, Aalto developed a number of techniques for laminating and bending wood (Korvenmaa 1998, 108–109). This ongoing relationship also allowed the Aaltos direct control over the manufacturing of their designs. Villa Mairea contained a number of different chairs and tables that made use of the bent birch ply. This technique allowed the Aaltos to emulate the Modernist bent steel furniture they both admired. They had purchased a pair of Wassily tubular steel chairs, among other pieces by Marcel Breuer from the Bauhaus, for their apartment in Turku in 1928 (Suominen-Kokkonen 2007, 108). Bent birch ply allowed them to design in a material far more readily available and affordable in Finland and achieve similar flowing legible forms in their furniture. The wood also worked with the warmth of Aalto interiors and the balance struck between modern design and traditional materials. Alongside the Aalto furniture, one of the most striking pieces in the living room was a baby grand piano by Poul Henningsen, designed in 1936.The chrome legs and transparent celluloid lid made it a conspicuously Modernist piece, sculptural and dramatic, but in quite a different manner to the Aalto design. Rather than suggesting origins in the natural world or the abstract world of geometric forms, the piano is pointedly sophisticated and denies nearly all debts to tradition, especially in terms of materials. The design demonstrates the same readiness to revisit a design challenge from first principles, rather than with reference to convention, seen in relation to Henningsen’s PH lamps. Though the piano was as far from a mass producible domestic object as it was possible to get, indicating the extent to which designers in this period worked across a broad range and hierarchy of objects. The piano had been bought from Copenhagen by Maire’s brother but was swapped with her for an earlier, conventional black grand piano. The dramatic luxury of the celluloid piano sat alongside the conspicuous modesty of the rattan chairs and paper lampshade used in the music room seating area. The interior was characterized by this mixture of the refined



and the vernacular. The attention to detail, craftsmanship and finish helped to tie together disparate elements, as it had done in the Stockholm City Hall. The  cane wraps and bindings on columns inside and out, the rattan furniture and the plaited leather handgrips on door handles created echoes of interweaving throughout the design. Similarly, art works by internationally renowned artists cover the walls, but the glassware used by the family is also on display in the dining room and Maire’s house plants are provided with their own stands and dedicated potting room. The plants grouped around the large windows create another resonance between the inside and the garden outside, further facilitated by the huge sliding door of glass that enabled the living room to be completely opened onto the garden (Weston 1999). This connection to nature was part of a concern with the sensory environment of the house. The tessellating interrelation of space, noted in relation to the plan, was an attempt to avoid a formal and restrictive rhythm of spaces (Pallasmaa 1985). This extended to the careful orientation of the rooms in relation to the sun and intended usage and an innovative (and only partially successful) air conditioning system to alleviate the stuffiness of a house sealed up from draughts in the winter (Hawkes 2008, 68–87). Much of the furniture in the principle rooms was or became part of the Artek range. The fireplace seating area featured bentwood armchairs by Aalto and a sofa and bench by Aalto-Marsio. The contrasting curving voids of the armchairs and the cubic form of the sofa and metal legs of the bench illustrate the interplay of hard and soft, curved and rectilinear, solid and void, warm and cool that makes the work of the Aalto’s of such enduring interest.

Lennart Segerstråle (1892–1975), Finlandia Frescoes, 1938–43 The last two works we will consider in this chapter are examples of fine art that engage directly with the Second World War, which brought much art and design practice to a halt across Europe for the period 1939–45. The psychological and emotional repercussions of the conflict could not be escaped in art practice and continued to resonate in the decades that followed. As has already been indicated, public art played an increasingly important role through the twentieth century in negotiating collective identities. Art played an important conceptual role in the idea of a national culture and was also a valuable tool for the dissemination of that culture. Originating with the secular public art projects of the nineteenth century, statues of national heroes and didactic frescos in schools and public buildings, art had an increasingly

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prominent role in the urban environment (Hedström 2002; Ruohonen 2013). As with social housing initiatives, this can be understood as both a reflection of the democratization of Nordic society – art for all – and as evidence of the managed nature of that democratization process. Better houses for the working classes would improve their lives, but it would also lessen the likelihood of them making recourse to Socialist revolution. The provision of public parks and open-air museums were means by which the potentially dangerous urban working class might re-engage with nature and the nation. Similarly, art was used as a cultural tool to educate the people and improve social cohesion in line with an image determined by those in authority. In newly independent Finland, in the aftermath of the Civil War of 1918, social cohesion was in some jeopardy. Public art, particularly in the form of war memorials commemorating those who had fallen on the victorious side of the Whites, played a significant role in the art production of the 1920s. The significantly greater losses on the Red side were not accorded official memorials (Peltonen 2003). The challenges of recovery from the war and later the economic downturn of the 1930s meant that many Finnish artists struggled to secure commissions. This particularly affected painters as sculpture dominated the still relatively buoyant fields of memorial and public art. The idea of the social, moral and spiritual utility of art was again an extension of the nineteenth-century ethos that equated beauty with well-being and sought to extend this to everyone. Similarly, National Romanticism’s vision of a shared dream of a nation was manifest in the visual arts alongside literature, music and so on. Before the 1950s, it was primarily private benefactors who supported public art, either on an individual basis or in the form of public subscription to raise funds for a particular proposed project. As such, art for the people rarely originated with the people. As we have seen in relation to prominent ideological projects from the pavilions of the World’s Fairs to the City Halls of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, murals were an established means by which public buildings might be furnished with art. In Finland, with a few notable exceptions, this was not a well-established practice. The Art for Schools Association was founded in 1905, but only succeeded in commissioning ten works between 1906 and 1948. It is not mere coincidence that the will and the money to found the association came together at the time of the 1905 general strike (Ruohonen 2013, 63–64). Through art an image of the nation could be conveyed that, it was hoped, would serve as an antidote to the fracturing forces of social change. A major competition was held in 1930 for murals for the new Finnish parliament building, but failed to secure any designs the jury would accept (Hakala-Zilliacus 2002, 217–225). Norwegian mural art, as has been mentioned, was already garnering widespread recognition, especially across the other Nordic countries, which



shared an interest in public art. An exhibition of Norwegian mural art was held in Helsinki in 1937. The Swedish National Arts Council was founded in the same year and one of its important directives was the requirement for a percentage of the cost of new buildings be directed towards its embellishment with art. This precipitated a national debate that saw many prominent figures come out in favour of a similar efforts being made in Finland to support fine-art practice and promote public art. It was against this background that the director of the Bank of Finland approached the artist Lennart Segerstråle (1892–1975) about a major mural project for the bank’s headquarters. The director was one of the supporters of the new public art campaign (Ruohonen 2013, 96). The Bank of Finland, like other members of the financial services industry, was already an important player in the commissioning of art and architecture in Finland (Saisto 2011). The Neo-Renaissance headquarters building by Ludwig Bohnstedt in 1878–82 was the outcome of the first international architectural competition held in Finland and had been enriched with a set of three stained glass windows by Juho Rissanen in 1933 (Helander 2012; Marjo-Riitta Simpanen 2012). Segerstråle was one of the few artists who had established a significant profile in the arena of public art in Finland by the late 1930s and had executed a number of murals and stained glass commissions. In the late 1920s he had studied in Denmark with Joakim Skovgaard (1856–1933) at the Copenhagen Academy. Skovgaard specialized in monumental painting and Segerstråle was able to assist Skovgaard in 1927 on a mosaic fresco, The Last Days, in the apse of Lund Cathedral, Sweden. This example reflects the pan-Nordic dimensions of the development of public art. Segerstråle also established personal relations with prominent Norwegian mural artists, which helped facilitate the 1937 exhibition (Uusikylä 1996, 65–68, 78; Ruohonen 2013, 94). The Bank of Finland murals were started in 1938, but severely delayed by the events of the war so that they were only completed in 1943. They took the form of a pair of companion images flanking the walls of the principle stairwell. Finland Awakes and Finland Builds. Their location is dynamic, designed to be viewed by people in motion up and down the stairs. Originally conceived of in relation to the challenges facing the nation in the aftermath of the Civil War, they were invested with new meaning by the events of the Winter War against the Soviet Union. The motion from darkness to light within the two images dramatizes the metaphorical call to arms that is simultaneously the birth of the new nation and its ongoing defence. In Finland Awakes a group of nude figures begin the process of awakening. The centre of the fresco is occupied by a mother raising the dead body of her son in her arms. Behind her a group of soldiers in the white uniforms of winter warfare turn towards the light streaming down on them from the upper left corner of the image. In the foreground children bathed in sunlight gather

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flowers and other women and children stand in a sun-bathed landscape. The momentum of the image is carried out of the frame by two male figures, stripped to the waist, who carry construction materials, headed off towards the postwar reconstruction work that figures in the opposite image. In Finland Builds the darker right-hand side of the image features a group of white cloaked women and children in a ravaged landscape, who look back reflecting on the trauma they have experienced (Figure 4.6). In the centre they sit exhausted and huddled in the manner of refugees and are watched over by a black cloaked figure of mourning. The left-hand side of the image is split by a radiant ray of sunlight and an upright young woman, with her son raised on her shoulders, stands upon an outcrop of rubble turned towards the light. Ahead of her, bathed in light, the work of construction proceeds. Scaffolding is raised and a man and his son labour while his wife and small children rest amid the growing foundations of their home. The events of war, the loss of life and the challenges of rehousing refugees and rebuilding are clearly alluded to through a narrative cycle made up of monumental, anonymous actors. In this way and through the non-naturalistic, montage of overlapping image fields it is comparable to Rolfsen’s work in the Oslo City Hall and the wider Norwegian fresco tradition. Segerstråle sought a universal and timeless pictorial language that might remain national and

FIGURE 4.6   Lennart Segerstråle, Finlandia Fresco, Bank of Finland, 1938–44. © Johanna Ruohonen.



contemporary. The result can be described as a sort of blended imagery, in which recognizable elements from different traditions are synthesized into a new whole. The central motif of the human figure creates a connection to the traditions of Classicism, as we saw in relation to Munch’s university frescoes and the work of Einar and Vigeland. In the Finlandia Fresco this association is reinforced by the blurring of distinctions between present-day dress and robe-like draperies, creating an image simultaneously contemporary and outof-time. The shifts from nudes, to loose forms of contemporary clothing, uniforms and day dresses, to the more monumental robes are kept coherent by means of the consistent handling of form and colour across the composition. The  colour scheme was kept particularly muted because of the large stained glass windows by Rissanen that illuminate the stairwell (Marjo-Riitta Simpanen 2012). In addition to the unifying palette of greys, blues and ochres, the figures are all given the same flattened monumentality. They are not rendered academically or with pronounced classical musculature, but forceful and primitive in their physical presence. Similarly, the physiognomy, though not detailed or polished, suggests individual models, rather than generic, idealized people. The effect is to evoke the Finnish people both in relation to the immediate challenge they faced and in terms of a broader history, stretching back into the past and forward into the future. This chronological blurring allowed Segerstråle to depict a story of Finnish trials and achievement that encompassed both the broader history of the nation’s formation and the very specific challenges faced in the twentieth century. In this way, the figures rising from sleep in the far right of Finland Awakes are represent, in Segerstråle’s words ‘the pagan night from which the generations come forward century after century, listening to something that begins to stir within them, the awareness of a particular calling that converges to form a nation’ (Helmiriitta Sariola 2012, 14). But they are also the contemporary Finns, men and women, who responded to the call to national defence at the outbreak of war. The fresco technique signalled a connection back to the Western canon of art and the simplified language of representation suggested a connection to the great fresco cycles of early-Renaissance artists whom Sederstråle studied on trips to Italy (Uusikylä 1996, 70–75). Certain motifs, in particular the mother and child pairs in both paintings, evoke Christian imagery at the same time as they make reference to very real, contemporary tragedy. The theme of the divine is also evoked by means of the golden light that breaks through the gloom of the dark portions of the palette. The faces turned up towards the light source and reaching towards it in supplication convey the idea of faith as a guiding light in times of trouble and God’s oversight of the Finnish people. Nude figures rising from the ground and stretching up

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towards the light are reminiscent of many images of resurrection. Nature, in the form of trees, either in leaf or blasted by war, echo the condition of the nation. This is a continuation of the well-established connection between landscape and nation in Nordic art. The overall trajectory of both compositions is an inevitable journey from darkness to light. In April 1943, following the completion of the frescoes, Segerstråle held an exhibition in Helsinki featuring the studies and also full-sized cartoons of the final frescos. This, along with the previously mentioned exhibition of Norwegian mural painting, indicates the extent to which the exhibition as a fine-art event continued to play a key role in the art world. The particular place of this fresco cycle in the national memorialising of the Winter War was contributed to by the illustrated book of the work brought out by Segerstråle where he explained the imagery (Segerstråle 1944). He related the work to Finlandia, the symphonic poem by Jean Sibelius that had been written in 1899 and which was strongly associated with Finnish national awakening and resistance to Russian oppression. The shared resonances were sufficiently strong for the work to become known as the Finlandia Fresco. The ‘spirit of the Winter War’ as a shorthand for national cohesion and strength in the face of external threats continued to resonate in Finnish popular culture through the postwar period. Rolfsen’s Occupation fresco for the east wall of the Oslo City Hall makes a similar attempt to mediate and create an artistic response to the shared national trauma of war. Both Segerstråle and Rolfsen lost their sons in the conflict. The work is representative in a number of respects of the broader picture of Nordic mural art of the 1930s. The monumental Classicism of the 1920s is moderated with figures that are more recognizably contemporary and less idealized. The classical emphasis on anatomy and grace is replaced by a more naive and expressive depiction of figures in action. The flattened picture space made up of a composite of different scenes and the simplified but recognizable forms of the figures can be seen as an attempt to reach for a legible, democratic idiom. The images represent ideas and narratives rather than fully naturalistic windows onto particular scenes and as such utilize the tools of collage or even montage from film, attempting to develop a new, accessible pictorial language. Many Modernist architects disapproved of narrative art and architects in general preferred to ensure that art augmented their architecture, rather than the other way around, and so sought to exercise control over the art commissioned for their buildings. In addition, mural art was regarded by many art critics, particularly subsequently, as decorative rather than real art and for that reason has often been marginalized or left out of art histories. In contrast to the radical move towards Modernist form in architecture and the development of Abstraction in art, the naturalistic style of mural art could



seem old fashioned. The art sector continued to wrestle with the challenges of responding to developments in international art practice and the desire for their art to speak to the people.

Richard Mortensen, Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud, 1944 The focus on mural painting within this chapter should not be taken as an indication that easel painting had died out. Nor does it imply that easel painting remained untouched by the social concerns that shaped public art commissions. Richard Mortensen (1910–93) and the generation of Danish artists born around 1910 initiated a new direction in Danish art from the 1930s onwards that was to have influences across the region and Europe (Hovdenakk 1999, 10). Though they were socially committed, left wing or Communists, they rejected the Socialist Realism that was promoted by the international Communist movement. They similarly rejected the Copenhagen Academy, studying there, for only brief periods. Mortensen attended the Academy from 1931 to 1932 before leaving. In place of the academic tradition, artists turned to new international sources of inspiration. Mortensen visited Berlin in 1932 and was deeply struck by the work of Vassily Kandinsky he saw exhibited there. The inspiration encouraged him to abandon all relationship to the mimetic representation of the real world and work on abstract compositions based on geometric forms. Around him, friends and colleagues experimented with new ideas from across Europe. His friend Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen (1909–57) studied at the Bauhaus under Kandinsky and Paul Klee from 1931 to 1932. Another friend, Egill Jacobsen (1910–98), went to Paris and brought back up to date knowledge of the work of Picasso and Matisse. National and international currents were brought together in a new group, Linien (The Line), formed by Mortensen, Bjerke-Petersen and others in Copenhagen in 1934. This group provided a forum for the sharing of new ideas and the maintenance of international connections. The art establishment largely ignored these young artists, so the exhibitions and the journal of the same name, Linien, provided them with the vital opportunity to present and discuss their work. The first Linien exhibition in 1934 featured the work of Kandinsky, Paul Ernst and Joan Miró alongside young Danish artists. The group’s primary interest was in abstract art and Surrealism. Mortensen experimented with automatic drawing and with taking inspiration from found objects (Wivel 2008, 473–474). In Linien and the journal Helhesten (Hell Horse) that followed it from 1941 to 1944, there was also the opportunity to analyse and share ideas in text

1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


form as the group sought to thrash out, sometimes acrimoniously, a new vision for art in modern society. There is an active connection between present day people and present day art. Art is expression. We speak, sing, love. We create and are pleased by what is created. Our art speaks our own language about the things we are experiencing, and it lets us sense the currents we are subject to, perhaps without knowing it. (Mortensen 1999, 85) Through his art and his efforts within the Linien group, Mortensen strove to be relevant and authentic to the present day and, implicit within that, be relevant to the needs of the present day people. The return to a naturalistic style and legible narrative was, in his view, a false step and truly contemporary art would be comprehensible to people on an intuitive level. This thinking drew on the Surrealist idea of a collective consciousness, a level of human connection that transcended the barriers of class or nationality. Mortensen, like many of the artists of the period, underwent psychoanalysis and integrated aspects of this with his thinking on art (Kold and Strømstad 1994, 51). Danish society during the 1930s was alive with tensions that fed into the urgency of this project. The polarization of Europe between the Soviet Union on one hand and the rise of Nazi Germany on the other was keenly felt in Denmark. More so than the other Nordic countries, Denmark was, as part of the European continent, not only more vulnerable to these political currents but also potentially more open to cultural currents. Openness to international art in this period can be traced in a series of exhibitions held in Copenhagen through the 1930s: Spanish Art, including the work of Picasso (1931); German Expressionists (1932); Russian Socialist Realism (1933); the first Linien exhibition (1934). The International Art Exhibition – Cubism – Surrealism (1935), organized by Bjerke-Petersen after he left the Linien group, included a pantheon of major European names, such as Arp, Salvator Dali, Paul Klee and René Magritte, plus contemporary Norwegian and Danish artists. The second Linien exhibition in 1937 featured the same artists and also Constructivist works by Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevitch and Theo van Doesburg (Hovdenakk 1999, 27– 33). The impact of these exhibitions is comparable to the French art pavilion at the 1888 Nordic Exhibition in Copenhagen. Though contact with German artists largely ceased with the rise to power of the Nazis, artists and other cultural figures fleeing the regime often passed through Denmark. Openness to international sources did not mean an uncritical response. The conception of the art world as international did not mean the erasure of national differences and distinct national traditions. Mortensen in particular saw his work as part of a longer Danish tradition.



As with the previous examples of Nordic art we have looked at, the art culture forged was one that sought to fuse international influences and national culture to create art that was simultaneously contemporary and locally relevant. In Mortensen’s work his interest in Abstraction and Surrealism led to a semi-abstract visual language that was neither purely abstract nor the direct exploration of the Freudian subconscious of international Surrealism. Botanical elements, trees and birds tied the paintings back to the natural world, but at the same time the two-dimensional relationships of forms and colours on the canvas surface denied any sense of Naturalism. As the thirties progressed and the world slipped towards war the mood of his work steadily darkened with controlled flat areas of colour breaking down into frenzied, gestural brush strokes. Denmark was occupied by the Nazis in 1940. The conciliatory response of the Danish authorities meant that the experience of occupation was initially less traumatic than in Norway and artists in Denmark were subject to far less monitoring and censorship. The crucial difference war brought was the severing of international lines of communication, throwing the different national art worlds back upon themselves. Though Linien held its last exhibition in 1939, the ideas pooled by the group continued to circulate among ex-members within the closed context of an occupied country. Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud was painted by Mortensen in 1944 (Plate 12). It is both a natural extension of his personal painterly language and an attempt to articulate the universal horror of war. Unlike Segerstråle’s Finland Awakes, there is no discernible message of redemption in this engagement with the themes of material and psychological devastation and loss. Like Picasso’s Guernica mural of 1937, Vision is a large-scale canvas that attempts, without recourse to narrative or mimesis, to communicate a universal, emotional and political message beyond the confines of the art world. This is done through the violent frenzy of jagged lines and strokes and the recognizable and partially recognizable elements emerging from the turbulence of the composition. The centre of the composition is a blasted landscape at the top of which stands the bare forks of a tree and a pair of hanging feet, with the implication of violence and atrocity. The hung and mutilated body is a motif that signals a connection to the works of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya and his Disasters of War series from the Napoleonic wars (1810–20). These works were also part of Picasso’s inspiration. This illustrates the way Mortensen positioned his work in relation to contemporary European artists and the Western tradition of art. The central figure group of a mother and child evoke a universally resonant image, as seen in Guernica and Finland Awakes and one steeped in art historical precedent. Mortensen explored this pairing repeatedly through this

1930–1950 – Modernism: Better Things for Everyday Life


period as a means relating the personal and collective tragedy of war (Würtz Frandsen 1984, 119–208). The figures in the work are heavily distorted, but their grotesqueness reflects the grotesquery of the situation. The bowed head of the mother and the intent, blank gaze of her one eye as she bends over the raw, pink body of the child are far removed from Segerstråle’s image of sacrifice and resignation. It is mute in its horror in contrast to Guernica’s scream of despair. Human figures are almost entirely broken down in Mortensen’s canvas and remain barely recognizable. The tangled, scored remnants of elements that might be figures or horses communicate a sense of chaotic, all-engulfing violence. The birds and leaves of earlier works have been torn apart. Going back to the quote from 1934 above, it is a painting about the contemporary experience of the war raging around him rather than an attempt to stand back to discern meaning or reflect on events. In this way it fulfils Mortensen’s premise of legibility through the authenticity of the artist’s emotional and psychological engagement. The idea of a shared basic humanity was the basis for abstract imagery that still hoped to communicate to the people. It is the personal response of the artist, but it captures the universal response of outraged humanity. Its illegibility effectively conveys the impossibility of effectively articulating the experience of war. At the same time, the work cannot be seen as a purely visceral and emotional response to the war. The large format canvas and the references to other great works of art indicate that it was simultaneously part of Mortensen’s contribution to the ongoing story of European art, contemporary but nonetheless part of that tradition. Similarly the overt reference in the title to the poetry of Rimbaud underlines the high-cultural associations of the work and Mortensen’s commitment to the intellectual dimensions of his practice, an art of the present day but not the everyday. Rimbaud’s poetic cycle, Illumination was among other things a protest poem and Mortensen’s painting is also a protest. Mortensen’s work sought to synthesize the personal and the political, the intellectual with the vital and the contemporary with his cultural heritage as a Dane and a European. In his work, and that of his contemporaries, was a conception of a socially relevant Modernist art practice that was to be developed further in the postwar years.

5 1950–1970 – Postwar Modern


he recovery from war took its time, but by the early 1950s the nations of Europe were all beginning to stabilize. Sweden, which had remained neutral throughout the war, was the least affected. Norway and Finland were marked by their direct engagement in the conflict. Finland, which invaded the Soviet Union as part of the Continuation War in 1944, had a significant reparations bill to pay but remained the only country that had bordered the USSR in 1939 still outside its expanded, postwar frontiers. Norway had significant infrastructure to re-build and national culture to revive after the years of occupation. Denmark, too, was recovering from occupation, though it sustained comparatively little material damage. Iceland had declared itself neutral on the invasion of Denmark in 1940. It was subsequently occupied by Allied troops for the remainder of the war and the presence of large numbers of American military personnel through the war and into the Cold War that followed had a major cultural and economic impact. Independence from Demark was formally declared in 1944. American troupes pulled out of Iceland in 1947, but returned in 1951 as part of a NATO sanctioned North Atlantic strategic defence force which remained active until 2006. Co-operation across the region was established with the founding of the Nordic Council in 1952, which established a free labour market and passportfree travel across the region. Finland was able to join the Council in 1955, after the death of Stalin in 1953 eased tensions between Finland and the Soviet Union. Despite the varied experiences of war, all five Nordic nations entered the postwar era marked by a pronounced sense of optimism and national solidarity. The political tensions of the Cold War and fears around the spread of Communism prompted efforts to emphasis national unity and continued efforts to ameliorate the hardships of the working classes through new social policies and planning.



Aarne Ervi and Tapiola Garden City, 1951–61 Five kilometres outside of Helsinki, the Tapiola Garden City or New Town was an experimental residential community that sought new solutions for housing Finland’s growing population. Like all the Nordic countries, and indeed all of Europe, housing was one of the key architectural challenges of the postwar period. In Finland the problem was exacerbated by a record high birth rate and the loss of substantial territory to the USSR, which necessitated the resettlement of more than 420,000 people. During the war, the Association of Finnish Architects had worked independently and then as an official government committee on plans for reconstruction and re-housing. Through this work they established the profession’s key role in postwar reconstruction (Korvenmaa 1992, 113–127). The primary solution they focused on was the development of standardized, industrially produced, timber, single-family homes. These homes could be erected quickly and cheaply across rural and suburban areas. Understanding of this approach was gleaned by Aalto, who spent the winter of 1940 as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, where he studied industrially produced wooden housing. In 1940 Sweden also sent Finland 2,000 prefabricated wooden homes, designed by Finnish architects, as a form of war relief. The subsequent development of prefabricated housing in Finland not only contributed to the resolution of the housing crisis but also developed into a significant industry (Korvenmaa 2000, 72–73). The small, single-family house solution did not, however, substantially resolve crowding in the inner cities, particularly Helsinki, which was growing rapidly and inexorably as the Finnish population began to tip from having a majority of rural inhabitants to a majority of urban dwellers. Tapiola was conceived of as a Garden City, inspired by the English Garden City movement of the late nineteenth century and by the evolution of those ideas in American and British planning. Rather than simply functioning as a dormitory suburb of Helsinki, Tapiola was to be a self-contained New Town, with jobs and services as well as residential accommodation (Tuomi 2003). The project was masterminded by Heikki von Hertzen (1913–85), who was a lawyer with widespread interests in social policy and planning. Tapiola was a private, not-for-profit, initiative to develop Hertzen’s vision for Finnish housing. His book, Homes or Barracks for Our Children encapsulated his views based on an antithesis between the unnatural and inhumane urban environment, characterized by large apartment blocks, and the health and well-being to be found through close contact with nature (Hertzen 1946). These ideas had been in circulation since the nineteenth century but continued to strike a chord. The  rhetorical reference to ‘our children’ chimed closely with the

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thrust of Finnish social policy through the 1950s, which was oriented very much towards the family, children and the future. The success of the Tapiola enterprise was based on financing by means of State Housing Loans that had been established in 1949. Though privately administered, Tapiola was conceived in line with egalitarian social principles. The organizing body for the scheme was The Housing Foundation, of which von Hertzen was the director. It had been founded in 1951 by a wide range of organizations from the right and left of the political spectrum with a shared concern for the future well-being of Finnish families and working people. This pursuit of consensus was typical of the political landscape of the 1950s. The so-called ‘spirit of the Winter War’ commented on in relation to the Bank of Finland mural, continued to operate as the nation faced the challenges of postwar reconstruction. Whether by force of necessity or determined optimism, the deep wounds left by the Civil War were set aside in favour of the collective Finnish future. As an architectural and planning project, Tapiola was unique in the synthesis of ideas and ideals it represents. Part of this synthesis was a result of a necessarily long planning and building process through the 1950s and 1960s. It also reflected the number of different architects involved and the freedom they were given to explore different ideas. Coherence was maintained by the ongoing leadership of von Hertzen, but at the same time the community was regarded as an experimental one and so a range of different housing types and material experiments were explored over the years. There were limits to this experimentation. The restrictions of the government loan system, on what they would and would not subsidise, also acted as a check on the utopian, Modernist principles of the architects involved, as did the economic caution of the Housing Foundation. The initial town plan for the area had been drawn up by Otto-Iivari Meurman, who had also co-authored the Puu-Käpylä plan. His career paralleled the development of urban planning in Finland. He taught planning at the Technical University from 1936 until 1959 and drew up plans for more than sixty Finnish towns (Koskinen 2005). As a newly qualified architect, he had worked in the office of Eliel Saarinen on the plans for the Greater Helsinki districts of Munkkiniemi and Haaga. The foundations of his work can therefore be traced back to the Garden City ideals of the early twentieth century and is another example of the endurance into the mid-twentieth century of ideas that can be traced back to the 1890s. In 1951, following an architectural competition, four architects were selected to adapt Meurman’s plan. These were Aulis Blomstedt (1906–79), Aarne Ervi (1910–77), Viljo Revell (1910–64) and Markus Tavio (1911–78), who had all qualified as architects in the 1930s. These architects were of a different generation to Meurman and influenced by the new urban-centric



principles of Modernism. They believed, for example, in the necessity of high-rise blocks to accommodate the growing population. Meurman could not reconcile himself to this turn away from the low-density Garden City principle and so withdrew from the project. At the same time, the ideal of a connection between the residential unit and nature and landscape was very much maintained. The architects, overseen by von Hertzen and the Housing Foundation, cooperated on the development of residential areas made up of a variety of housing types, including high rise, terraces and detached homes. Buildings were arranged informally amid the trees on the wooded site as part of the first phase of building from 1951 to 1954. Nature as physically and psychologically healthy was a key element of von Hertzen’s ideals. His emphasis on the social and biological was a contrast to the interest in new technology that captivated many Modernist theorists (Tuomi 2003, 47). The area was carefully planned, from site plan down to the smallest details. Tapiola offered its residents a new way of life, outside of the crowded city. Access to the outdoors was prioritized especially for families with children. The  high-rise blocks were designed only for single people and childless couples. New ideas were explored, such as the kitchen opening directly onto the living room. This represents a reversal of the sealing off of the kitchen noted in relation to the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition. Not all new residents approved this pollution of the more formal space of the living room and boarded over the opening (Tuomi 2003, 17). Fresh air and light remained key features of the interiors, and ventilation panels were introduced to control flow of fresh air into the apartments without the necessity of opening windows. The homes were still on the smaller side, in comparison to the Nordic average. In part, this was due to the criteria of the government loan scheme, which controlled the size of apartments in relation to number of occupants and sought to prioritize the re-housing of as many people as possible. Reparations to the Soviet Union were completed in 1952, but the economic toll continued to be felt in Finnish living standards. The small size of Finnish homes of the period had an impact on design, propelling designers to respond to the challenge of space restrictions with, for example, light pieces of furniture and stackable dishware (Jetsonen 2000, 89). In 1953 a competition was held for the centre of Tapiola. It was, after all, envisaged not simple as an overspill suburb of Helsinki, but as a town in its own right. The competition was won by Ervi and comprised a shopping centre and office block, built between 1958 and 1961. The centre was expanded with another shopping centre completed in 1968. With this and Ervi’s oversight of the overall plan of Tapiola, his is the name most firmly associated with the project. This overshadows the large number of influential figures involved, from von Hertzen to experts on sociology, domestic science and child welfare,

1950–1970 – Postwar Modern


as well as the many architects working within Ervi’s busy office, making it an essentially collaborative project. Ervi had worked, upon graduating from the Helsinki Technical University, in Aalto’s office and he had worked on building standardization and prefabrication for the Association of Finnish Architects during the war. From 1945 to 1949 he had collaborated with Meurman on the new town plan for Oulu. He ended up running one of the largest architectural practices in Finland through the 1950s. His work ranged from a focus on the smallest details, to complete buildings, neighbourhoods and town plans. He became Head of Helsinki Planning Office from 1965 to 1969. His interest in new building technology led, for example, to the Mäntytorni tower block (1954) in the western residential area of Tapiola using new concrete construction methods borrowed from industrial building. The Tapiola town centre was envisaged from the beginning as a pedestrianized zone, with vehicle traffic routed around it and a one-and-a-half kilometre pedestrian and cycle path connecting the centre to the residential areas of East and West. Though accommodation for vehicles failed to take into account the explosion in car ownership in the second half of the twentieth century, the concept of the pedestrianized shopping district was to become a well-established feature of Modernist town planning. The separation of pedestrian traffic from vehicle traffic was a central tenet of Modernism, which could be traced back to Le Corbusier’s Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants of 1922 and was echoed by the CIAM, International Congresses of Modern Architecture. The second shopping centre designed by Ervi for Tapiola absorbed the footpath within its internal arcade of shops, utilizing the American form of the shopping mall for the first time in Finland (Lahti 2008, 155–156). The Tapiontori Shopping Centre was a U-shaped, two-storey building. The central courtyard echoed the open rectangle of the market square that traditionally stood in the centre of Finnish towns. The needs of the pedestrian were accommodated by an overhanging upper storey supported on columns that created a covered walkway around the courtyard. The effect achieved was also that of a modern cloister. Materials were simple and lines were clean: white panelled rectangular forms made up the buildings, with grey concrete columns and flagstones. As with the Stockholm Exhibition, the monochrome palette of the buildings also provided a foil for the brightly painted and neon shop signage. The simplicity of the forms drew attention to the contrasting textures of materials and the surrounding landscape. The smooth surfaces of walls and glass contrasted with the informal grass, rocks and trees of the central courtyard. The rough faceting of the cast concrete columns suggested the process of their making and the craftsmanship that was still a part of new building technologies.



The Central Tower was completed in 1961 and stood at the head of a rectangular ornamental lake where boating, swimming and fishing took place (Figure 5.1). It was hoped that Tapiola would be self-sustaining in terms of shops, services, entertainment and employment, but its proximity to Helsinki meant that this was never fully achieved. The Central Tower was

FIGURE 5.1   Aarne Ervi, Tapiola Central Tower, Espoo, 1959–61. © Finnish National Archives/Volker von Bonin.

1950–1970 – Postwar Modern


a commercial and office block, with a panoramic restaurant at the top. The sculptural form of the top floor broke the rigid rectangularity of the block, the acrylic walls of which were illuminated from the inside at night, originally intended for advertising. The meandering paths and buildings grouped around topographic features were counterbalanced by prominent towers that facilitated navigation across the large site. The northern residential area was the last to be designed. It was by Pentti Ahola (1919–72) and built between 1958 and 1967. It deviated further from the Garden City tradition, with a grid-like plan. By the 1960s, the romanticism of the idea of the city embedded in nature had come under criticism as elitist and a fantasy at odds with the realities of modern urban life. A more densely arranged neighbourhood maintained the distinction between what was urban and what was unspoilt nature. The development of Tapiola became part of a network of centres that made up a Greater Helsinki Area (Lahti 2008, 152). This shift could be seen elsewhere across the Nordic Countries in the postwar decades. A new Master Plan was developed for Stockholm in the period from 1944 to 1952, which proposed a string of settlements around subway stations (Hall and Rörby 2009). The 1947 plan for Copenhagen similarly sought to guide the expansion of the city along five main rail and road routes, with the effect being likened to the fingers of a glove. Oslo, like Helsinki, developed its greater metropolitan area by absorbing neighbouring municipalities. The growth of the city was seen as inevitable by the 1950s and efforts were focused on how to provide the transport, services and social support necessary. There was a new level of cooperation among the Nordic countries on these issues, with a conference of Nordic capital cities being held every three years from the 1940s onwards (Kolbe 2007, 131–133). These pronounced shifts in how many people lived necessitated rapid shifts in attitudes and expectations. Texts like acceptera and Homes or Barracks for Our Children represented a concerted effort to inform and influence the public. The Tapiola project in particular was accompanied from the beginning by an extensive marketing programme, overseen by its own department within the Housing Federation. Due to the housing shortage all units sold immediately on completion, so this publicity drive was not primarily commercial (Tuomi 2003, 18). Instead, it sought to inform citizens across Finland about the new ways of living offered by the Tapiola experiment. In part, this can be linked back to the long history of advice offered by experts as to how people should live, such as Key’s Beauty for All (Key 2008). It also reflected the rapidity of changes in urban and domestic environments and technologies that necessitated careful negotiation. Keeping the consumer informed about new developments would play a vital role in securing uptake for the new designs of architects and designers. In 1953 a nationwide competition was held to determine the name of the new town. The winning suggestion, Tapiola, which translates as ‘home



of Tapio’, the forest God in the Kalevala epic, indicates the enduring cultural and emotional ties to earlier ideas of national heritage and national identity that continued to operate into the postwar years.

Asger Jorn, Aarhus High School Mural, 1959 As Europe opened up after the war, Asger Jorn (1914–73) became a central figure in the re-emergence of Modern art on the continent. Jorn’s profile and career are regarded as international, and were intentionally oriented towards international cooperation. He was one of the founding members of CoBrA, an experimental collective of artists, initially from Copenhagen, Brussels and Antwerp, hence the acronym Co-Br-A. The group was utopian and concerned with breaking down categories and boundaries in art practice, staging exhibitions and other collective gatherings and projects (Kurczynski and Pezolet 2011). Though the group was short lived, 1948–51, the principles of international collaboration and experimentation continued throughout Jorn’s career. Despite the international nature of Jorn’s practice, his work also continued to resonate with impulses that could be traced back to specific Danish cultural traditions and concerns. His periodic movement back and forth, between his home region of Jutland, Copenhagen, Paris and Italy, mirrors the routes taken by many Nordic artists, if not the proportions of time spent. In many ways his art practice was defined by the principle of resistance to conventional organizing categories. So he resisted the binaries of national versus international; art for art’s sake versus art at the service of society; fine art versus craft and art versus text (Aagesen and Brøns 2014, 12–47). In contrast with the anxiety that figured in much Nordic art culture, between feelings of inferiority in regards to foreign cultural centres and fears of pollution by foreign cultures, Jorn saw the future of Modern art as arriving from the peripheries and celebrated the vitality and variety of these margins (Jorn 2002, 279). His practice avoided both parochial nationalism and the hegemony of traditional art centres like Paris by consistently building and maintaining relationships from margin to margin. Jorn attended teacher training college in Silkeborg, a small town in Jutland, in the early 1930s. Here he joined and participated in the work of the Communist party as both an artist and activist and pursued a range of intellectual interests and his art remained socially and intellectually engaged for the rest of his career. He was inspired by both the journal Linien, launched in 1934 and the work and writings of Kandinsky, which ultimately inspired him to train as an artist. Rather than heading to the Copenhagen Academy, he

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went straight to Paris in 1935. He studied in the school of one of the leading French Modernists, Ferdinand Léger, for two years. In Paris he rapidly built networks in both advanced artistic and Communist circles, which were in many cases overlapping. Up till 1939, Jorn, like many other Danish artists, divided his time between Copenhagen and Paris. As noted in relation to Mortensen, Surrealism and Abstraction as a free artistic form were particularly engaged with through this period of experimentation and, sometimes heated, debate. At the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, Jorn assisted on murals in pavilions by Le Corbusier and Léger and had the opportunity to see Picasso’s Guernica mural in the Spanish pavilion. The mural as a public and political art form was, therefore, a concept that resonated with him from both this international perspective and in relation to the local Nordic debates on public art which stretched back to his interest in Norwegian mural art in the early 1930s (Kurczynski, 65). Through the war years Jorn was active in the Danish resistance as well as founder of the artist collective and journal Helhesten [Hell Horse]. The journal discussed art among a wealth of other subjects including Scandinavian myth and archaeology and non-western cultures. The war years were fruitful for the consolidation of Jorn’s interests in experimentation with new forms, collective practice, and socially and politically engaged art. As has been mentioned, the comparative freedom enjoyed by citizens in occupied Denmark facilitated the continued development of the art world there, in contrast to much of Europe. The mobilization of art and mythology by the Nazis cemented Jorn’s desire to resist this absorption of art by the structures of authority (Kurczynski, 51–52). The art of pre-modern Scandinavians, graffiti, children and other popular, nonacademic art forms all offered models of art that was marked by the personal expression of the maker, but still carried the intention to communicate to everyone, a simultaneously individual and social in orientation. Throughout his career he criticized the subservience of art to the needs of the elite (Aagesen 2014, 72–90). Art in public spaces held a natural attraction for Jorn in relation to his desire for art to be socially relevant. His exposure to European Modernism in Paris and his awareness of modern architecture and design in Denmark prompted him to resist the emphasis he saw there of an equation between the smooth running of a machine and of the regulation of the individual by society. His project for the new Aarhus High School exemplified many of the creative paradoxes of his work. He first discussed ideas for a mural for the new school with the school architects in the winter of 1954–55. At this point the divergence in creative opinion was so marked in relation to the uncompromising, rigorous, geometric modernism of the architectural project that he nearly gave it up. He  even suggested that Mortensen might be a



better fit for the project, as by this date Mortensen was working in an abstract language based on the translation of ideas into pure geometric form known as Concretism (Kurczynski, 107). Jorn however returned to the idea as he had for some time sought a major public commission of this nature through which to put his ideas into practice. Rather than the painted mural originally envisaged, Jorn negotiated a commission for a ceramic mural and an accompanying woven tapestry. The delays in negotiations on the project meant that the building was nearly complete by the time agreement was reached. Jorn and his team worked at a dramatic pace, designing and producing and installing the mural in time for the building’s opening in 1959. Through the mid-1950s Jorn had been resident, on and off, in the town of Albisola in north-west Italy, which had an active ceramics industry and where he was able to collaborate with local ceramic artists and manufacturers (Atkins and Andersen 1977, 76–87). Ceramics represented for him a medium with natural ties to both local craft traditions and to popular culture in the form of ceramic souvenirs. His integration of craft into his art practice had both international and specifically Nordic resonances. Picasso and Miró had both turned to ceramics in the late 1940s, as a medium in which to experiment. Similarly, the celebration of craft and the opportunity it represented to integrate art with everyday life could be traced back to the Arts and Crafts debates of the 1890s in the Nordic countries and prominent artists such as Bindesbøll. Jorn’s collaboration with Italian ceramicists means the mural resists a simple reading as a revival of a local Danish tradition. But it is arguable that the long history of interest and curation of ceramic art and design in Denmark was a key factor in facilitating the acceptance of the City of Aarhus of ceramic as art on this scale. The mural makes an anarchic visual and material impact in the orderly, clean environment of the school. It is dramatically huge, measuring three by twenty-seven metres (Plate 13). The clear, rectilinear forms, grey concrete, white interiors and floating walls of glass of the school are a total contrast to the bold colours and rough and richly textured surface of the mural. The mural resists the order of the space, with the hall’s seamless adherence to the grid and to a palette of white and grey. The natural grey of the Albisola clay is visible in the deeply scored surface of the tiles that make up the mural and this is picked up in the grout between the tiles. The resulting effect is the eruption of the multi-coloured surface of the glazes and slips used by Jorn from an earthy base material that both harmonizes and contrasts with the building’s smooth grey surfaces of concrete and limestone. In contrast to the precision of the building’s engineering and finish, the mural maintains an intimate connection with the processes of its making. It erupts, organic and uncontainable, from the wall surface. The whole mural is a continuous field of form and colour, but divided up into irregular tiles that were clearly cut after the primary areas of clay were worked. The irregularity

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reinforces the hand-worked nature of the surface and is an integral part of the surface, rather than incidental to it as a regular grid of tiles might be. In photographs the mural becomes a legible flat image. This distorts the real effect of the mural in space. The depth of the relief makes the mural a physical as well as visual presence. The texture bears the marks of the hands, objects and tools (including scooter tracks that were ridden over it) that were used to create impressions on the surface. The malleable surface of the clay captures the processes it has been through: the moulding, cutting into tiles, drying, firing, glazing and the final shipping and installation in Aarhus. The scale of the work contributes to the message that it cannot be understood as the work of one man. Jorn worked with a team of ceramicists in Italy and three of them travelled with him to Aarhus to assist the installation alongside Danish craftsmen. The labour that has gone into the work cannot be ignored: marks on the surface, evidence of where the glaze has collected and where it hasn’t, the grouting between the tiles reminding us that the finished work is composed of 1,200 individual pieces which had to be assembled by hand. This visibility of collective labour, rather than a focus only on the finished result presumed to have sprung from the hand of the genius artist, makes the political ideology underlying the work quite different from that of Abstract Expressionists in the United States in the same period. At the same time, as with so many of the paradoxes surrounding Jorn’s work, the whole enterprise depended on the artist’s driving will and executive ability to organize large projects. The imagery of the mural developed out of Jorn’s painting and graphic art of the 1950s. It presents a semi-legible surface of abstract colour and form out of which emerge creatures and faces, inspired by the crude but expressive drawings of children and other forms of non-classical image making. Strong colours, scarlet, yellow, red, teal and so on, as well as black and white are splashed over the surface of the grey crust of the clay. The colours not only pick out distinct forms but also play together across the surface. The form of not only the hell-horse is visible here but also indecipherable creatures and forms. The creatures and beasts are a recurring theme in Jorn’s work. They represent a simultaneous attack on conventional values of prettiness and on classical principles of beauty with the orderly human figure at its heart. The animal, the primal, the visceral and brutish were for Jorn an acknowledgement of a reality that could not, in the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust, be glossed over (Foster 2014, 110–123). This obscure imagery is not intended as the private language of the artist to be interpreted only by the initiated, but as free visual form. Because the meaning remains elusive, it remains in the hands of each viewer of the work, in contrast to the more directed imagery of the murals considered in the previous chapter. The challenge for Modern artists, to pursue the conceptual currents of Modernist thought in their work and remain accessible and relevant to everyday people



was a course Nordic artists continued to wrestle with. The ethos of art for all and the tradition of art’s role as part of a shared national culture meant there was a strong cultural impetus towards this continued pursuit of social relevance. In addition, the comparatively small art markets, compared with Paris or New York, meant that the opinions of patrons, particularly the boards who made decisions on prizes and public art commissions, carried a lot of weight. Where public funds were used to purchase art, the public needed to be addressed. This did not preclude adventurous work, as demonstrated in this example, but it was another factor in shaping how Nordic artists responded to the challenges of Modernism.

Milan Triennale Exhibition, 1954 The re-establishment of international activities across Europe in the aftermath of the war had an effect on the arena of design also. The international design exhibitions known as the Milan Triennale were a key venue for the presentation, mediation and performance of Modern design in the 1950s. It was through these and other international exhibitions and their media coverage that the concept of ‘Scandinavian Design’ really blossomed. International admiration for Nordic design had and continues to have a major impact on the design cultures of the Nordic nations. This success depended both on the quality of the design put forward and on the readiness to invest in such displays and produce effective accompanying promotional literature. Similarly, there was an element of being in the right place at the right time, as the new power balance of the postwar years shifted into a Cold War configuration (Davies 2002; Pelkonen 2005; Hansen 2006). Though the 1950s were a key decade, the emergence of Nordic design onto the international stage through exhibition can be traced back to the nineteenth century, as explored in earlier chapters. Sweden and Denmark had participated in the Milan Triennale from 1927 and Finland from 1933. As with previous exhibitions, prizes awarded and favourable reviews in the international press were accorded a high value and raised designers’ profiles at home and abroad. The first Triennale after the war, held in 1947, had the theme Housing for All, focused on the housing problem that gripped Italy and the rest of Europe. In  1947 only Sweden, of the Nordic countries, had participated. In 1951 though, Sweden, Denmark and Finland all participated and received unprecedented level of international acclaim. The continued emphasis within the Triennale on design for the home, rather than for example industrial or vehicle design, is one of the reasons behind the impact made by the Nordic countries, whose domestic design tradition favoured this sector. Buoyed by this success, the 1954 Triennale saw Sweden, Denmark, Finland and, for the first time, Norway participate as a semi-unified presence.

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Four equal-sized exhibition spaces were booked, clustered together. Though each country designed its own exhibits, a group introduction underlined the ‘Scandinavian’ unity of the whole. This collective approach was partially a smart marketing idea: to stand out from the other small nations with a group exhibition with a larger critical mass. It was also a reflection of the climate of pan-Nordic co-operation in the postwar years. The exhibition fees were steep and the cost of designing, transporting and mounting the exhibition meant that participation was not a forgone conclusion for any of the Nordic countries. In the run up to each exhibition, funds had to be cajoled out of government and manufacturers. In each country it was key figures, usually within the applied arts associations, who lobbied for these funds. The rationale frequently used was increased international exports. Though in reality these exports largely failed to materialize, the international acclaim appears to have made up for this, at least through the 1950s. The Danish exhibition was designed by Finn Juhl (1912–89), a wellestablished designer, best known for his furniture design (Hiort and Juhl 1990). His displays foregrounded furniture and silverware, emphasizing the highquality production for which Denmark was already known. Juhl was already established as one of the celebrities of postwar design, with regular large features on his work in international design magazines. The  Finnish section was curated by the designer Tapio Wirkkala (1915–85), whose success in 1951 – winning three Grand Prix – had similarly propelled him to international fame (Aav 2000). Wirkkala’s design approach favoured a limited selection of designers and objects, mostly glass, ceramics and textiles. The  theatrical arrangement of these pieces on clustered tables that appeared to float on thin metal legs emphasized the aesthetic qualities of the shapes, colours and materials of different pieces, rather than making any direct reference to their use in the home. Wirkkala’s display was dominated by a floor to ceiling photographic presentation of an aerial view of a Finnish lake-scape. The prominent landscape underlined the conceptual connection between the objects presented and the unspoilt beauty of Finnish nature. This connection was apparent in Wirkkala’s own work, such as his ‘Kuutonen’ bowl which won him another Grand Prix. This heavy, asymmetrical tear-drop-shaped glass piece was an art object rather than anything designed for a practical purpose. The smooth moulded form and weighty volume of glass used emphasized the liquid qualities of glass in its molten state. The translucence similarly underlined the ‘glassness’ of the piece as well as evoking the shimmering form of a water drop or pool. Photography played an interesting role within and around the exhibitions. Juhl used large-scale photographs of selected objects included within the exhibition. These, such as the larger than life blow-ups of Arne Jacobsen’s Ant Chair served to emphasize the formal qualities of the chair’s shape and encouraged visitors to understand it as a piece of design, rather than solely



as something they might sit on. The power of the photograph in mediating design was increasingly well understood by designers and design promoters. The launch of the Ant Chair in 1953 was staged by Jacobsen to present multiple versions of his laminated chairs in black, beechwood, turquoise, blue and red against a backdrop of black and white print curtains. This created both a powerful impact and great photograph that went on to appear in the Norwegian design magazine Bonytt and the leading international design magazines, Domus and Interiors (Henriksen 1997, 14–15). The use of photography as a ubiquitous tool for mediating Modernism became well-established through the mid-century. As architecture and design magazines carried bigger and better illustrations, greater numbers of people – designers and the public – experienced design primarily through photographic reproduction. Design magazines, such as the Italian magazine Domus, and the American magazines Interiors and House Beautiful, which were subscribed to internationally, extensively profiled the work of Scandinavian designers through the 1950s. These lavishly illustrated magazines were significant opinion-shapers, presenting an attractive, consumable picture of international Modern design. A visual language of design photography developed in books, magazines and exhibitions that went beyond using the photograph to record an image and on to using a photograph to communicate meaning to the viewer. The lakescape became a short-hand for suggesting the Finnishness of Finnish design. Sigfried Giedion developed this trope in his presentations of Aalto’s work, creating visual parallels through grouped photographs of the irregular forms of Finnish landscape and similar curved forms in Aalto’s work. This was repeated in the prominent use of landscape photographs in the Aalto’s design for the Finnish exhibition at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Wirkkala also used photographs extensively to promote his own work. In  particular, he worked with the studio of the photographers Otso and Matti Pietinen, who developed a new level of artistry in design photography in the 1950s (Svenskberg and Savolainen 2012, 33–47). Otso Pietinen’s black and white photographs emphasized the aesthetic qualities of objects and were stripped entirely of domestic, or even worldly, context. Compositional devices such as reflections, the superimposition of close-ups or multiples and overhead views presented the objects as abstract, sculptural works, rather than consumer goods. The evident sophistication of such imagery alongside the suggestion of nature and simplicity was crucial to the fashioning the international image of Finnish design (Aav and Stritzler-Levine 1998, 29–51; Kalha 2004). This message presented the Finns as a simple people, attuned to nature and skilled in age-old craft practices. The choice of a lake-scape, unmarked by any evidence of human habitation, let alone civilization, underlines how these ideas were consistently a feature of the presentation of Finnish design abroad (Davies 2002). The coming together of the Nordic nations under the umbrella term ‘Scandinavian’ meant that to a certain extent this image became a

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collective one. All four nations tended to emphasize craft traditions and natural beauty over associations of industrialize and technical prowess, regardless of whether the objects under discussion were industrially produced or not. Norway had a breakthrough with their first exhibition at the Triennale. The  display was arranged by the architect Arne Korsmo (1863–1953) who was awarded a Grand Prix for his design (Brænne et  al. 2004) (Plate 14). Unlike the Finnish exhibition, the Norwegian objects were comprehensible as domestic objects, though not necessarily everyday ones. Arranged as a series of table settings, they showcased a combination of flatware, glass, silverware, bowls and table lamps. These settings were, however, viewed from a raised deck, which enabled the visitor to look down upon them from an overhead angle, rather than approach the tables and chairs as one might in a real domestic space. Again, this promotes an understanding of the objects as designs to be looked at from an aesthetic standpoint and rather than purely utilitarian. This was also enhanced by means of the space given over to the open wooden platform and the large wall hanging by textile artist, Hannah Ryggen (1894–1970), at the end (Ustvedt and Yvenes 2015). The installed environment of natural wood and hanging textiles contrasted with the crisp precision of the other Scandinavian displays and evoked the idea of a connection to Norwegian tradition, even while the objects on display, hors d’oeuvre dishes and silver spoons etc., were far from folksy. As with the Finnish exhibition, few objects, artistically arranged had a greater impact than many. The review of the Norwegian exhibition in Domus was enthusiastic: Norway is represented at the Triennale for the first time, and immediately takes on its own character among the Scandinavian countries; an expression of greater simplicity and strength. [The section] creates within the blank original space, a well thought out system, strong colour and design, and gives the space the proportions of a habitable environment; also the objects displayed, although not representing a real decor, create the effect, through the resonances between them, of shape, colour and character, of a unified whole. (‘Norway at the Triennale’ 1954, 25) In contrast, the Swedish displays were set out in a manner more closely mirroring a commercial shop display on a series of glass shelving units and had the least impact of the four. The international community was increasingly clear on what it wanted from ‘Scandinavian Design’. The success of the joint Scandinavian show was, however, marked. Sweden, Denmark and Norway each won two Grand Prix, while Finland won six. The international press coverage was also very positive. Despite the arguments made by those who drummed up the money to stage the exhibitions, this success was not translated into substantial commercial returns. Only Denmark, with a well-developed furniture



and joinery tradition and, crucially, an established and sustained network of retail and marketing partners, was able to really secure significant export revenue from the sort of design shown in Milan Davies 2002; Hansen 2006). In considering the success of Scandinavian design at the Milan Triennale, it is also interesting to reflect on the gaps between rhetoric and reality. There was a crucial gap between surrounding commentary and the type of objects displayed. Both texts generated by the participating countries and by foreign journalists emphasized the idea of beautiful everyday objects. This evokes the long-standing call for ‘beauty for all’ that can be traced back to the domestic design reform movements in the Nordic countries. But the displays consistently foregrounded highly crafted, high-valued art glass, ceramics and textiles and other bespoke pieces. There were mass-produced objects there, such as Jacobsen’s, Ant Chair, but the displays, journalistic coverage and prizes awarded emphasized the premium placed on aesthetic and craft excellence. This was not simply a matter of the presentation of Nordic design to foreign audiences. A similar gap has been identified in domestic design magazines across the Nordic countries, which, while never refuting the social goal of democratic design, consistently emphasized craftsmanship, quality materials and the aesthetic input of the designer over cheapness and ease of manufacture in their coverage (Fallan 2016, 113–133). The value placed on the creative genius of the artist-designer, over and above his problem-solving capabilities, also tended to be reflected in design prizes awarded nationally and internationally (Dahlbäck-Lutteman and Uggla 1986). The cementing of the international reputation of ‘Scandinavian Design’ as a packaged concept was promoted beyond the Triennale through a series of international exhibitions, such as the 1955 Nordic design exhibition, H-55, in Helsingborg, Sweden (Mattson 2010). The most significant of these was a large American exhibition, Design in Scandinavia, which toured galleries across the United States and Canada from 1954 to 1957 (Remlov 1954). It was a joint presentation of Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish design for a North American audience, which in the 1950s represented the nirvana of export markets. The impetus behind the mounting of an exhibition in America centred initially on the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which had held an exhibition on the architecture and design of Aalto in 1938. After the war, both the Danish and Swedish Associations of Applied Art approached the Design Director Edgar Kaufmann about an exhibition of their members’ work. Kaufmann, who was primarily interested in Aalto, in turn suggested a Scandinavian exhibition. This plan came to nothing, but the general idea resurfaced in exchanges between Elizabeth Gordon, editor of the American magazine House Beautiful and H. O. Gummerus, head of Finland’s Applied Art Association at the 1951 Triennale (Halén and Wickman 2003, 28–29). Gordon and the American curatorial team were interested in Scandinavian design

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as an alternative model for the American design industry. Gordon especially regarded it as both exotic and resonating with democratic and outdoorsy American culture (Guldberg 2011). This can be connected to a longer history of American reception that identified with the democratic, white, protestant character of Scandinavia as American (Leary 2015). The practice of using travelling exhibitions for the purposes of cultural diplomacy went both ways. An American exhibition, American Design for Home and Decorative Use, curated by Kaufmann and commissioned by the United States Department for External Affairs toured the Nordic countries in 1953–54 (Halén and Wickman 2003, 48–49; McDonald 2010). The exchange of art and culture was part of the process of negotiating and influencing alliances between nations in the aftermath of the war and in the face of the pressures of the Cold War (Castillo 2010). This form of cultural diplomacy was particularly important for Finland, which was seeking to position itself within the Western European economic and political sphere without antagonizing her neighbour the USSR. The catalogue introduction by the Swedish design critic Gotthard Johansson was carefully crafted to appeal to American audiences: The design of the day is created for the people of today, people who live under conditions which are essentially much the same as those of the average American. […] Design for everyday use is intimately bound up with many aspects of the Scandinavian social structure: the democratic outlook, which places the common man in the centre, the social conscience, the striving for a high standard of living. There is a profound interest in daily life, in the home as the focal point of the family and things which surround us. (Remlov 1954, 12–15) Johansson sought to strike a balance between presenting the four countries as distinct entities, while stressing the logic of their collective presentation (Guldberg 2011). The emphasis on the contemporary and the everyday can be seen as a repetition of the ideas presented in acceptera, but a substantial proportion of the objects shown were again elite, rather than everyday goods. This reflects the American curators’ understanding of American consumer interest. Wirkkala designed the exhibition logo, poster and the graphic layout of its catalogue. The logo was based on his own leaf-shaped ply-wood platter, which had been named the most beautiful object of 1951 in House Beautiful. The ribs of the leaf contained the colours of the flags of the four participating countries. With a few exceptions, the photographs within the catalogue emphasized the formal design qualities of the objects. The majority were black and white and used neutral backgrounds, overhead shots, raking shadows and reflections and so on to convey the distinct beauty of the objects, rather than their function in the home.



The exhibition was hosted by art museums, but the commercial dimension was also clearly articulated in the catalogue which featured extensive information on manufacturers and American suppliers and retailers. The  different host institutions also provided lists of local outlets where the objects in the exhibition could be purchased. The Modernism presented in Design in Scandinavia, was more easily sold to a conservative American middle class, who had never warmed to the steel tubing and glass of Central European Modernism. The exhibition attracted 658,264 visitors over three and a half years. In addition, nearly ten million viewers saw the coverage of the exhibition featured on television (Halén and Wickman 2003, 72). The exhibition built on pre-existing American familiarity with Nordic design, largely spearheaded by the Museum of Modern Art through the 1920s and 1930s. ‘Scandinavian Design’ was associated in America, on the one hand, with Old World grace and craftsmanship – an antidote to shoddy mass manufactured goods – and, on the other hand, with a democratic commitment to good design for all. This corresponds with the overall climate in which the international design community continued to pursue beauty, skill and craftsmanship, even while they purported to seek rational designs for the  modern world. The reasons for this disjunction lies in the long endurance of  nineteenth century reform principles that celebrated the skills of the  craftsman and considered design in terms of forms, materials and  techniques. These ideas continued to frame teaching in design schools and the practice of the Museums of Applied Art. The design cognoscenti were versed in looking for beauty of form, for materials being used in a manner that best reflected their qualities, for techniques best suited to the effects sought. Similarly, the long history of  design-as-spectacle, traced through the international exhibitions from 1851 onwards and expanding in the international design press, required design that made a visual impact. Iceland did not participate in the Triennale or in the Design in Scandinavia exhibition. The design sector in Iceland was still in the early stages of development and there was a lack of government support for opportunities in which, it was felt, Icelandic objects would be unfavourably compared to those of the other Nordic countries. There was not yet an indigenous Museum of Applied Art and nor was there yet an Association of Applied Arts to act as a focus for national efforts. The School of Applied Art had been founded in 1939, once access to the usual avenues of training in Denmark and Germany were cut off by war. The success of the Scandinavian Design phenomenon did not go unnoticed however. In the mid-1950s, an Icelandic Society of Crafts and Design was founded, with the primary goal of promoting Icelandic design in international exhibitions (Árnadóttir 2011, 131–171) Iceland did contribute a small range of objects to the 1958–59, Formes Scandinaves exhibition in Paris.

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Arne Jacobsen, SAS Hotel Copenhagen, 1958–60 Arne Jacobsen’s (1902–71) Ant Chair has already been mentioned above. He, like Aalto, was one of the leading European Modernist architects of the mid-twentieth century. Similarly, like Aalto, it was the impact of his interior design pieces, especially his chairs, in exhibition that contributed to the international scope of his reputation. He had graduated as an architect from the Copenhagen Academy in 1928, where he had studied under Kay Fisker, the designer of the 1925 Danish pavilion. As a student, Jacobsen had also participated in the Exhibition des Arts decoratif in Paris in 1925, where he won a silver medal for his chair design. Exhibitions and competitions, as we have seen in many cases through this book, were significant throughout his career. In 1929 a design for a ‘Home of the Future’, co-designed with Flemming Lassen, won first prize and was constructed as an exhibit for an exhibition of housing in Copenhagen that same year (Thau and Vindum 2002, 60). The circular form of the house, white render and tubular steel furniture revealed the influence of Les Corbusier’s L’esprite nouveau Pavilion seen in Paris in 1925 as well as serving as a foretaste of the impact of the coming Stockholm Exhibition’s housing section. The inventive design revolved around the idea of speed and movement. The  spiral-like arrangement incorporated an internal garage, speedboat dock and, on the roof, a landing pad for a gyrocopter. Though it could not be considered as a realistic response to contemporary housing needs, it captured the public’s imagination and launched Jacobsen’s career. The House of the Future design was both an introduction into the Danish sphere of the latest international ideas regarding new technologies and a dynamic new vision of the future of domestic life. In its emphasis on movement and circulation at the expense of living space it echoed the Le Corbusierian concept of the home as a machine for living in (Le 1927, 95). It demonstrates both Jacobsen’s commitment to the advances of international Modernism and his understanding of exhibition and the media as essential mediums for the promotion of his work. It also, through its total design concept, reflected the long-term commitment in his work to design alongside architecture. As  his career flourished, he was afforded greater and greater opportunities for commissions in which he was able to execute designs for every element of a building, from architecture down to furniture and fittings. As with his contemporaries discussed in this chapter, this represented a continuation of the Arts and Crafts principle of the total work of art, modernized to reflect the holistic vision of Modern design as something offering new solutions for the new experience of modern life.



By the 1950s Jacobsen had already two decades of architectural and design practice under his belt, ranging from private housing to major public commissions such as the City Halls of Aarhus and Rødovre. The decade also saw the explosion of acclaim for ‘Scandinavian Design’, already discussed here, in which Jacobsen’s furniture designs featured. Jacobsen’s long-term relationship with the furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen, and his access to the technical product development facilities there, played a key role in the success and dissemination of his designs. This can be compared to Aalto’s relationships with Otto Korhonen and Poul Henningsen’s with Louis Poulsson. The SAS hotel in Copenhagen (1956–61) was an opportunity for Jacobsen to fuse his experience in domestic and public architecture and interior design to create a Modernist total work of art. The project had a pan-Nordic dimension in that the client, Scandinavia Airlines System (SAS), had been formed as a cooperative venture for the operation of transcontinental flights by the national airlines of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (Sheridan and Jacobsen 2003, 9–11). The hotel was to function as both hotel and terminal, with shuttle buses transporting guests to and from the airport. This explicit connection to the new mode of long-distance air travel is another conceptual link back to the Home of the Future and transport technology as a transformative element of modern life. The resulting building was an example of a translation into the Danish cityscape of the latest international design ideas and the mediating of those ideas by a distinct architectural voice, one shaped by his experience of Danish design culture. The overall design of the building, composed of two interrelated elements, a vertical tower block and a horizontal slab, was uncompromising in its stark regularity. The design bore a close resemblance to the recently completed Lever House (1950–52) in New York, indicating the rapid international circulation of Modern design. The construction was based on reinforced concrete floors supported by internal columns, allowing for the outside of the building to be clad in curtain walls of windows and grey-glass panels. In the heart of Copenhagen the impact was a dramatic contrast to the mostly nineteenth-century red brick architecture nearby. The shimmering surface of the glass, which reflected the sky and nearby buildings, lent the massive building a paradoxical lightness. This was enhanced by means of recessed floors at ground level and at the point of connection between the slab and the tower, which created a visual effect of floating or hovering elements. Unlike Aalto, Jacobsen rarely included any overt references to national tradition within his work and the SAS hotel is typical of this in its embrace of the latest building and design technologies. At the same time his designs are marked by a pronounced emphasis on aesthetic beauty that recalls the earlier Danish commitment to craft and quality. This emphasis on beauty is pursued consistently through sculptural forms and through materials, both

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high and low status, crafted and mass produced. The high level of finish, and attention to surface, texture and colour, form a conceptual connection to earlier twentieth-century debates and the Danish tradition. Also held in precarious balance through the design is the relationship between luxury and modesty. As a top end hotel, the furniture and interior finish needed to reflect the aspirations of an international, jet-setting elite. But the conspicuous opulence that increasingly marked American hotel architecture, exemplified by the work of Morris Lapidus, would not have sat well in a Danish context (Friedman 2010, 149–185). The result is what might be called discreet luxury, with marble, exotic wood panelling and brass fittings conveying quality, restraint in the arrangement of furniture creating a sense of space and carefully orchestrated lighting schemes creating drama and glamour without too much surface glitter. The message of the quality of materials marking the quality of design had been reiterated since the 1890s resulting in a design culture in which the Danish and Nordic public were relatively literate in translating the meaning of this investment. In addition to striking a balance between luxury and modesty, the interior design was also marked by a nuanced balance between geometry and nature as guiding principles. At the large scale, the rectangular interior spaces and repetitions of rectilinear patterns in glazing, panelling, light fittings and textiles created a strong sense of clarity and order. Surfaces were substantially unbroken, with subtle grooves and recessions creating delineations between one element and the next, between floor and walls and between walls and ceiling, for example. The potential starkness of this linear precision is offset by the additions of circular elements, which disrupt the grid. Circular skylights or circular recessed light fittings, as in the restaurant, conjuror diffused pools of light that soften and overlap. The most dramatic circular element is the spiral staircase in the main lobby. Jacobsen had worked repeatedly with spiral staircases, using them as dynamic sculptural elements in his interiors. In the SAS hotel the staircase is a triumph of engineering precision and elegance and stands to one side of the large lobby (Figure 5.2). A six-metre diameter spiral form of steelplate treads is suspended by thin steel rods from a circular aperture in the ceiling. The  thinness of the treads and negligible visibility of the supporting rods creates a form that appears to float unsupported. In the absence of any support from the floor below, it can be circulated around and beneath, where it flows around the visitors. The curving steel handrail and grey plexiglass balustrade echo the spiral, while adding minimal weight to the structure. The staircase encapsulates Jacobsen’s particular skill in transforming the mundane into the spectacular. Treated in this innovative, sculptural fashion, the steel form, either as polished metal or painted white, becomes a glamorous, high-status material. The coldness of the metal and its industrial character are muted by means of the white paint and the thick, olive green carpet that



FIGURE 5.2   Arne Jacobsen, SAS Copenhagen, 1956–60. © Danish National Art Library/Jørgen Strüwing and Aage Strüwing.

flowed down the treads. The gleam of white paint and polished metal, the matt plush of the carpet and the shiny reflective surface of the plexiglass create a lively interplay of textures, standing out against the dominant materials of pale marble floor, glowing wood panelling and the glass wall of the winter garden. Colours, textures, the ambience of different materials are all subtly orchestrated, animating the open area of the lobby. Movement and irregularity are attributes associated with the natural world, rather than the precision of the man made. Behind the staircase, through the semi sheer curtains that hung in front of the glazed walls of the winter garden, glimpses of hanging plants could be seen, whose twisting, trailing vines could be seen as resonating with the hanging form of the staircase. The spiral staircase creates a different sculptural silhouette depending upon where you are standing in relation to it. Jacobsen used this three dimensional attribute to create element of dynamic irregularity in an otherwise regular and legible space. The egg chairs designed for the lobby have the same quality. All identical and symmetrical, the moulded sculptural form on the pivot of each aluminium foot would, through their arrangement in clusters around coffee tables, form groups of irregular, ever-varying silhouettes. The egg chair, and others in the same series, were all formed using a brand new technique that had been developed by a Norwegian designer, Henry W. Klein. Klein had patented his

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design and licensed it to Fritz Hansen in 1957 (Henriksen 1997, 14–15; Sheridan and Jacobsen 2003, 207). The technique was based on the heat moulding of polystyrene. Through this technique Jacobsen was able to push still further down the path he had taken with the ant chair in terms of reducing the number of separate elements required down to a minimum. The form of the egg chair was sculpted first in plaster, with Jocobsen and his artist assistant adding and subtracting from the piece until he was content (Thau et  al. 2001, 57). The resulting rounded form cups the sitter, while the single foot allows the chair to rotate, facilitating interaction between groups of sitters. Revolutionary in form and materials, the chair also recalls the traditional English wingback chair, a hotel lobby staple. It provides, by means of the upper wings, the same additional comforts of a degree of shelter and privacy. In this way, Jacobsen fuses the traditional with the Modern and provides for the psychological as well as physical comfort of his users. This attention to psychological well-being can also be seen as rooted in Nordic discourse on home, the work of Key and a late-nineteenth-century awareness of the impact of space and light on the occupants of the home. Just as Key advocated the bringing of houseplants into the home, so Jacobsen brings nature into his design in the form of the winter garden and by means of his colouring and textural schemes and interplay of regularity and irregularity. Unlike the emphatic embrace of the natural world that marked the Villa Mairea, in Jacobsen’s work the balance is always minutely maintained. So the orchids and trailing vines of the winter garden are simultaneously dramatically presented, suspended to form a two storey living curtain, and contained within their own glassed-in display area. The shaggy brown and ochre rugs that add earthy warmth and texture to the white marble flooring are rectilinear and bounded by the pristine expanse of the marble. Light is used to make the large spaces both comprehensible and maintain a human scale. So in the central lobby areas of focus and direction of travel is indicated by means of the lighting. Tracks of spots in the ceiling convey the dimensions of the large rectangular footprint of the ground floor, but the tracks are not continuous, breaking the large space up into digestible phases. Light also directs the visitor to points of interest. The counter area is brightly illuminated, while the winter garden, whose light also reflects off the white paint of the staircase, provides an oasis of natural light. A path of light is spread from the entrance to the counter and spots of light accumulate over the seating areas. The recessed ground floor means that transverse daylight is sparse, as the windows around the ground floor are overhung by the floor above. In the lobby, in particular, visual connection to the street is largely denied, with the exception of the glass doors of the entrance. This enables Jacobsen to orchestrate a transition from the outside world of the street, to the serene, harmonious world of the interior. The comparatively low light



levels and the variations from bright to dim, with a preference for diffused light created a softened ambience that was far removed from the earlier Modernist call for as much natural light as possible. Jacobsen favoured total control of his design projects, from overall build down to the tiny details of finish. It was this that allowed him to maintain the carefully judged balances he pursued. He designed every element within the interiors, carpets, curtain and upholstery textiles, light fittings, door handles, furniture and the glassware and cutlery used in the restaurant. Through this total design the experience and expectations of the visitors could be controlled, providing them with stimulation and rest. The colour scheme unified the whole building, with an emphasis on blues, greens and greys, offset by the light grey of the marble and the warm tones of the wenge, hardwood panelling and fitted furniture and rugs. Occasional notes of gold or yellow ochre warm the palette a little, but there is no departure into bright pop colours (Sheridan and Jacobsen 2003, 143–145). As with his collaboration with Fritz Hansen, Jacobsen worked alongside expert Danish glass manufacturers and silversmiths to develop and produce his designs. A parallel might be drawn to the nearby Copenhagen City Hall, which we have already considered. Here, there is a similar mixture of high and low status materials. But the overall effect of care and craftsmanship produces a cumulative impact that is dramatic. The city hall was, of course, a riot of ornament compared to the SAS hotel, but a parallel can be drawn between them in the way that both sought to strike a balance between being impressive and being accessible. The craft tradition, celebrated in the city hall, can be seen to have metamorphosed into a high-quality manufacturing tradition in which the local and international continued to be fused with an emphasis on utilizing materials and techniques to their best advantage.

Nína Tryggvadóttir, Eruption, 1964 The last three works of fine art I shall deal with here are by three female artists, Nína Tryggvadóttir of Iceland, the Swedish artist Siri Derkert and the Norwegian textile artist Synnøve Anker Aurdal. As was noted in relation to the discussion of the work of Jorn, a tension existed in the postwar years across the fine-art world in relation to the development of abstraction as the dominant language of art and the desire among artists for social relevance. This was a challenge in particular in the art cultures of the Nordic countries, where art was very much understood in relation to its role within national culture. As such, the role of art within society remained a live debate. In 1941 in a radio interview, Nína, who had returned to Iceland from Paris due to the war, commented on the challenges facing modern artists.

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We who use expensive canvas and expensive colours could never fill poor people’s houses with our works simply because the form of our expression is so costly. And yet we yearn for the same things as you [i.e., writers] do, and it is just as important for us not to be estranged from our fellow men; we don’t want to be alone. (Halldór et al. 1982, 16) The arena of public art offered one solution, as has already been discussed, but easel painting did not disappear as part of artists’ practice. The idiom of abstraction was one that many Nordic artists continued to pursue despite the potential risk of estrangement from the general public. Canvas painting also remained a dominant currency for participation in the international art world through exhibition. The difficulty of including murals and public sculpture in international exhibition is another factor behind the marginalization of Nordic art in wider art histories. Nína, alongside Jorn, was one of the few Nordic artists to achieve international recognition through this period. Like Jorn, she substantially pursued her career outside the Nordic countries. This point notwithstanding, she made a significant contribution to Icelandic art culture and her identity as Icelandic was an ongoing theme in her work and continues to shape its reception (Schram 1997). Her painting, Eruption, was painted in New York in 1964 (Plate 15). Its inspiration was drawn from the 1963 undersea eruption that formed the new volcanic island of Surtsey off the Icelandic coast. This unusual geological event drew international attention. The canvas is entirely abstract, formed of rough, overlapping, loose rectangular forms. The tones are earthy and organic and the title makes an implicit connection to Icelandic nature. In this manner the work is exemplary of the different layers of identity and influence making up Nína’s career and her straddling of Icelandic and international cultural circles. This dual identity is indicated in the following quote by the influential midtwentieth-century French art critic Michel Seuphor, who championed her work: The marks of her personality are obvious on everything that she has produced to this day. These are the marks of a work addressed directly to the man of today, whether he lives in Reykjavik, in New York or in Paris. The  modern man seeks simplicity, repose and frankness . … May it [the work] always keep these qualities without losing any of its strength, without losing any of that quiet obstinacy that relates her to the crude but deeply moving figures of the Icelandic sagas. (Seuphor 1958, 21) Echoed here are the often repeated twin motifs of the artist whose voice has transcended national boundaries, but at the same time retains the distinctive qualities associated with the artist’s homeland. Nína’s work is presented as both universal and contemporary and as rooted in a national



heritage. The  connection to the saga tradition is identical to that proposed in relation to Einar Jónsson’s work in Chapter 3. The search for the universal, the elusive gravity that would allow art to transcend the flux of a constantly changing world, was as much a constant of Modernism as the search for the new. Over time it was located in early Norse culture, in folk culture and in the roots of Classicism. Each of these prior universal languages was identified as possessing in some way or other a similar alchemy of the timelessly enduring and the contemporary. The quote from Seuphor indicates that it was not a purely Nordic pursuit, but one at the heart of the international Modernism. The quote also has interesting implications in relation to gender. The thencommon turns of phrase ‘man of today’ and ‘modern man’ implicitly gender her audience as male and position her relevance in gendered terms. A high proportion of the traits Seuphor associates with her work (frankness, strength, obstinacy, crudeness) are also more traditionally viewed as male. In this respect, it seems as if her Icelandic identity, with all its associations of rough and ready primitiveness, in some way endow her work with qualities rarely ascribed to female artists. Nína grew up in Reykjavik where she studied drawing in school. Her father was also related to Ásgrímur Jónsson and Ásgrímur took an interest in Nína’s work from an early age providing her with informal instruction. Through the 1920s and 1930s there was still no state art school in Iceland and so her art training took place in a private evening school run by local artists, who had both studied in Dresden. In 1935 she travelled to Copenhagen to enrol in the Academy where she studied until 1938. She then spent a few months in Paris before being forced by the outbreak of war in 1939 to return to Iceland (Halldór et al. 1982). Back in Iceland she was part of the small but lively circle of artists and writers who had all worked abroad but could no longer travel. She had her first solo exhibition in Reykjavik in 1942. In 1943 she was able to travel to New York, supported by the Cultural Council of Iceland and study there with the German émigré artist Hans Hofmann. Hofmann was an important artist in relation to the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States. He provided a link back to earlier European Expressionism through this first-hand contact with many of the key artists of the early twentieth century, such as Kandinsky and Matisse. Under his instruction and with further informal instruction from Léger, who was also by then living in New York, Nína’s style evolved towards total abstraction. Nína’s career really took off in the United States. In 1945 she held her first solo exhibition at the New Art Circle gallery in New York where her work was well received. She returned to Iceland between 1946 and 1948 where she was at the forefront of the introduction of abstraction as an artistic idiom on the Icelandic art scene. She exhibited in the first September Group show in 1947, an exhibition event credited with the beginning of the manifestation

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of modern art in Iceland (Hörður 1998, 52–53). The group manifestos were reminiscent of similar arguments that would be put forward by the CoBrA group, indicating the continued cultural influence of Denmark in particular where so many Icelandic artists had studied. A further pan-Nordic connection that might be mentioned is the mounting of the CoBrA Høst exhibition in 1948, which was  arranged by Jorn and first shown in Copenhagen before it toured Gothenburg, Oslo and Reykjavik. Despite these new intersections with the Nordic art world, opportunities to practice as a professional artist remained limited in Iceland. State higher education in art was first established in 1939 with the founding of the Icelandic School of Crafts in Reykjavik. In 1943 it became the Icelandic College of Arts and Craft and its teaching was recognized by the Copenhagen Academy as suitable preparation for entry to its programmes (Ólafur 2011 vol. III, 25). In contrast to the developed nature of the American art world, where Nína’s work was readily purchased through exhibitions, through her years in Iceland she taught art in three different elementary schools and supported herself by means of writing and illustration. She returned to America in 1948 and her work was immediately shown in another successful solo show at the New Art Circle gallery. In 1949 she married the doctor and artist Alfred L Copley. She was well networked within the New York art scene, particularly within the circles associated with the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement. The potential of her contribution to this New York-based movement was however never realized. In 1949, following a summer trip to Iceland with their daughter and amid a climate of Cold War paranoia, Nína was denied re-entry to the United States. What her impact or experience might have been is an interesting point of speculation, given the emphasis on masculinity in the contemporary and subsequent reception of American Abstract Expressionism (Gibson 1997). It is possible that her ethnicity as Icelandic might have, as suggested in the quote above, enabled her to negotiate this challenging context in a unique way. As it was, however, Nína was to spend the next ten years working primarily in Paris. Here she and her husband, who joined her there, were again integrated into an alternative international art culture as part of the circles involved with the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. This was an exhibition group that primarily promoted geometric abstraction, including artists who identified as Concretists and Constructivists. During this period Nína’s work too moved in a geometric direction, though it never lost the loser, expressive qualities of her early allegiance to Expressionism. These two trends, the Expressionist and the Concretist, were similarly prominent in fine-art practice across the Nordic countries through the 1950s. Her later work, of which Eruption is an example, brings together these different phases of her career. The geometric forms of her mid-fifties work, which had never become utterly precise, now explode apart in rough expressive



forms. There is a suggestion, though, of energy rather than violence. The tones of dark brown/black, through ochre, to white, and the textural surface treatment of broad scrapes of the spatula unify canvas together at the same time as the forms burst apart. It cannot be read as a traditional depiction of a landscape, but remains tied, as has been mentioned, to the natural world. Nína was able to return to New York in 1959. She struggled, though, to recapture the place she had held at the heart of the New York art scene ten years previously, holding only one solo exhibition in 1961. In contrast, two major retrospectives of her work were shown in Iceland in 1963 and 1967, the year before her death. The final decades of Nína’s career were marked by a shift in her practice towards stained glass and she executed a number of significant commissions for art glass in public spaces back in Iceland. Her explicit return to nature as a theme in the 1960s was in line with wider trends in the international art world. In Nína’s case, as is common with Nordic artists, it tended to be explicitly understood as a manifestation of her national identity, rather than a resonance with such international currents. This tendency resonated and was reinforced by a domestic tradition of drawing equations between nature, the individual and the nation. The readiness to ascribe to artists a ‘closeness to nature’ or a distinct national rather than individual temperament was also a common feature in the exoticising reception of artists from anywhere considered peripheral to the dominant art centres, be it Wales, Cuba or Australia.

Siri Derkert, Östermalmstorg subway station, carved concrete, 1965 Moving into the 1960s, there was an increasing awareness of the social and cultural structures that marginalized large sections of the population while privileging the traditional elite. Art played a prominent role in the manifestation of the new identity politics of the 1960s and 1970s. The work of Siri Derkert (1888–1973) exemplified this trend, with explicit references to feminism, social struggle and environmental and anti-nuclear concerns. Derkert was more than a generation older than the other artists considered in this chapter, but her major significance for Swedish art culture came about towards the end of her life in the 1950s and 1960s. Her breakthrough as an artist came in 1944, after decades of work, with a solo exhibition in Stockholm when the artist was fifty-six years old. Prior to this Derkert faced a series of challenges related to the establishment of an art career in the small art worlds of the Nordic region, exacerbated by the disruptions of war and the particular challenges facing women artists (Öhrner 1997). The work in question we will consider here is the carved concrete fresco produced to decorate the Östermalmstorg subway station in Stockholm in

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1965. The scale of the work, 145 metres long, its overt political content and the material character, carved into raw concrete, resulted in a piece that challenged established expectations of public art and of the hand of the female artist. Derkert’s training followed what was by now a familiar path. She attended a private art school before enrolling at the Stockholm Academy (1911–13) and from there she headed to Paris. However, her time at the Stockholm Academy was marked with tension as she pushed back against the conservative culture there, organizing a protest against the prohibition on female students studying from the male nude (Öhrner and Olof-Ors 2011, 206). In Paris she enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, which was one of the private academies particularly noted for its relaxed and liberal attitude. She socialized in the lively circles of Nordic artists in Paris and spent six weeks in Algiers in 1914 with two female artist friends. Derkert’s personal and professional life was marked by challenging circumstances through the war years and 1920s. In 1914 she began a relationship with the Finnish artist Valle Rosenberg in Paris. The outbreak of war, his nationality which meant he travelled on a Russian passport, the birth of their child out of wedlock, and the necessity of keeping this fact secret meant that the couple ended up getting separated from one another. Derkert returned to Sweden and attempted to establish her career there, while her son was cared for by a foster family in Italy, where he had been born. Rosenberg lived periodically with their son in Italy and the couple struggled to keep in touch with one another across a war-torn Europe. Rosenberg died in 1919 of tuberculosis and other complications related to poverty. In 1917 Derkert began another relationship with the Swedish artist Bertil Lybeck. She had two children with him, giving birth and having the children fostered in Copenhagen, again to keep her Swedish friends and family in ignorance of the socially unacceptable reality of her life. She was able to retrieve her three children in the early 1920s and from then on they lived with her and she cared for and supported them financially at the same time as working. Her work in this period ranged in a number of directions. Her Expressionist painting was exhibited in Copenhagen, Lund and Stockholm and positively received, but this was not enough to establish her career. She also worked as a fashion designer and journalist as well as developing a side line in miniature portraits. The family struggled financially throughout this period. Her mother bought them a small house in 1931, which enabled them to live in a more stable fashion. The death of her daughter in 1938, also of tuberculosis, was a blow that took a number of years for her to recover from (Modernmuseet 2011). Her early activism and her own experience of the difficulties of pursuing personal and artistic freedom as a woman artist solidified, in political terms, in her fifties and sixties when she pursed new educational opportunities. She was an active member of left-wing circles in Stockholm and chair of the Stockholm section of the Swedish Women’s Left Association. Between 1943 and 1954



she attended courses at both the Fredshögskolan, which was a school set up to promote the cause of world peace through fostering critical independent thought, and the Fogelstad Women’s School, which offered classes in citizenship on feminist principles (Gustavsson 2011). She became increasingly vocal in her protests on social inequality and later in the 1960s on nuclear weapons and the environment. Her art shifted in line with her growing activism. The competition for the decoration of the Östermalmstorg subway station announced in 1960 was a major public art commission. Derkert’s entry, which was one of 150 proposals, won first prize and in 1962 she was asked to execute the project. The resulting mural was uncompromising in impact. It departed from the abstract geometric forms that had become the norm in postwar mural art (Widenheim and Rudberg 2002, 94–96). Nor did the mural present any kind of unified narrative. The material of raw concrete and the technique of carving directly into it created an almost aggressively brutal effect (Figure 5.3). The mural was composed of a free arrangement of text and imagery that could be approached from any angle and regarded as a whole or as fragments. This responded to the reality of public use of the space of a station platform, where promenading from end to end was not how most people would approach the work. Wherever you stood on the platform a portion of the mural would be visible, without requiring knowledge of the whole. This relative freedom of viewpoint contrasts to the orchestrated routes and compositional hierarchies governing the reading of the Bank of Finland and Oslo City Hall murals.

FIGURE 5.3   Siri Derkert, Östermalmstorg Metro Station, carved concrete, 1965. © Luis Rodríguez/DACS 2015.

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At the same time, in contrast to the ideological neutrality of pure abstraction, the content of the mural was highly politicized. Text elements included lines from the left-wing anthem The Internationale and musical notation from the Marseillaise, anthem of the French revolutionary republic. Prominent also is the word ‘Peace’, repeated in over twenty different languages, and the names of historical figures, the majority of whom were women. Workers’ solidarity, the cause of peace and women’s contribution to world history were merged in a freeform visual manifesto. The anti-war, anti-nuclear rhetoric of the work was stark in this period marked by Cold War tensions and in relation to the fact that the subway was also conceived of as a civil defence bomb shelter (Rohdin and Öhrner 2011, 241). Figures represented, through their name or through loose, caricature-like portraiture, include feminist thinkers, writers and poets, both Swedish and international. National specificity is merged with a strong international, leftwing and humanitarian ethos. Male contributions are not excluded. Among the male protagonists included are the scientist Albert Einstein and the poet and playwright Bartolt Brecht, both émigrés from Nazi Germany. Contemporary figures were also included, such as the then Foreign Minister, Bo Östen Undén, known for his stance against nuclear weapons, and the American environmentalist Rachel Carson. Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was represented on the mural by means of the Swedish translation of the book’s title, Tyst vår, and a rough landscape. Published in America in 1962, the work was a landmark in environmental activism, drawing public attention to the environmental impact of industrial pesticides. It was translated into German and French in the same year and, tellingly, into Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish editions the following year, indicating particular Nordic engagement with its environmentalist message (Carson 1963a, 1963b, 1963c; Carson and Jotuni 1963) The material form of the mural reinforces the vehemence of the message. It is brutally unpolished, the raw grey of the concrete scored with rough lines of carving. The carved elements were originally hand-drawn on paper by Derkert and then photographed and recomposed into the final composition, which was sandblasted into the concrete by skilled technicians (Sjöholm Skrubbe 2011, 156). This process made the private, low status act of drawing public and demanding of attention. The scale and visibility of the mural is an essential part of its message, as it brings the female artist to prominence as well as many other women. It challenges the politics of representation, whereby visibility and invisibility maintain a regime of value through normalizing what is seen and marginalizing what is not (Lombardo and Meier 2014). Despite the overt and challenging political message, the mural is also marked by a certain joyousness. Alongside named protagonists are couples kissing, figures dancing and children playing. The political and agitational is integrated with the other stuff of life, love and family, in another act of



breaking down a conventional division between the public realm of politics and the private realm of affection. The areas of dense carving and blank, unmarked wall and the snatches of musical notation give a musical quality to the whole composition. The graphic style of the carvings and their seemingly haphazard arrangement across the walls creates the association of graffiti. This suggestion of the unsanctioned public protest underscores the iconoclastic intention of what was still a major public commission. Dirkert became a well-known figure in the Swedish media, unconventional and militant. Like Jorn, she strove for a visual language that might embody her political values in both content and form. Like Jorn, the solution she arrived at was a deviation from conventional media and from the Socialist Realist imagery sanctioned by the Communist party, with which she was otherwise in sympathy. She was the first Swedish artist, male or female, to be honoured with a monographic exhibition at the newly inaugurated Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1960 and represented Sweden in the Nordic pavilion at the 1962 Biennale in Venice. Recognized by the art world, questions remained about the accessibility of her work (Sjöholm Skrubbe 2011, 155). The uncompromising media of concrete and the personal imagery and literary and cultural associations that presuppose a level of education could be seen to exclude the very public her work sought to reach.

Synnøve Anker Aurdal, Space and Word, tapestry, 1977 Jorn, Derkert and Nína all moved through their careers away from easel painting, towards more varied media and a blurring of the boundaries between fine-art and craft practices. Synnøve Anker Aurdal’s (1908–2000) career trajectory was in the other direction. She trained in textiles at a weaving school in Lillehammer, where she grew up. Through the 1920s and 1930s she worked as a weaver, both restoring old Norwegians textiles and creating new textile designs. She also taught textiles and furthered her education at the Women’s Industrial School in Oslo (1932–34). In 1931 she married the artist Leon Aurdal. Her exposure to fine-art practice was not purely through him however. Back in Lillehammer she had worked on the adaptation of paintings by local artists into woven designs. She exhibited for the first time in 1941 in a joint exhibition with her husband. There is an indication here of the manifestation of a shift in her conception of her work and its potential reception as art, rather than purely as craft. The tensions between art and design in the arena of textiles has already been commented on in relation to the textile art of Frida Hansen and Gerhard Munthe in Chapter two. Within

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the Norwegian tradition, the decades between the early-twentieth century and the mid-twentieth century were also bridged by the work of Ryggen, whose pictorial tapestries, often with themes of political protest, broke the parameters of traditional craft practice (Ustvedt and Yvenes 2015). Leon Aurdal died in 1949 and in 1950 Aurdal married another artist, Ludvig Eikaas. A decisive moment in her career was the prize won by a joint entry of herself, her second husband and the fellow textile artist, Sigrun Berg, for the interior of the Haakon’s Hall in 1958. She was then fifty years old, sharing with Derkert a long career, working in relative obscurity, before beginning to achieve wider public recognition in the last decades of her life. The design for the hall was executed in 1960. The Haakon’s Hall was a thirteenth-century stone hall within the Fortress of Bergen complex. Bergen was the capital of Norway in the thirteenth century and the hall’s identity as the great hall of the kings of independent Norway was rediscovered by romantic nationalists in the nineteenth century. This led to a restoration project in the 1890s. The interior scheme, designed by Munthe, was in line with the speculative and inventive restoration practices of the period and featured extensive murals, hangings, carpets, stained glass and carved furniture in a romantic medievalists and Viking style fusion (Bakken 1946, 284–316). The historicist nature of this revival, a selective blend of historic and contemporary concerns, recalls the restoration of Lund cathedral discussed in chapter one (Brekke and Ersland, 157–174). From this point of public success in the early 1960s, Aurdal moved with greater and greater freedom towards a conceptual fusion of craft and fine-art practice. She worked with a weaver’s direct technical understanding of the medium of textiles, like Hansen had done, rather than making up cartoons to be executed by others, as Munthe and Jorn and the majority of male artists to venture into the arena of textiles did. The scale and abstract arrangements of colours and, increasingly, unconventional materials, such as copper wire, pushed the Norwegian textile tradition in new directions. Her use of bright, artificial dyes also mark a decisive break with the traditional palette associated with the craft revival in Norway. In contrast to Derkert’s militant feminism, Aurdal did not imbue her work with political content. She aligned herself, and was aligned by critics, with art primarily as a form of self-expression. Parallels were frequently drawn between her work and poetry. The analogue is interesting as it strives to convey the conceptual content of Aurdal’s work, moving beyond the idea of simply painting in wool. Concepts of rhythm and parallels to music were frequently used by critics in relation to her work (Danbolt 1991, 90; Synnøve Anker Aurdal 1997, 5; Gjensyn med Synnøve Anker Aurdal 2008, 20). The repetitive interlocking of warp and weft that makes up the physical reality of weaving provides an underlying structure, as rhythm does in music. It can be stretched and distorted and the yarns and other materials can appear to move freely and



haphazardly across the surface of the work, but the underlying structure is always there. The breaking down of the boundaries between different art forms is one of the hallmarks of Modernism. The concept of composition, borrowed from music and poetry, could equally be used to describe the process of arranging colours and forms. For the process of weaving this also had a semi-sculptural three dimensional quality as surface texture, shimmer and movement were orchestrated through the degree of tension executed in the weave and the addition of other materials (metal, nylon, plastics, mirror glass) and free-hanging beaded elements. Both poetry and fine art were constant reference points for Aurdal through her career, though she also maintained a conscious connection to the Norwegian textile tradition her work evolved out of (Lystad 1996, 22). Her work is thus a fusion of aesthetic, conceptual and sensual qualities. In 1971, Aurdal was commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a large-scale tapestry as a gift from Norway to Iceland on the 1100 anniversary of human settlement of Iceland. This was to be marked by the opening of the new National Library, where the tapestry is still hung. The  result was the monumental, six-by-two metres, Space and Words, completed in 1977 (Plate 16). Aurdal visited Iceland in 1975 and was struck by both the unique landscape and the language. The abstract imagery of the tapestry alluded to landscape and seascape, as Nìna’s work had also done, and as landscape continued to resurface in the work of many Nordic Modernist artists. The strong horizontal emphasis and interlocking geometric forms and lines in the work create the suggestion of a vision of land viewed from the sea to either side, echoed by the limited palette of black, white, greys and blues and glimpses of yellow. This and the prow-like central form can be read as an allusion to Iceland and Norway’s maritime connection. Space and Words, as the title implies, also incorporated references to the shared Norwegian-Icelandic literary heritage of the skaldic poets through the use of framing text elements. At the bottom of the tapestry letters emerge, revealing quotes from the sagas and from one contemporary Icelandic and one Norwegian poet. The abstraction of the work was intentionally nonfigurative, but the allusion to the shared history and ongoing cultural ties between the two nations was appropriate to the commission, which was laden with symbolic meaning. Though Aurdal was substantially apolitical in her art, her prominence as a female artist and the degree of recognition her work achieved had its own impact on the visibility of women’s art practice and of textile as an art form. Through the 1970s, up to her death in the 1990s, Aurdal was recipient of a series of prestigious commissions and her work was frequently used by the state as diplomatic gifts. This particular practice is suggestive of a particularly effective negotiation of the tension between the national and international in Aurdal’s work. The medium of woven wool textiles and its explicit and ongoing

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connection back to the Norwegian craft revival can be seen as mediating the abstract motifs and making the international language of abstraction sufficiently Norwegian to function as a representation of the modern Norwegian state. Although the significance of this establishment recognition cannot be discounted, the conceptual distinction between fine and applied art remained substantially in place. Aurdal’s work was bought by the Norwegian National Gallery in the 1970s, though the decision was not uncontroversial (Danbolt 1991, 79–80). The permanent public display of her work, however, continues to be associated primarily with museums of applied art. Presentations of her work still seek to reaffirm her rights to the category of artist rather than craftswoman (Dikt selv: Synnøve Anker 2014). This reflects the slow pace of change when it comes to these established conceptual categories, as well as the fact that the institutions within which histories of art and design are created and housed – academies, universities and museums – often remain marked by the structures of their founding. Just as women have dominated textile art as a genre, so the divisional categories that separate fine and applied arts have a gender politics dimension.

Peter Celsing, the Culture House and the Bank of Sweden, Stockholm, 1966–76 In contrast to the Tapiola new town on its green field site, the 1960s were marked by a number of urban remodelling projects that sought to transform the pre-existing urban environment. One of the most remarkable of these was the demolition and rebuilding of a substantial portion of the Norrmalm district of Stockholm through the 1950s and into the 1970s. The origins for this rebuilding process can be traced back to a city plan devised in 1928 (Hall and Rörby 2009). This and a subsequent series of plans were concerned with grappling with the changing demands on the urban infrastructure, in particular the steady rise in the use of the private car through the twentieth century (Nyström and Lundström 2006). In the postwar period, a number of factors came together to facilitate the implementation of a radical rebuilding of the Stockholm City Centre. Conceptually, it was thought that traffic flow and the easy transportation of workers to their offices and consumers to shopping centres was vital for the health of the modern city. Influential theories of zoning had been put forward as part of the international Modernist movement directed by CIAM since the 1920s (Mumford 2002, 20). This entailed the collection and separation of different urban functions into distinct districts. The concept of a Central Business District, developed by the sociologist Ernest Burgess in Chicago in the 1926, also shaped the idea of the mutual benefit accrued from having a commercial and



administrative centre (Park et al. 1925). The import of the American shopping mall concept, noted already in relation to Tapiola, was another driver towards large-scale constructions as a series of large shopping centres were built for the downtown area. As the sizes of various commercial operations, banks and civic administration expanded, so bigger offices were needed and, crucially, routes and car parks to get workers and consumers to and fro. The old fabric of the city, narrow streets and small scale old buildings were felt to be stifling economic growth and strangling the city as it attempted to expand to meet the needs of the new postwar society. Between 1951 and 1983, over 750 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings were demolished as part of a scheme of urban redevelopment that saw parts of the centre of Stockholm becoming building sites for decades (Arrhenius 2010a). This unprecedented, and subsequently greatly criticized, process radically transformed the commercial centre of Stockholm. Various earlier city plans had all proposed more or less radical changes, but ran into similar difficulties in execution. It proved impossible to secure political consensus for plans that would be massively expensive, necessitate the expropriation of private property and demolition of large portions of the old city. This inability to reach agreement continued to frustrate efforts to tackle the increasingly serious traffic problems the area faced. As a result it was felt necessary to create an executive group within the civic administration to push through reforms. This resulted in the formation, in 1951, of a delegation of relevant department heads to streamline the decision making process. The decision to go ahead on the construction of new subway routes also gave the redevelopment a push as this parallel project necessitated the expropriation of property for demolition and so set the ball rolling (Hall and Rörby 2009). As indicated by the protracted debates surrounding the various plans, the redevelopment project was controversial from the start. The new Stockholm that emerged from the long periods of demolition, excavation, transport restructuring and finally new building, was materially totally unlike the old urban fabric. Hötorgscity, as it came to be known, which emerged in the 1950s, presents a completely different profile to the old district of Klara it replaced. In place of the dense network of streets, there were broad, sweeping traffic routes, separate pedestrian walkways and five monolithic, glass-walled tower blocks. The result was dramatic and utopian in its realization of a totally new urban environment, the reality of which did not fully live up to the designers’ expectations. Sergels Torg square at the end of Hötorgscity was envisaged as a new main square for the new commercial centre of Stockholm (Figure 5.4). It already appears in the 1928 plan, but the form it currently takes was determined by David Helldén (1905–90), one of the architects of Hötorgscity. In line with the thinking of the times, as at Tapiola, vehicle traffic was rigorously separated from pedestrian traffic. The solution for the pedestrian portion of Sergels Torg

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FIGURE 5.4   Peter Celsing, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 1966–76. © Stockholm City Museum/Göran H. Fredriksson.

was to sink it below street level and create a network of underpasses. This avoided interruption of the main traffic routes that form a primary intersection of the new main east-west route across the city with the main route north. It was hoped that Sergels Torg would function as a free public space, including the possibility for public performances and when the square was inaugurated in 1967 it included a speaker’s corner and public message board for sanctioned graffiti (Hoogland 2014). However, as proved to be the case with many of the utopian reimaginings of the city in the postwar world, the reality did not quite match the aspirations of the planners. The attention given to traffic flow resulted in a sense in which the individual’s place in the city had become marginalized. The scale of the square defeated all but the largest crowd’s efforts to fill it with community life. The displacement of mixed accommodation means that the variety of occupation, from residential to small industry, that marked the original Klara neighbourhood, was eradicated. In 1966, a competition was held for a group of buildings on the south side of Sergels Torg that was an attempt to redress the balance of the emphasis on the commercial and provide more cultural provision in this area. The competition was won by Peter Celsing (1920–74) and his Culture House, City Theatre and headquarters for the Bank of Sweden were built in phases from 1968 to 1975. The scale of the buildings matched the expanded scale of the modernized city district. The Culture House, which runs down the long side of the Sergels Torg presents an open glass wall to the square. The construction of the building, in the



form of a concrete slabs, hangs from a massive blank rear wall and can be read – especially when illuminated at night – as a series of hanging shelves housing different cultural activities (Wang 1996, 132). This literal and metaphorical transparency continues the Modernists form of the glass wall seen already in the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition. Envisaged as a flexible arts space, the ground floor included a public reading room accessible from the square. In line with the workshop character, the interior revealed a lot of the raw concrete of the construction, but with accents of marble and crystal chandeliers. On the opposite side of the blank concrete wall stood the Bank of Sweden building, facing south towards the unreconstructed older city fabric. Here the different character of the building is signalled with a completely different facade of textured black granite. The use of stone and the grid arrangement of regular windows evoke the nineteenth-century tradition of bank architecture and references to the classical palazzo tradition. The building remains clearly of its day however, without a hint of historical pastiche. The grid of the windows is presented as a double layer, one of granite and an inner one of metal facing, which is offset one behind the other creating a graphic interplay between the two layers. The interior of the bank was, in contrast, bright and polished with blond birch wood and white polished stucco walls. The internal courtyard that functioned as a light well for the inner offices was sheathed in folded glass and copper. The top floor contained recreation facilities for staff, including roof garden and glazed cupola over swimming and exercise facilities. The quality of design, materials and craftsmanship make it comparable to the SAS hotel. A series of artists were employed on the interior and it has been estimated that the building received 100,000 hours of architects’ attention, working out at three hours per square metre, six times the usual amount spent on the average office building (Caldenby et al. 1998, 154). This lavish outlay of skill and resources represents a continuation of the tradition of the total work of art and the commitment to craftsmanship and design established in earlier projects. Celsing made his career working on unique projects, in particular churches, in which these architectural values were maintained (Wang 1996). This continuity is somewhat deceptive, as through the 1960s and 1970s only a small proportion of building was characterized by such architect-led attention to detail and investment in bespoke craftsmanship. The Million Homes programme that was rolled out by the Social Democrats in the period 1965–74 was achieved by a building industry dominated not by architects but by large construction firms (Caldenby et al. 1998, 144). The need for these homes was still acute, as the housing shortage remained as serious a problem as it had earlier in the century (Roos 2004). This programme succeeded in delivering the homes as promised and was based on a logical extension of the work undertaken by architects since the 1920s

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to promote the use of standardized, prefabricated elements. The technological streamlining of the building process had always been intended to lower the cost of building, with the aim of making quality homes available to all. What had not been foreseen was the marginalization of architects as the industrial manufacture of housing became the norm. The importance of the role of the architect diminished, as the expertise of the construction companies that could deliver the most homes at the most economic price rose in prominence. A similar phenomenon can be observed in the mass take-up of prefabricated houses with little or no architect-input across the Nordic countries (Åkerfelt 2015). This is not to say that the new housing blocks were carelessly or shoddily built. The decades of research into the domestic environment by both architects and sociologists and the formation during the war of the Home Research Institute developed an extensive pool of knowledge of how design affected life within the home. The new homes of the Million Home programme were internally well-designed, bright and well-ventilated. What had not been anticipated, as with the Norrmalm redevelopment, was the impact on communities of the total reinvention of the scale and spatial relationships that governed their everyday environment. Large-scale housing blocks, separated by open park areas in which attention had been given to traffic flow, but to little else, did not facilitate the development of new neighbourhoods. An equal but opposite social problem arose in the city centre. The streamlining of traffic flow around the Sergels Torg made it a natural meeting point for people from all over the city, one of the unforeseen consequences of which was that it became a favoured location for drug dealing. The displacement of the residential population, left it as an area of transit where only a minority of people lingered. These urban redevelopments were subject to criticism from the start, but towards the end of the 1960s this criticism expanded into new forms of social activism. This activism responded to the transformation of the urban environment in line with an agenda dominated by commercial rather than community needs (Arrhenius 2010a). It was also informed by a new awareness of environmental issues and, particularly following the oil crisis, a questioned of the wisdom of building cities around the needs of the car. There was also a local history angle, as residents saw old neighbourhoods torn down. There was a shift in the culture of attitudes to what constituted cultural heritage, from a focus on individual buildings of notable historic significance to a valuing of the urban environment as a whole, as an artefact of social history. Architectural historians in the universities and museums shifted focus from ‘significant’ buildings to block by block surveys of all buildings, regardless of hierarchy of importance. This cultural shift occurred across the Nordic countries as modernized city plans led to the demolition of older buildings, and sometimes whole neighbourhoods, across the region, though the scale of destruction was



most pronounced in Sweden. The sense of loss still resonates in reactions to the landmark buildings of the 1960s today and the redesign Sergels Torg and demolition of the Culture House resurfaces repeatedly in public debate. The public outcry was not the main reason for the only partial implementation of the new plans for Stockholm. It had become apparent by the mid-1960s that there was not, in reality, the demand originally envisaged for so many large central blocks. This was exacerbated by the slowing of the economy in the 1970s and increased competition from out-of-town commercial developments. The 1975 plan cancelled a number of the projected redevelopments, though it did not halt the demolition process entirely, which continued into the 1980s (Hall and Rörby 2009). These controversial redesign projects were a realization of the dreams of prewar Modernists and reflected a utopian vision of a future society where all would enjoy a high standard of living. A strong state with strong executive powers was able to provide a remarkable response to public need, one million homes built in a decade. But the experimental nature of many of the new projects resulted in solutions that created new social problems as fast as they alleviated the old. acceptera’s vision of an increasingly crowded world proved to be prescient, but the challenge of meeting the needs of this growing population as well as the needs of the individual was an ongoing one.

Conclusion Throughout the timespan of this book, from the nineteenth century and through the shifting forms and stylistic currents of the decades from 1890 to 1970, I have tended to stress continuity. Continuity of ideology and the endurance of concepts, such as the total work of art and art for everyday life, which took on different forms over time, can be seen to persist as values around which to marshal new ideas. As such, it should be no surprise that I am not seeking to argue that 1970 represented some sort of watershed and that art and design after this point ceased to be Modern. The world continued to change rapidly, as it had done throughout the period covered here. The social and political activism we have seen emerging continued as solutions to the problems of the modern world remained elusive. The confident assertions of the theorists of the early and mid-twentieth century that they knew what people needed in terms of art and design, could no longer be maintained with such authority. The large manufacturers and state commissions continued to exert influence, but artists and designers also sought new ways to work around the edges, resulting in greater fragmentation and plurality across the art, design and architectural scenes (Korvenmaa 2012;

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Fallan 2016, 135–172). Consumers also continued, as they had always done, to buy what they liked to cater to aspirations that lay outside those approved by the official arbiters of taste and culture (Sarantola-Weiss 2012). Currents of influence flowed with increased readiness across national boundaries and this process was less confined to Europe than it had ever been before. New labels emerged, but what continued was a search for a solution to the necessity of creating art for a challenging modern world. The ‘Scandinavianess’ of the many responses to this challenge traced through this book has been shown to be both the construction of surrounding rhetoric and the result of the patterns of thought, teaching, influence and shared values that built up in this region over time. Modernism in the Nordic countries was as particular as the Modernisms of every other time and place. The social and cultural forces that determined the way new ideas were approached and adapted and which originated new ideas of their own, contributed to the development of art, design and architecture that sought to serve local needs. These needs and responses evolved over time but remained recognizable. What was Modernism in Scandinavia then? It was as varied as the five different countries and the many different artists and designers covered in this book. When considered in this way it would seem that there can be no such thing as Scandinavian Modernism. And yet, the individuals and works collected here do not have a merely arbitrary relationship to one another. Cultures within schools and professional societies resonated across the generations, just as seminal texts and ideas influenced the terms of debates, so that the Modernism that arose was part of an ongoing dialogue with specific local characters and regional character. The cultures that resulted continue to capture the imagination of people across the world who have seen something sympathetic in the particular balances struck, between the individual and the collective, the standardized and the crafted, the machine, the hand and the eye. The Nordic countries, operating from in one sense the geographic periphery, but a position of comparative and increasing privilege, had both the resources and the cultural and political motivation to invest in the art, architecture and design needed to negotiate these challenges. The question of what originated where or who influenced whom, identifying the significant versus the marginal is of comparatively little interest. The story of creative responses to the challenges of facing the modern world, some of which we still face, others of which have been overtaken by new challenges, is an ongoing and transnational one. What is important above all in this divided age is to clarify concepts so that we do not destroy each other with words whose content and truth value have not been tested. Instead we must unite all the forces that fundamentally seek the same ends and work together to create the culture that we need. (Åhrén et al. 2008, 338)

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Index Aalto, Aino 153–60 Aalto, Alvar 153–60, 172, 175, 184, 186, 189, 190 Aarhus High School Mural (Jorn) 178–82 Abstract Expressionism 196, 197 abstraction 165–6, 168, 179 Academy. See education acceptera 84, 102, 129, 131, 140, 142, 148, 177, 182, 183, 190 Åhrén, Uno 134, 140 America Abstract Expressionism 196, 197 Arts and Crafts 95 commissions 114 critics 94 Design in Scandinavia 186–7 emigration 22 Garden City 172 hotel architecture 191 magazines 184 military occupation 171 MOMA 186 New Art Circle 196, 197 shopping malls 175, 206 American Design for Home and Decorative Use (Nordic Countries) 187 Ant Chair (Jacobsen) 183–4, 186, 189, 193 architect. See Danish architects; Finnish architects; Icelandic architects; Norwegian architects; Swedish architects architecture Ateneum Building (Höijer) 32–5, 36, 37, 39, 81 Baltic Exhibition Pavilions Malmö (Boberg) 96–8 Church of Hallgrímur (Guðjón Samúelsson) 150–3

Copenhagen City Hall (Nyrop) 49–54, 90, 91, 94, 146, 194 Danish Pavilion, Paris 1925 (Fisker) 128–30, 189 Einar Jónsson Museum (Erlendsson and Jónsson) 110–19, 151 Finnish Pavilion, Paris 1900 (Gesellius, Lindgren, Saarinen) 67–9, 84, 85, 157, 158 Helsinki Railway Station (Saarinen) 84–8, 114, 134 Kulturhuset (Celsing) 205–10 Lund Cathedral Restoration (Zettervall) 8, 30–2, 114, 150, 162 Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition main pavilion building (Nyrop) 45–47 Oslo City Hall (Arneberg and Poulsson) 90, 91, 142–50 Parliament House, Reykjavik (Meldahl) 35–9 Pavillion L’esprite nouveau (Le Corbusier) 128–9, 189 Puu-Käpylä (Välikangas) 120–4, 173 SAS Hotel (Jacobsen) 189–94 Stockholm City Hall (Östberg) 89–95, 115, 124, 149, 160 Stockholm Exhibition (1930) apartments (Markelius) 138–40 Stockholm Exhibition (1930) pavilions (Asplund) 134–8 Swedish Pavilion, Paris (Bergsten) 124, 128 Tapiola Garden City 172–8 Thorvaldsen Museum (Copenhagen) 115, 117 University of Oslo (Schinkel and Grosch) 12–17, 35, 101 Vigeland Museum (Ree and Buch) 115–17

Index Villa Leveld (Munthe) 54–9 Villa Mairea (Aalto) 153–60, 193 Arneberg, Arnstein 142–50 Arp, Jean 158, 167 art. See mural; painting; sculpture; tapestry artist. See Danish artists; Finnish artists; Icelandic artists; Norwegian artists; Swedish artists Art Nouveau 43, 57, 59, 68, 72, 84, 85, 88, 89, 90 Central European 87 French 69, 70, 71, 76 Arts and Crafts American 95 English 6, 25, 53, 58, 95, 156 ethos 17, 72, 90, 92, 94, 124, 145, 148, 154–5, 180, 189 label 17, 126 See also Art Nouveau; craft; Norse Revival; National Romanticism; vernacular Art for Schools Association 161 Asian culture 42, 70, 77 Aspelin-Haapkylä, Eliel 68 Asplund, Gunnar 122, 134–42, 154 Associations (societies) Architectural Association (British) 94 Architectural Association (Finnish) 122, 172, 175 Architectural Association (Swedish) 122 Artists Association (Swedish) 41, 60, 63 Art for Schools Association (Finnish) 161 Art Society (Finland) 33–34, 41, 81, 82, 83 Association of Applied Arts (Danish) 186 Association of Applied Arts (Finnish) 186 Association of Applied Arts (Swedish) 186 Free Sculptors (Danish) 113 Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish) 25, 47, 58, 73, 74, 99, 137


Friends of Finnish Handicrafts 47, 59, 73 Icelandic Society for Cradt and Design 188 Industry Association (Malmö) 95 Industry Association (Copenhagen) 45 Norwegian Home Craft Association 74, 75, 147 Swedish Women’s Left Association 199 Tenants Savings & Building Society HSB (Swedish) 138 Ateneum Building (Höijer) 32–5, 36, 37, 39, 81 Ateneum (Finnish Art Society School) 24, 33–4, 35, 81 Aubert, Andreas 20, 148 Aurdal, Synnøve Anker 194, 202–5 The Awakening of Men in a Flood of Light, Spirits in a Flood of Light (Munch) 104 Baltic Exhibition (Malmö) 6, 95–100, 105, 125 main pavilion building (Boberg) 96–8 Bastien-Lepage, Jules 39–40 Bauhaus 133, 141, 159, 166 Beauty for All (Key) 58, 146, 154, 177, 186 Bergh, Richard 59–63, 66, 80, 81, 82, 98 Bergsten, Carl 124 Besant, Annie 119 Bindesbøll, Thorvald 70–2, 98, 180 Bing, Siegfried 44 Bing & Grøndahl 8, 42–4, 45, 46, 70, 99, 128, 149 Bissen, Wilhelm 112 Bjerke-Petersen, Vilhelm 166, 167 Boberg, Ferdinand 69, 96–8 Bolshevik Revolution 89, 135 Boy with a Crow (Gallen-Kallela) 39–41 Brecht, Bartolt 201 brick 15, 16, 34, 35, 37, 50–3, 90, 91, 93, 128, 145, 151, 152, 190 Brinckmann, Justus 44 Buch, Carl 110–19



carpet 47, 191, 192, 194, 203 Carson, Rachel L. 201 carvings 37, 52, 56, 200, 201 furniture 203 graphic style of 202 of stone 16 Celsing, Peter 205–10 ceramics 25, 77, 98, 99, 124, 128, 129, 180 Asian 42–4, 46, 70–1, 77, 157 German 99 Heron Service (Krohn) 42–3 Minerva Range (Gustavsberg) 77–9 Norse Revival vase (Malmström) 25–9 Oslo City Hall coffee service (Gulbrandson) 150 Churberg, Fanny 73 Church of Hallgrímur (Guðjón Samúelsson) 150–3 CIAM (Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne) 9, 154, 155, 175, 205 City Planning According to Artistic Principles (Sitte) 120 classical art 103 classical form 96, 144 classical palazzo tradition 208 classical style 14, 15, 102 Classicism 9, 196 Baltic Exhibition 95–100 Buch, Carl on 110–19 Erlendsson, Einar 110–19 European 15 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes 124–31 Hjertén, Sigrid 105–9 influence of 89 international language of 14 Jónsson, Einar 110–19 Munch, Edvard 100–5 Östberg, Ragnar 89–95 Ree, Lorentz 110–19 Välikangas, Martti 120–4 Classicist models 48 clay 180–1 Albisola 180 CoBrA 178, 197

Cold War 10, 171, 182, 197, 201 Communism 171 Continuation War in 1944, 171 Copenhagen City Hall (Nyrop) 49–54, 90, 91, 94, 146, 194 Copenhagen School of Technology 45, 64 Le Corbusier 128, 129, 133, 134, 140, 154, 179, 189 Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants 138, 175 Pavillion L’esprite nouveau (Paris) 128–9, 189 craft craftsmen 42, 53, 125, 188 Danish 50, 52, 70–2, 128, 178, 180–1, 186, 190–4 European 27 Finnish 155–60, 175, 184 heritage 22, 26, 58–9, 70, 73–5, 78, 99, 133, 135, 143, 185, 188 Norwegian 54–9, 116, 146–50, 202–5 representation of 66 Swedish 22, 25, 91–5, 99–100, 125–7, 141, 208 See also Arts and Crafts; Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish); Friends of Finnish Handicrafts; textiles; vernacular Cubism 109, 146, 147, 167 culture Asian 42, 70, 77 of Baltic 68 European art 67, 111 Finnish-language 33 pre-historic 30 Viking 30 Western 102 Dahl, Johan Christian 8, 17–22, 29, 40, 41, 46, 54, 55, 59, 64, 65, 80, 81 Dali, Salvator 167 Danish architects Fisker, Kay 128, 130, 189 Jacobsen, Arne 145, 183, 186, 189–94

Index Meldahl, Ferdinand 36–9 Nyrop, Martin 45–6, 49–54 artists Bjerke-Petersen, Vilhelm 166, 167 Gauguin, Jean 128 Jacobsen, Egill 166 Jensen-Klint, Peder Vilhelm 152, 153 Jorn, Asger 178–82, 194, 195, 202, 203 Krohg, Christian 146 Krohg, Per 146 Mortensen, Richard 166–9, 179–80 Nielsen, Kai 128 Skovgaard, Joakim 162 Thorvaldsen, Bertel 112, 115 Willumsen, Jens Ferdinand 63–7, 70, 79, 80, 97 designers Bindesbøll, Thorvald 70–2, 98, 180 Henningsen, Poul 128–30, 159, 190 Jensen, Georg 128 Juhl, Finn 183 Klint, Kaare 153 Krog, Arnold 45–6, 70, 71 Krohn, Pietro 42–6, 54, 70–2, 74, 75 Paulsson, Gregor 99, 100, 125, 127, 133–6, 140 Danish Pavilion, Paris 1925 (Fisker) 128–30, 189 Denmark, invasion of 171 Derkert, Siri 194, 198–202, 203 design competition 90–1 of exhibition grounds 96 government-funded scholarships 23 jewellery 148–9 in manufacturing 100 photography 183–4, 187 professionalization of 26 reform 27, 155 designers. See Danish designers; Finnish designers; Norwegian designers; Swedish designers


Design in Scandinavia (North America) 186–8 Deutsche Werkbund Exhibition 134 Disasters of War (Goya) 168 discourse 5, 26, 72, 91, 135, 140, 156 domestic environment 25, 57, 135, 138, 155, 157 Domus 184, 185 drawing architectural 48, 50 art 83, 166, 201 children’s 181 technical 129 training 13, 23, 24, 33, 81, 196 Edelfelt, Albert 39 education Académie Colarossi 81, 106 Académie de la Grande Chaumière 199 Académie Julian 41, 106 Académie Matisse 106 Academy, British 24 Academy, Copenhagen 12–14, 18, 23, 36, 38, 41, 42, 45, 47, 50, 64, 70, 80, 112, 128, 151, 162, 166, 178, 189, 196, 197 Academy, Dresden 18 Academy, Dusseldorf 27, 39 Academy, Oslo 146, 149 Academy, Paris 13 Academy, Stockholm 23, 24, 27, 31, 33, 34, 41, 60, 90, 107, 134, 199 Academy, St Petersburg 33 Ateneum (Finnish Art Society School) 24, 33–4, 35, 81 Bauhaus 133, 141, 159, 166 Copenhagen School of Technology 45, 64 Folk School 74 Fogelstad Women’s School 200 Free Artists’ Study School (Copenhagen) 64 Helsinki Technical University 34, 69, 85, 120, 154, 173, 175 Klara School (Stockholm) 134 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 172



Royal School of Drawing (Oslo) 13, 17, 24, 54, 143, 149 School of Applied Arts (Copenhagen) 42 School of Applied Arts (Helsinki) 34 School of Applied Arts (Reykjavik) 188, 197 School of Applied Arts (Stockholm) 106 School of Drawing and Applied Arts for Women (Copenhagen) 24 Stockholm Institute of Technology 90, 134, 143 Turku Drawing School 33 University of Helsinki 34 University of Oslo 13–14, 101, 102–3 Women’s Industrial School (Oslo) 24, 33–4, 35, 74, 81, 148, 202 Egg Chair (Jacobsen) 192–3 Einar Jónsson Museum (Erlendsson and Jónsson) 110–19, 151 Einstein, Albert 201 electricity 53, 86, 97, 129, 136 Ericsson, Henry 129–30 Erlendsson, Einar 110–19 Eruption (Nína Tryggvadóttir) 194–8 Ervi, Aarne 172–8 European civilization 111 European Expressionism 196 European Modernism 135, 136, 179 exhibition Aalto (New York) 159 American Design for the Home (Nordic Countries) 187 Ásgrímur Jónsson (Reykjavik) 80 Aurdal (Oslo) 202 Baltic (Malmö) 6, 95–100, 105, 125 CoBrA 178, 197 Derkert (Stockholm) 198, 202 Design in Scandinavia (North America) 186–8 The Eight (Stockholm) 106 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (Paris) 124–31, 133, 189 Expressionist Exhibition (Stockholm) 109

Finlandia Frescoes (Helsinki) 165 Formes Scandinaves (Paris) 188 From the Banks of the Seine (Paris) 41 H-55 (Helsingborg) 186 Linien 166–7, 168 Milan Triennale 159, 182–8 Munch (Oslo) 102, 104 New Art Circle 196, 197 Nína Tryggvadóttir (Reykjavik) 196, 198 Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition (Copenhagen) 6, 44–8, 49, 50, 64, 167 Norwegian Mural Art (Helsinki) 162 Opponents (Paris) 41 Paris Salon 60 Paris World’s Fair 1900 47, 67–77, 78, 96, 135 Salon d’Automne (Paris) 106, 138 Salon des Realités Nouvelles (Paris) 197 September Group (Reykjavik) 96 Stockholm 1897 57 Stockholm 1930 9, 133–42, 155, 174, 175, 208 Swedish Contemporary Decorative Arts (New York, Detroit, Chicago) 127 Turku 700th Anniversary 142 Vienna Secession 105 Þórarinn Þorláksson (Reykjavik) 79 Expressionism 100, 109, 196, 197 Fauves 106 Finland birth rate of 172 social policy through 1950s 172–3 Finland Awakes (Segerstråle) 162–3 Finland Builds (Segerstråle) 163–6 Finlandia Frescoes (Segerstråle) 160–6 Finnbogason, Guðmundur 110 Finnish architects Aalto, Aino 153–60 Aalto, Alvar 153–60, 172, 175, 184, 186, 189, 190 Ervi, Aarne 172–8 Frosterus, Sigurd 85–7 Gesellius, Hermann 84–7

Index Gripenberg, Sebastian 85 Höijer, Theodor 32–5 Lindgren, Armas 84–7 Saarinen, Eliel 68, 69, 84–7, 134, 156, 157, 173 Strengell, Gustaf 69, 85, 86 Välikangas, Martti 120–4, 154, 156 artists Churberg, Fanny 73 Edelfelt, Albert 39 Gallen-Kallela, Akseli 39–41, 54, 64, 70, 82, 98, 112, 156 Schjerfbeck, Helene 81–4, 110 Segerstråle, Lennart Rafaël 162–5, 168, 169 Söderstrand, Carl Gustaf 33 Sparre, Louis 122 designers Ericsson, Henry 129–30 Wirkkala, Tapio 183–4, 187 Finnish-language culture 33 Finnish Pavilion, Paris 1900 (Gesellius, Lindgren, Saarinen) 67–9, 84, 85, 157, 158 fire-proofing 38 Fisker, Kay 128, 130, 189 Fogelstad Women’s School (Swedish) 200 Folk School 74 Formes Scandinaves (Paris) 188 Free Artists’ Study School (Danish) 64 Free Sculptors (Danish) 113 French Arp, Jean 158, 167 cultural influence 13, 23, 26, 48, 66, 69, 70, 76, 106, 111, 131, 158 education in 39, 69, 82, 98, 106, 146 in exhibition 47–8, 167 Grez-sur-Loing 60 Léger, Ferdinand 158, 179, 196 Marseillaise 201 Naturalism 39–41, 54, 60, 82, 98, 112 Rodin, Auguste 112, 119 Seuphor, Michel 195, 196 tapestry 73 texts in 127, 128, 201


Viollet-le-Duc, Eugene-Emmanuel 31 See also Paris Friedrich, Caspar David 18 Friends of Finnish Handicrafts 47, 59, 73 Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish) 25, 47, 58, 73, 74, 99, 137 Frithjof’s Saga (Tegnér) 27 From the Banks of the Seine and the Opponents (Paris) 41 Frosterus, Sigurd 85–7 Functionalism 135. See also Modernism furniture 42, 54, 56, 57, 59, 99, 116, 124, 129, 131, 140, 148, 158, 159, 174, 183, 189–91, 194, 203 Ant Chair (Jacobsen) 183–4, 186, 189, 193 Egg Chair (Jacobsen) 192–3 Gallen-Kallela, Akseli 39–41, 54, 64, 70, 82, 98, 112, 156 garden city 120, 123, 172–4, 177 Gate, Simon 125–6 Gauguin, Jean 128 Gauguin, Paul 64 genre painting, European tradition of 23 geometric modernism 179–80 German Academy, Dresden 18 Academy, Dusseldorf 27, 39 Altes Museum (Berlin) 16 art world 20, 57, 59, 102, 111, 167, 188 Bauhaus Bing, Siegfried 44 Brecht, Bartolt 201 Brinckmann, Justus 44 cultural influence 14, 48, 52, 70, 127, 131 Deutsche Werkbund Exhibition 134 Einstein, Albert 201 Goethe, Johan Wolfgang von 30 gothic architecture 20, 31, 92 Hofmann, Hans 196 in exhibition 47, 96, 98–9 mobilization of art and mythology by 179



Museum of Applied Art (Hamburg) 44, 76 nationalism 14 Nazis 167 Nietzsche, Friedrich 67 origins (personal) 13 Romanticism 18, 39, 54 Schinkel, Carl Fredrik 12–17 technical innovations 16 territorial acquisitions (Danish) 7 texts in 113, 127, 201 van der Rohe, Mies 134, 137, 140, 158 Walter, Arthur 34 Gesellius, Hermann 84–7 Giedion, Sigfried 154, 155, 158, 184 Girl with an Orange (Lindegren) 24 glass in architecture 45, 51–2, 86, 89, 128, 136–40, 160, 175, 180, 190–3, 206–8 in art 204 Danish 42, 194 exhibition 77, 99, 124, 129, 131, 183, 186 Finnish 130, 160, 162, 183 Kuutonen bowl (Wirkkala) 183 mosaic 93–4 Norwegian 59, 148, 185, 198 Orrefors 125–7, 131 Paris Trophy (Gate) 125–7 PH Lamp (Henningsen) 128–9, 159 stained glass 129, 162, 164, 198, 203 Goethe, Johan Wolfgang von 30 Gordon, Elizabeth 186, 187 Gothic Revival 17 government-funded scholarships 23 Gripenberg, Sebastian 85 Grøndahl, Frederik Vilhelm 42 Gropius, Walter 134, 154 Grosch, Christian 12–17, 101 Grosch, Heinrich August 13 Grünewald, Isaac 98, 105–10, 146 Grünewald, Iván 107 Guernica (Picasso) 168, 179 Gulbrandsen, Nora 150 Gummerus, H.O. 186 Gustavsberg, A. B. 8, 25–9, 77–9, 137, 142

Hansen, Frida 72–7, 81, 99, 202, 203 Hansen, Fritz 190, 193–4 Heikel, Axel Olai 157 Helsinki Railway Station (Saarinen) 84–8, 114, 134 Helsinki Technical University 34, 69, 85, 120, 154, 173, 175 Henningsen, Poul 128–30, 159, 190 Herder, Johann Gottfried von 14, 20 Heron Service (Krohn) 42–3 Hertzen, Heikki von 172–4 Historicism 26, 34, 37, 46, 86, 88, 96, 133 History (Munch) 103 Hjertén, Sigrid 98, 99, 105–9, 110, 146 Hofmann, Hans 196 Höijer, Theodor 32–5 Homes or Barracks for Our Children (Hertzen) 172, 177 housing 120, 138–9, 172 development 120 Howard, Ebenezer 120 Hübsch, Heinrich 14 Iceland architects Erlendsson, Einar 110–19 Samúelsson, Guðjón 151–3 artists Jónsson, Ásgrímur 79–81, 119, 196 Jónsson, Einar 110–19, 151, 196 Tryggvadóttir, Nína 194–8, 202, 204 Þorláksson, Þórarinn 79, 80 design sector in 188 domestic architecture to 151–2 human settlement of 204 invasion of Denmark 171 Society for Craft and Design 188 Independence Finland 7, 33, 89, 121 Iceland 36, 79, 171 Norway 142 Industry Association (Malmö) 95 Industry Association (Copenhagen) 45 industrialization 25 Interiors 184

Index International Art Exhibition–Cubism– Surrealism (Bjerke-Petersen) 167 Italy 23, 42, 112, 123, 134, 146, 164, 178 housing problem in 182 Jacobsen, Arne 145, 183, 186, 189–94 Jacobsen, Carl 48 Jacobsen, Egill 166 Japanese design 42–4, 46, 71, 157 Jensen, Georg 128 Jensen-Klint, Peder Vilhelm 152, 153 Jensen Rådvard, Alfred 151 jewellery design 148–9 Johansson, Gotthard 187 Jónsson, Ásgrímur 79–81, 119, 196 Jónsson, Einar 110–19, 151, 196 Einar Jónsson Museum 113–15, 117, 151 Jorn, Asger 178–82, 194, 195, 202, 203 Jotunheim (Willumsen) 63–7 Juhl, Finn 183 Kandinsky, Wassily 98, 166, 178 Kaufmann, Edgar 186, 187 Key, Ellen 58, 59, 61, 100, 123, 136, 140, 177, 193 Kierkegaard, Søren 67 Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig 98 Klara School (Stockholm) 134 Klee, Paul 166, 167 Klint, Kaare 153 Kollwitz, Käthe 98 Korhonen, Otto 159, 190 Korsmo, Arne 185 Krog, Arnold 45–6, 70, 71 Krohg, Christian 146 Krohg, Per 146 Krohn, Pietro 42–6, 54, 70–2, 74, 75 Kulturhuset (Celsing) 205–10 lamps 87, 116, 128–30, 159, 185 landscape 97, 104, 118, 152. See also nature Boy with a Crow (Gallen-Kallela) 39–41 drawing from 20, 33


Eruption (Tryggvadóttir) 194–8 Finlandia Frescoes (Segerstråle) 160–6 French Naturalism 40, 54, 60 German Romanticism 18, 39, 54 Mount Tindafjöll (Ásgrímur Jónsson) 79–81 national 16, 41, 47, 55, 59, 62, 80 Nordic Summer Evening (Bergh) 59–63 photography 47, 183 Space and Word (Aurdal) 202–5 University murals (Munch) 100–5, 117 Winter at the Sognefjord (Dahl) 17–21, 65 Larsson, Carl 55, 57–9, 63 Léger, Ferdinand 158, 179, 196 Lindegren, Amalia 21–5, 26, 39, 40, 55, 56, 64 Lindgren, Armas 84–7 Linien 166–8, 178 Lund Cathedral Restoration (Zettervall) 8, 30–2, 114, 150, 162 Magritte, René 167 Maholy-Nage, László 158 Malmö Exhibition (1914) 6, 95–100, 105, 125 pavilion buildings (Boberg) 96–8 Malmström, August 25–9 marble 16, 35, 53, 94, 104, 115, 119, 145, 147, 191–4 Markelius, Sven 122, 138–40, 154, 156 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 172 Medievalism Danish 49, 53 European 105, 120 Finnish 68, 87–8, 114, 157 Norwegian 54, 57, 73, 143 Swedish 30–2, 91–3, 96 See also Norse Revival and Norwegian textile revival Meldahl, Ferdinand 36–9 Metropolitan [MET] (New York) 202 Milan Triennale Exhibition 159, 182–8 The Milky Way (Hansen) 72–9, 99 Million Homes programme 208


Minerva Range (Gustavsberg) 77–9 Modern design dissemination of 133–4 presentation, mediation and performance of 182 Modernism 3–5 Aalto, Aino 153–60 Aalto, Alvar 153–60 aesthetic style and 140 Arneberg, Arnstein 142–50 challenges of 182 emerging forms of 134 histories of 1, 2–3 ideas of 154–5 international 128, 155 Mortensen, Richard 166–9 Poulsson, Magnus 142–50 Segerstråle, Lennart 160–6 Stockholm Exhibition 133–42 urban-centric principles of 173–4 white walls of 157 Modernist form in architecture 165–6 Mortensen, Richard 166–9,179–80 mosaic 93–4 Mount Tindafjöll (Ásgrímur Jónsson) 79–81 Munch, Edvard 100–5, 112, 146, 153, 164 Munthe, Gerhard 9, 54–9, 63, 73, 76, 102, 116, 202, 203 mural Aarhus High School Mural (Jorn) 178–82 in art history 195 Danish 52, 178–82 Diego Rivera 146 European 105 Finlandia Frescoes (Segerstråle) 160–6 Finnish 129, 161–66, 173 Guernica (Picasso) 168, 179 History (Munch) 103 Norwegian 100–5, 117, 148, 161–2, 165, 179, 203 The Sun (Munch) 103, 104 Swedish 200–2 Working Norway: From the Drift Nets to the Forests of the East (Rolfsen) 146–7 See also public art

Index Museum Altes (Berlin) 16 of Applied Art (Copenhagen) 44, 45, 70–1 of Applied Art (Hamburg) 44, 76 of Applied Art (Trondheim) 44 of Art (Gothenburg) 63 Einar Jónsson (Reykjavik) 113–15, 117, 151 Historical (Stockholm) 23 Metropolitan [MET] (New York) 202 of Modern Art [MOMA] (New York) 159, 186, 188 of Modern Art (Stockholm) 202 National Gallery (Oslo) 205 National Gallery (Stockholm) 24 National (Reykjavik) 38 National (Stockholm) 77, 126 Nordic (Stockholm) 24, 27 Seurasaari open-air (Helsinki) 157 Skansen open-air (Stockholm) 24, 27, 99 Thorvaldsen (Copenhagen) 115, 117 Vigeland Museum (Oslo) 115–17 national identity 7, 11, 14, 16, 18, 24, 27, 29, 30, 44, 46, 55, 80, 81, 160, 198 National Gallery (Oslo) 205 National Gallery (Stockholm) 24 National Museum (Stockholm) 77, 126 National Museum (Reykjavik) 38 National Romanticism 17, 19, 21, 27, 59, 69, 84, 88–90, 110, 119, 134, 142, 155, 161 Naturalism 109, 113, 168 French 39–41, 54, 60, 82, 98, 112 nature architecture and 54, 156–58 Danish 191, 193 Finnish 39, 41, 68–9, 84, 155, 157–61, 165, 172, 174, 177, 183, 184 forms inspired by 71, 84, 88, 99, 127, 152–3 Icelandic 80–1, 195, 198 landscape 17, 41, 65, 98, 107, 111, 195, 198 Nordic 72

Index Norwegian 17–20, 65, 104 See also landscape Nazis 167 mobilization of art and mythology by 179 New Art Circle Gallery 196–7 Nielsen, Kai 128 Nietzsche, Friedrich 67 Nordic Council in 1952 171 Nordic Industrial, Agricultural and Art Exhibition (Copenhagen) 6, 44–8, 49, 50, 64, 167 main pavilion building (Nyrop) 45–7 Nordic Museum (Stockholm) 24, 27 Nordic Summer Evening (Bergh) 59–63 Norrmalm redevelopment 205–7, 209 Norse Revival 27, 29, 56, 57, 77, 157 Norse Revival vase (Malmström) 25–9 North Atlantic strategic defence force 171 Norwegian architects Arneberg, Arnstein 142–50 Buch, Carl 110–19 Grosch, Christian 12–17, 101 Korsmo, Arne 185 Poulsson, Magnus 142–50 Ree, Lorentz 110–19 artists Aurdal, Synnøve Anker 194, 202–5 Bissen, Wilhelm 112 Dahl, Johan Christian Grosch, Heinrich August 13 Hansen, Frida 72–7, 81, 99, 202, 203 Munch, Edvard 100–5, 112, 146, 153, 164 Munthe, Gerhard 9, 54–9, 63, 73, 76, 102, 116, 202, 203 Revold, Axel 146 Rolfsen, Alf 146 Ryggen, Hannah 185, 203 Sinding, Stephan 112 Vigeland, Gustav 102, 110–19, 144, 164 designers Gulbrandsen, Nora 150


Norwegian Home Craft Association 74, 75, 147 Norwegian National Gallery 205 Norwegian textile revival 148, 203 Nyrop, Martin 45–6, 49–54 oil 64, 83, 209 operatic music dramas 52 Orrefors 125–7, 137 Oslo City Hall (Arneberg and Poulsson) 90, 91, 142–50 Östberg, Ragnar 89–95, 125, 134, 142, 144, 146 Östermalmstorg Mural (Derkert) 198–202 painting Boy with a Crow (Gallen-Kallela) 39–41 Eruption (Nína Tryggvadóttir) 194–8 Finlandia Frescoes (Segerstråle) 160–6 Girl with an Orange (Lindegren) 24 Guernica (Picasso) 168, 179 History (Munch) 103 Jotunheim (Willumsen) 63–7 Mount Tindafjöll (Ásgrímur Jónsson) 79–81 Nordic Summer Evening (Bergh) 59–63 The Seamstress (The Working Woman) Schjerfbeck 81–4 Studio (Hjertén) 9, 105–9 The Sun (Munch) 103, 104 Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage (Lindegren) 21–5, 40 Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud (Mortensen) 166–9 Winter at the Sognefjord (Dahl) 17–21, 65 Working Norway: From the Drift Nets to the Forests of the East (Rolfsen) 146–7 Paris Académie Colarossi 81, 106 Académie de la Grande Chaumière 199 Académie Julian 41, 106 Académie Matisse 106



education in 23–4, 41, 42, 54, 60, 64, 66–7, 81–2, 100, 107, 109, 112, 146, 166, 178–9, 194, 196–7, 199 European art centre 1, 6, 39, 41, 47–8, 64 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (Paris) 124–31, 133, 189 Formes Scandinaves 188 From the Banks of the Seine 41 Opponents (Paris) 41 Paris Salon 60 psychology 62 Salon d’Automne (Paris) 106, 138 Salon des Realités Nouvelles (Paris) 197 World’s Fair (1867) 26 World’s Fair (1878) 42, 44 World’s Fair (1889) 47 World’s Fair (1900) 47, 67–77, 78, 96, 135 See also France Paris Trophy (Gate) 125–7 Parliament House, Reykjavik (Meldahl) 35–9 Paulsson, Gregor 99, 100, 125, 127, 133–6, 140 PH Lamp (Henningsen) 128–9, 159 photography architecture 94, 95, 114 art 158, 181, 201 design 183–4, 187 landscape 47, 183 portrait 108 porcelain 25, 26, 29, 42, 46, 78, 149 postwar modern 171 Aurdal, Synnøve Anker 202–5 Celsing, Peter 205–10 Derkert, Siri 198–202 Ervi, Aarne 172–8 Jacobsen, Arne 189–94 Jorn, Asger 178–82 Milan Triennale Exhibition 182–8 Tryggvadóttir, Nína 194–8 Poulsen, Louis 129, 190 Poulsson, Magnus 142–50 Przybyszewski, Stanislaw 113

public art 32, 101, 102, 150, 160–2, 166, 182, 195, 199–200 Aarhus High School Mural (Jorn) 178–82 Church of Hallgrímur (Guðjón Samúelsson) 150–3 Copenhagen City Hall (Nyrop) 49–54 Einar Jónsson Museum (Reykjavik) 113–15, 117, 151 Finlandia Frescoes (Segerstråle) 160–6 Museum of Art (Gothenburg) 63 Oslo City Hall (Arneberg and Poulsson) 142–50 Östermalmstorg Mural (Derkert) 198–202 Space and Word (Aurdal) 202–5 Stockholm City Hall (Östberg) 89–95 Thorvaldsen (Copenhagen) 115, 117 University of Oslo murals (Munch) 100–5, 117 Vigeland Museum (Oslo) 115–117 Puu-Käpylä (Välikangas) 120–4, 173 Råvad, Alfred Jensen 151 Ree, Lorentz 110–19 Rest (Jónsson) 117–18 Revold, Axel 146 Riihimäki glass factory 130–1 Rodin, Auguste 112, 119 Rolfsen, Alf 146 Royal Copenhagen 42, 45, 46, 70, 99, 128, 149 Royal School of Drawing (Oslo) 13, 17, 24, 54, 143, 149 Ryggen, Hannah 185, 203 Saarinen, Eliel 68, 69, 84–7, 134, 156, 157, 173 Samúelsson, Guðjón 151–3 SAS Hotel (Jacobsen) 189–94 ‘Scandinavian design’ 124, 182, 185– 6, 188, 190. See also Design in Scandinavia Schinkel, Carl Fredrik 12–17 Schjerfbeck, Helene 81–4, 110 School. See education

Index Schou, Philip 45 sculpture antique 13, 33 architectural 16, 35, 93 in art 109 in exhibition 48, 113, 195 Gauguin, Jean 128 Jónsson, Einar 110–19, 151, 196 memorial 161 Nielsen, Kai 128 Rest (Jónsson) 117–18 Sinding, Stephan 112 Thorvaldsen, Bertel 112, 115 Vigeland, Gustav 102, 110–19, 144, 164 The Seamstress (The Working Woman) Schjerfbeck 81–4 Segerstråle, Lennart Rafaël 162–5, 168, 169 Seuphor, Michel 195, 196 Seurasaari open-air (Helsinki) 157 Sibelius, Jean 165 silverware 42, 131, 185 Jensen, Georg 128 Juhl, Finn 183 Michelsen beakers (Bindesbøll) 70–2 Oslo City Hall 148–9 SAS Hotel (Jacobsen) 194 Sinding, Stephan 112 Sitte, Camillo 120 skaldic tradition 110, 119, 204 Skansen open-air (Stockholm) 24, 27, 99 Skovgaard, Joakim 162 Social Democratic movement 135 societies. See associations Söderstrand, Carl Gustaf 33 Space and Word (Aurdal) 202–5 Sparre, Louis 122 Sports Exhibition in Berlin 1907 96 stained glass 203 Stockholm City Hall (Östberg) 89–95, 115, 124, 149, 160 Stockholm Exhibition (1930) 133–42, 174, 206, 208 Stockholm Institute of Technology 90, 134, 143


stone 16, 37, 38, 63, 69, 87–8, 92, 93 St Petersburg Exhibition of Applied Art in 1908 96 Strengell, Gustaf 69, 85, 86 Studio (Hjertén) 9, 105–9 The Sun (Munch) 103, 104 Sunday Evening in a Dalarna Cottage (Lindegren) 21–5, 40 Surrealism 166–8, 179 Swedish architects Åhrén, Uno 134, 140 Asplund, Gunnar 122, 134–42, 154 Bergsten, Carl 124 Boberg, Ferdinand 69, 96–8 Celsing, Peter 205–10 Markelius, Sven 122, 138–40, 154, 156 Östberg, Ragnar 89–95, 125, 134, 142, 144, 146 Zettervall, Helgo 29–32 artists Bergh, Richard 59–63, 66, 80, 81, 82, 98 Derkert, Siri 194, 198–202, 203 Grünewald, Isaac 98, 105–10, 146 Hjertén, Sigrid 98, 99, 105–9, 110, 146 Larsson, Carl 55, 57–9, 63 Lindegren, Amalia 21–5, 26, 39, 40, 55, 56, 64 Malmström, August 25–9 designers Gate, Simon 125–6 Swedish Contemporary Decorative Arts (New York, Detroit, Chicago) 127 Swedish Pavilion, Paris (Bergsten) 124, 128 Swedish Women’s Left Association 199 symbolism 37, 49, 50 Symbolism 64, 98, 101, 145 Tapiola Central Tower (Ervi) 176 Tapiola Garden City 172–8 Tegnér, Esaias 27



Tenants Savings & Building Society HSB (Swedish) 138 textiles Danish 42, 52, 74–5, 180, 191, 194 Finnish 47, 183 The Milky Way (Hansen) 72–9, 99 Norwegian 54–5, 72–7, 116, 147–8, 185, 202–5 Space and Word (Aurdal) 202–5 Swedish 22–3, 25, 57–8, 92, 99, 106, 124, 140–1 See also craft; Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish); Friends of Finnish Handicrafts; carpet; vernacular tiles 180 Thorvaldsen, Bertel 112, 115 Thorvaldsen Museum (Copenhagen) 115, 117 Tryggvadóttir, Nína 194–8, 202, 204 Turin Exhibition of Applied Art (1902) 96 Turku Anniversary exhibition (1929) 142 Turku Drawing School 33 University of Helsinki 34 University of Oslo 13–14, 101, 102–3 University of Oslo murals (Munch) 100–5, 117 University of Oslo (Schinkel and Grosch) 12–17, 35, 101 Välikangas, Martti 120–4, 154, 156 van der Rohe, Mies 134, 137, 140, 158 Vernacular 153, 156–7, 160 architecture 20, 45–7, 123, 134, 141, 143, 152 culture 17, 23–4, 58, 88, 143 Italian 123 See also Arts and Crafts; crafts; Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish); Friends of Finnish Handicrafts Vienna Secession 105 Vigeland, Gustav 102, 110–19, 144, 164 Vigeland Museum (Ree and Buch) 115–17 Villa Leveld (Munthe) 54–9

Villa Mairea (Aalto) 153–60, 193 Viollet-le-Duc, Eugene-Emmanuel 31 Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud (Mortensen) 166–9 Walter, Arthur 34 watercolours 56–7 Wettergren, Erik 99, 100, 125, 127 Willumsen, Jens Ferdinand 63–7, 70, 79, 80, 97 Winter at the Sognefjord (Dahl) 17–21, 65 Winter War 162, 165, 173 Wirkkala, Tapio 183–4, 187 women Aalto, Aino 153–60 Aurdal, Synnøve Anker 194, 202–5 barrier to professional practice 73–5, 82, 107, 205 Besant, Annie 119 Carson, Rachel L. 201 Churberg, Fanny 73 Derkert, Siri 194, 198–202, 203 and the domestic environment 58, 139–40 education of 23, 24, 72–75 Friends of Handicrafts (Swedish) 25, 47, 58, 73, 74, 99, 137 Friends of Finnish Handicrafts 47, 59, 73 Gordon, Elizabeth 186, 187 Gulbrandsen, Nora 150 Hansen, Frida 72–7, 81, 99, 202, 203 Hjertén, Sigrid 98, 99, 105–9, 110, 146 Key, Ellen 58, 59, 61, 100, 123, 136, 140, 177, 193 Kollwitz, Käthe 98 Lindegren, Amalia 21–5, 26, 39, 40, 55, 56, 64 representation in art 61–2, 66, 82–4, 104, 108–9, 163–4, 201 Schjerfbeck, Helene 81–4, 110 Tryggvadóttir, Nína 194–8, 202, 204 Women’s Industrial School (Oslo) 24, 33–4, 35, 74, 81, 148, 202 women’s movement 60, 97–8, 199–200

Index Working Norway: From the Drift Nets to the Forests of the East (Rolfsen) 146–7 Yerbury, Francis Rowland 95

Zettervall, Helgo 29–32 Þorláksson, Þórarinn 79, 80


Plate 1   Johan Christian Dahl, Winter at the Sognefjord, oil on canvas, 1827. © National Museum of Norway/Jacques Lathion.

Plate 2   Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Boy with a Crow, oil on canvas, 1879–81. © Finnish National Gallery/Yehia Eweis.

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Plate 3   Gerhard Munthe, Villa Leveld, Lysaker, watercolour, 1898–99. © National Museum of Norway.

Plate 4   J. F. Willumsen, Jotunheim, oil on canvas, zinc and enamel friezes, original frame, 1892–03. © J.F. Willumsen Museum/Anders Sune Berg (152 × 275,5 × 13 cm).

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Plate 5   Frida Hansen, The Milky Way, tapestry, 1898. ©Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

Plate 6   Ásgrímur Jónsson, Mount Tindafjöll, oil on canvas, 1903–04. © National Gallery of Iceland/Guðmundur Ingólfsson.

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Plate 7   Helene Schjerfbeck, The Seamstress (The Working Woman), oil on canvas, 1905. © Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen.

Plate 8   Edvard Munch, The Sun, Murals for University of Oslo Assembly Hall, 1916.

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Plate 9   Sigrid Hjertén, Studio, oil on canvas, 1917. © Modernamuseet.

Plate 10   Alf Rolfsen, Working Norway: From the Drift Nets to the Forests of the East, fresco, Oslo City Hall, 1938–42.

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Plate 11   Alvar Aalto, Villa Mairea, Noormarkku, 1938–39.

Plate 12   Richard Mortensen, Vision: Painting for Arthur Rimbaud, oil on canvas, 1944.

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Plate 13   Asger Jorn, Mural, central section, Aarhus High School, ceramic, 1952–70.

Plate 14   Norwegian Exhibition, Milan Triennale, 1953, Domus, no. 300, 1954.

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Plate 15   Nína Tryggvadóttir, Eruption, oil on canvas, 1964.

Plate 16   Synnøve Anker Aurdal, Space and Words, tapestry, 1977.

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