Akseli Gallen Kallela Finland
4-26-1865 Pori, FIN – 3-7-1931 Stockholm, SWEBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Akseli Gallen-Kallela was born Axel Waldemar Gallén in Pori, Finland in a Swedish-speaking family. At the age of 11 he was sent to Helsinki to study at a grammar school, because his father opposed his ambition to become a painter. After his father's death in 1879, Gallen-Kallela attended drawing classes at the Finnish Art Society and studied privately under Adolf von Becker.
In 1884 he moved to Paris, to study at the Académie Julian. In Paris he became friends with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt and the Norwegian painter Adam Dörnberger.
He married Mary Slöör in 1890. On their honeymoon to East Karelia, Akseli Gallen-Kallela started collecting material for his depictions of the Kalevala (a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology). This period is characterized by romantic paintings of the Kalevala, like the Aino triptych, and by several landscape paintings.
In December 1894, Akseli Gallen-Kallela moved to Berlin to oversee the joint exhibition of his works with the works of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Here he became acquainted with the Symbolists.
In March 1895, his daughter Impi Marjatta had died from diphtheria. This would prove to be a turning point in his work. While his works had previously been romantic, after his daughter's death Gallen-Kallela painted more aggressive works like the Defense of the Sampo, Joukahainen's Revenge, Kullervo Cursing and Lemminkäinen's Mother.
On his return from Germany, Gallen studied print-making and visited London to deepen his knowledge, and in 1898 studied fresco-painting in Italy.
For the Paris World Fair in 1900, Akseli Gallen-Kallela painted frescoes for the Finnish Pavilion. In these frescoes, his political ideas became most apparent. One of the vipers in the fresco Ilmarinen Plowing the Field of Vipers is wearing the Romanov crown, and the process of removing the vipers from the field was a clear reference to his wish for an independent Finland.
The Paris Exposition secured Gallen-Kallela's stature as the leading Finnish artist.
Gallen-Kallela officially changed his name to the more Finnish-sounding Akseli Gallen-Kallela in 1907.
In 1909, Gallen-Kallela moved to Nairobi in Kenya with his family, and there he painted over 150 expressionist oil-paintings and bought many east African artifacts. But he returned to Finland after a couple of years, because he realized Finland was his main inspiration.
In 1918, Gallen-Kallela and his son Jorma took part in the fighting at the front of the Finnish Civil War. When the regent, General Mannerheim, later heard about this, he invited Gallen-Kallela to design the flags, official decorations and uniforms for the newly independent Finland.
From December 1923 to May 1926, Akseli Gallen-Kallela lived in the United States, where an exhibition of his work toured several cities, and where he visited the Taos art-colony in New Mexico to study indigenous American art.
Movement: Symbolism, Realism
Influences: Adolf von Becker
Traveled: France, Germany, England, Italy, Kenya, USA, Denmark