Choose from a selected group of artists represented in the exhibition A Mirror of Nature: Nordic Landscape Painting 1840-1910.
Vyborg 1863 - Helsinki 1937, Finnish
Eero Järnefelt was born in Vyborg into the family of Lieutenant-General Alexander Järnefelt. His mother, Elisabeth Clodt von Jörgensburg, belonged to a noble family in St Petersburg, and some of her close relatives were also artists.
In 1870, the family moved to Helsinki where in addition to his schooling, Eero Järnefelt studied at the drawing school of the Finnish Art Society in 1874 and 1878. Between 1883-86 he studied at the St Petersburg Academy of Art. In those days it was very rare for a Finnish artist to go to St Petersburg to study, but it was a natural choice for Järnefelt given his family background.
Järnefelt continued his art studies in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1886-88, and also in 1889 and 1890-91. At the end of the 1880s, he spent a great deal of time in Paris with Akseli Gallen-Kallela. They were united by the notion of a Finnish national identity and the desire to create original Finnish art based on the naturalism of the time. Järnefelt travelled to Italy in 1894 and 1897 to study the art of the Early Renaissance.
Järnefelt's early outstanding works Savo Boat (1888), A July Day (1891) and The Wage Slaves (1893) all depict Finns living in the countryside amid the landscapes and natural conditions that governed their lives.
Järnefelt was influenced by both his studies in St Petersburg and the family's strong idealism. The family home became a meeting place for the young intelligensia thanks to Elisabeth Järnefelt's enthusiasm for the notion of a Finnish national identity. The "Järnefelt school" as the circle was called, included, in addition to Järnefelt's siblings, the writers Juhani Aho and Minna Canth, with whom Eero Järnefelt had been in frequent contact when he lived in Kuopio between 1884-88, and many others. The circle discussed such topics as Russian and Scandinavian literature. The group's thinking was coloured by the idealistic notion that art could be transformed and could reform society by turning towards reality. Juhani Aho's breakthrough work Rautatie ("The Railway"; 1884) took final shape in Järnefelt's circle, which is also where the idea behind setting up the pro-Finnish newspaper Päivälehti was established. The paper together with its literary Christmas album Nuori Suomi attracted the key driving forces behind Finnish art. Eero Järnefelt was involved with illustrating the album and his works were published as pictures on its pages.
In 1892, Eero Järnefelt travelled to Koli in Northern Karelia for the first time. In the same year, both Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Jean Sibelius made their first trips to Karelia. For Järnefelt, the hills at Koli became a place of pilgrimage for his painting and artistic quest right up until his last years.
The Järnefelt family's villa at Suviranta in Tuusula was completed in 1901; Juhani Aho, Pekka Halonen and Jean Sibelius also lived nearby. Järnefelt worked from 1902-28 as a teacher in the art room at the University of Helsinki.
After the 1890s, Järnefelt's naturalistic depiction of the life of the people gave way to detailed depictions of scenery and natural landscapes. Järnefelt also painted a large number of portraits, both keenly observed pictures of his intimate circle, and later more and more commissioned portraits of prominent people.