Winter Classic:

Carl-Gustaf Lilius



This year’s artist in Galleria Elverket’s Winter Classic exhibition series is Carl-Gustaf Lilius (1928-1998). Like the previous Winter Classics the exhibition puts the spotlight on a modern classic figure: a multi-faceted, unorthodox individual, whose means of expression included writing, drawing, sculpting, painting and conversation. Lilius was one of the most important dissidents of the era of ‘Finlandization’, who spoke out on behalf of human rights and protested against totalitarianism. His article about self-censorship is still topical, even if it was published in the 1970s. This exhibition fits in with Elverket’s theme for the whole year, which is the social, which we have adopted to celebrate Finnish civil society as it reaches its centenary.

Lilius initially studied at the University of Helsinki in 1946-1949 and then at the School of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland, graduating from the sculpture course in 1952. He was active as an artist and opinion former right up until his death. Lilius’s production is exceptionally large and comprises more than 60,000 works. The majority of these are drawings, all of them dated and signed. The gamut of Lilius’s visual-art expression also includes graphic art, collages, paintings and sculptures. The best-known aspect of the artist’s career is his depictions of women, which he often referred to in interviews by saying how, for him, the female body represented a kind of perfection.

The exhibition presents various facets and periods of Lilius’s output. At the same time, viewers can be struck by the way this classically trained artist also made ingenious use of recycled materials, and how he found endless new variations on his favourite themes, such as portraits of women, self-portrait-like faces, and people in general. The exhibition also presents the artist’s literary career, showing him both as engaging in conversation on social matters and as a personality. This is also the first time that Pro Artibus is showing the art of Lilius, who did the main part of his life’s work in Hanko, on such a broad scale. The exhibition opens up views onto how consistent a defender of human rights Lilius was, when speaking on behalf of refugees, or when opposing China’s occupation of Tibet, when he criticized the Soviet Union’s human-rights violations, and when he contemplated in images and words what it means to be human.

Lilius’s works are in numerous public collections including those of the Amos Anderson Art Museum, Åland Art Museum, HAM, Pori Art Museum and Tampere Art Museum. His public sculptures include The Bird and Lenore in Hanko, Cordula in the courtyard of the Society of Swedish Literature in Helsinki, and Bird Woman in Vaasa. Lilius’s essays, opinion pieces and poems have been in print since the 1960s. The exhibition coincides with the publication of an essay about Carl-Gustaf Lilius by curator Mika Hannula, PhD, in which he considers the significance, then and now, of the work of this artist, who he knew personally. This exhibition continues Pro Artibus Foundation’s presentation of Finland-Swedish modernist artists, and highlights the importance of opinion formers both in recent history and in the present.

A seminar is being held in conjunction with the exhibition in Hanko and Ekenäs on April 22–23. The seminar is arranged in collaboration with the Carl-Gustaf Lilius Foundation.


The Winter Classic exhibition is at Gallery Elverket 28.1-7.5.2017. It will be officially opened on Friday, January 27 at 18:00-20:00, by the new Chair of the Board of the Pro Artibus Foundation Astrid Thors.