Gallery Elverket’s 2018 Winter Classic exhibition is showing the work of Eva Törnwall-Collin (1896-1982). The exhibition has its starting points in the works in the Pro Artibus Foundation Collection, which have just been conserved. In spring 2017, some of them were shown for the first time in more than 30 years at Helsinki Art Museum, HAM. The exhibition is part of the Pro Artibus Foundation’s series by classic Finnish-Swedish modernist artists.
The background to the exhibition is the greatly increased interest in women artists seen over recent decades. This has been strongly influenced by art-history research, which has led to many artists who had been consigned to obscurity and oblivion because of their gender being lifted out of the shadows of history. Eva Törnwall-Collin is one of them. Her art was compared, usually unfavourably, with that of her husband, Marcus Collin, and Törnwall-Collin was seen as a highly unoriginal, poorer-quality artist.
Fortunately, Eva Törnwall-Collin was able to get revenge on her critics during her lifetime, initially when she came third in the Finnish National Theatre’s monumental-painting competition in 1932. The general opinion was that she should have got an even higher ranking. Then, in 1937, she was commissioned to make the foyer paintings for Helsinki’s Swedish Theatre, where she further developed her earlier idea. What made her success in the art competition so significant was that monumental painting was seen as being the diametric opposite of the realm in which female artists were supposed to work. Narrative public works were considered to be the highest form of art, while, because of their gender, women artists were supposed to content themselves with depicting subjects related to femaleness, such as women, children and motherhood.
As an artist Eva Törnwall-Collin was exceptional for her time in other ways, too, since she was openly interested in modernism and anthroposophy. This fascination led her both to write about the topic in the press and to study and teach Goethe’s theory of colours. She held seven solo exhibitions over her lifetime, and took part in numerous group exhibitions both in Finland and abroad between 1915 and 1981. Her works have not been exhibited on the current scale since the commemorative show at the Konstsalongen in Helsinki in 1983.
The present exhibition includes dozens of works revealing different facets of the artist’s oeuvre, including still lifes, portraits, landscapes, monumental paintings and mystical images. Törnwall-Collin was a versatile artist, the most interesting aspect of her production being manifested, for example, by the portraits in which the artist frequently depicted, not external likenesses, but inner worlds. Another interesting facet of her production is the paintings of flowers, which are like portraits. Also on display alongside these are her illustrations for fairy tales, which again reflect the artist’s multifacetedness.
The exhibition shows a piece of the history of Finnish modernism and the way that art-history research is able to shed light on artists whose art was, in its time, considered inappropriate, strange, too personal, or ugly. The HAM exhibition was accompanied by the publication of the first extensive book about Törnwall-Collin, with contributions by Professor Emerita Riitta Konttinen, Conservator Kaj Nylund, Docent Tutta Palin, and the exhibition’s curator, Juha-Heikki Tihinen, PhD. This copiously illustrated volume showcases the various facets of Törnwall-Collin’s art.
Opening hours Tuesday-Friday 1pm – 5 pm / Saturday-Sunday 11 am – 5 pm.
Mondays closed. Free entrance.