Baltic Reflections
27 May – 28 Aug 2016

The Baltic Exhibition, a great exhibition of fine art and applied arts held in Malmö, Sweden in 1914 was the Baltic region’s equivalent to the world fairs of London and Paris. The exhibition and the works of art purchased laid the foundation for the unique art collection of the Malmö Art Museum. Baltic Reflections from 1914 looks back more than a hundred years to showcase works in the Malmö Art Museum collection. With a few exceptions, all works in the present show were also included in the original Baltic Exhibition.

The countries participating in the Baltic Exhibition were Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Russia, while the Finnish Grand Duchy had its own separate pavilion. Art was a great attraction for the public, and Konsthall was one of the largest venues built on the exhibition grounds. The exhibition had no less than 3,500 works on display, and the exhibition had a stupendous 850,000 visitors. The Baltic Exhibition took place during a period of transition, when the traditional realist style and national romantic ideals in visual art were being challenged by modernism. In the 1910s, art moved increasingly towards individual, personal expression, and the ideal of veracity and national themes were gradually replaced by the free use of colour and form. Although the exhibition included many works by artists who had established themselves in the late 19th century, the visitor might in the very next hall come face to face with art representing the latest trend.

The Russian pavilion drew the greatest amount of attention. Most of the Russian artists featured in Malmö were of the generation of the Mir iskusstva group, who shared an education acquired on continental Europe, Paris especially. The audience, however, was still completely unfamiliar with modern art. The exhibition aroused conflicting emotions in critics as well: they were interested in what they saw, although they did not always understand it. Positive aspects mentioned by them included the Russian artists’ intense sense for decoration and the primitive power of their works. Due to the outbreak of World War I, the immediate return of Russian works to their owners was considered too dangerous. There were some works whose owners could not be located or their ownership otherwise ascertained, and they thus remained in Malmö and are today part of the art museum’s collection.

Baltic Reflections offers an overview of art in the tumultuous early decades of the 20th century, and it sheds light on the history of both Nordic and Russian art during that period of complex transition. The show features work by the most renowned artists of the day, including Vilhelm Hammershøi, Prince Eugen, John Bauer, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors, Valentin Serov, Aleksandr Golovin, Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Eero Järnefelt. The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the Malmö Art Museum, where it was previously presented.

The exhibition is accompanied by an eponymous publication, as well as interesting talks (in Finnish) by experts. On Saturday 11 June at 2 pm, the curator of the exhibition, Mia Haltia, will lead a guided tour of the show and talk about both its historical background and the works and their themes. On Tuesday 23 August at 5.30 pm, professor Taina Syrjämaa will give a talk on the topic of “Fine art in the greatest media of its time – Baltic Exhibition as part of the network of international, multidisciplinary exhibitions”, and on Saturday 27 August at 2 pm, art historian Sani Kontula-Webb will give a lecture on contacts between Russian and Finnish artists during the period of the Grand Duchy in Finland. For more information, please visit the museum website.

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2019