Fredrik Cygnaeus
Humanist of the day

Fredrik Cygnaeus

Fredrik Cygnaeus was a Finnish poet, historian and art critic. He was professor, dean and vice-rector at the University of Helsinki, as well as an important patron of the arts. Cygnaeus was a key figure in the Fennoman movement and the principal architect behind the Flora day celebrations which take place every year on May 13th.

Fredrik Cygnaeus

Born April 1, 1807, Hämeenlinna. Died February 7, 1881, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, Imperial Alexander University, 1832

Vice-rector, Imperial Alexander  University, 1865-66
Dean, Division for History and Philology, Imperial Alexander University, 1856-67
Professor of Aesthetics and Modern Finnish Literature, Imperial Alexander University, 1854-67
Docent, History, 1839-54, acting Professor, Imperial Alexander University, 1848-53
Rector, Helsingin yläalkeiskoulu (Helsinki secondary school), 1839-52
Teacher, political and civic studies, Hamina military cadet school, 1833-37

President, Finnish Art Society, 1863-78
'Curator', Ostrobothnian student ‘nation’, 1838-49

Counsellor of State, 1867
Knight, Order of the Polar Star, 1867
Order of Merit (for service to the state), 1865
Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial Alexander University, 1860
Knight (2nd class), Order of St Stanislaus, 1856
Memorial Plaque, Hämeenlinna, 1948
Postage stamp, 1948

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo / Timo Huvilinna
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by John Calton

Born into a well-heeled family of clergymen, Fredrik Cygnaeus enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Turku in 1823. His studies, encompassing history, literary studies and modern languages, were protracted: it was not until 1832 that he graduated from the Imperial Alexander University.

Upon graduation Cygnaeus was appointed the following year…

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Fredrik Cygnaeus was one of the most knowledgeable connoisseurs of the arts in nineteenth-century Finland. He was an expert in the literary, theatrical and pictorial arts, providing support for artists both financial and educational.

Cygnaeus closely followed the latest trends in European art and was particularly keen on the new…

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