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Johan Jakob Tikkanen

Born December 7, 1857, Helsinki. Died June 20, 1930, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1880, Licentiate 1884, Imperial Alexander University

Docent in aesthetics and art history 1884–7, Imperial Alexander University
Professor extraordinary 1897–1920 and professor ordinary 1920–26 of art history, Imperial Alexander University (University of Helsinki 1919–)
Acting professor of aesthetics and comparative literature 1901 and 1905 Imperial Alexander University (University of Helsinki 1919–)
Head of the sculpture collection of the University of Helsinki 1898–1926 and head of the Drawing School 1908–26
Secretary of the Finnish Art Society 1892–1920, chairman 1920–22
Vice chairman of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland 1922–24
Vice chairman of the Friends of Ateneum 1919–20
Chairman of the National Council for Visual Arts 1918–23

Awards and special achievements
Official representative of the University of Helsinki at the 800th anniversary celebrations of the University of Bologna, 1888
Member of the Finnish Society of Science and Letters 1911
Finnish Literature Society prize 1914
Member of the Comitato di Patrocinio of the international conference of art history in Rome 1918
Finnish Society of Science and Letters prize 1914

Photo: Taidehistorian kuvakeskus, Helsingin yliopisto

Written by Johanna Vakkari (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Teaching in Swedish and Finnish

At the beginning of his career, Johan Jakob Tikkanen only taught in Swedish, as it had effectively become his mother tongue at home and school, and he could speak it much more fluently than Finnish. In early 1894 a decree had passed that made it compulsory for teachers at the University of Helsinki to demonstrate their ability to use both spoken and written Finnish, and Tikkanen took the public language exam in 1896 in connection with his professorship. Lecturing in Finnish, however, proved difficult, and since the language decree did not specifically require teaching in Finnish, like many other Swedish speaking teachers he postponed using Finnish in lecturing and would not do so until 1907. From the academic year 1909-1910 onwards he taught in both languages in equal measure.

Tikkanen was by no means indifferent when it came to the demands language placed on students. A particular problem was the lack of Finnish language textbooks, although it is important to remember that Finnish speaking university students were also proficient in Swedish. The only study materials related to general art history that had been translated into Finnish were Geschichte der Architektur (1855) and Grundriss der Kunstgeschichte (1860) by Wilhelm Lübke. For the latter work, Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä had written a supplement on the main features of the history of Finnish art. In addition, Aspelin-Haapkylä had published a handful of monographs on Finnish artists in both Finnish and Swedish. Swedish speakers could read several useful publications in their native tongue, for instance De bildande konsternas historia, an 1869 book by Carl Gustaf Estlander on the history of European art from the late 18th century until his own time.

Tikkanen published a general work on art history titled Kuvaamataiteet uudemmalla ajalla in 1910, but already before this the manuscript had been available to the students under the title Lectures on Art History by J.J. Tikkanen. The book presented the main features of European art history from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century, and problematized many of the central issues of the field in a new way. If his spoken Finnish left something to be desired, the manuscript alone makes it clear that Tikkanen could write excellent Finnish—either on his own or with the help of an editor. Only in 1925 was the book published in Swedish, under the title Konsthistoria; Måleri och Skulptur från fornkristna tider till våra dagar, although it was an expanded and updated version. An updated Finnish version also followed.

At the same time, in the first decade of the 20th century, when Tikkanen was working on a general review of art history, a considerably more conservative work by the Swede Carl Laurin was translated into Finnish as Taidehistoria (1908), for which Eliel Aspelin-Haapkylä once again wrote the section on Finnish art. Other early Finnish language works on art history include a Finnish translation of Philosophie de l’art (published in English as The Philosophy of Art) by Hippolyte Taine. The translation by L. Onerva was published as Taiteen filosofia in 1915. Writing in Finnish and translating academic literature was also important for the simple reason that as a new academic field, art history had yet to develop its terms and concepts in the Finnish language.

A drawing of J. J. Tikkanen by Albert Edelfelt, 1904. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

First published in Humanistilehti in 2008

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