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Tuija Wahlroos

Born June 16, 1968, Kajaani

Master of Arts (art history) 1996, University of Helsinki

Museum Director 2005–, the Gallen-Kallela Museum
Acting Museum Director 2003–05, the Gallen-Kallela Museum
Exhibitions Manager 1998-2003, the Gallen-Kallela Museum
Acting Museum Director 1997–98, the Gallen-Kallela Museum
Exhibitions and project Manager 1995–97, the Gallen-Kallela Museum
Exhibitions secretary 1995, City of Karkkila
Employers during her student years, 1988–94: City of Helsinki, the Design Museum, the Gallen-Kallela Museum, the Retretti Art Centre, Galleria Kateriina, Kainuun Sanomat

Board member 2008–, the Kalevala Society
Board member 2008–,the Union of Academic Museum Employees in Finland

Photo: Markus Wahlroos
Written by Tuija Wahlroos (Riitta-Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

The jackpot for an art historian

In 2012 we began to assemble an exhibition with a bohemian theme. Our focus was Akseli Gallen-Kallela's studies in Paris 1884–89. This period had already been the subject of numerous papers and exhibitions. But this time our interest lay in his previously neglected friendship with the Norwegian artist Carl Dørnberger. A true bohemian, party animal, and brawler, Dørnberger was a near-tragic figure, who had also been marginalised in the art history of his native country. But now the time was ripe for a closer reading of this friendship, and working with Kuvataiteen keskusarkisto, the central archive of the Finnish National Gallery, we resolved jointly to produce a publication on the correspondence between the two artists held in the collections of our two institutions.

A letter from Carl Dørnberger to Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1880s. Photo: Gallen-Kallela Museum.

When contacting a local historian in Norway who had published on Dørnberger, we also gained a connection with the studio home of Dørnberger and its current occupants. We were invited to visit the house and study their collections. In October 2012 my colleague Anne Pelin and I had no idea what a treasure trove we were about to uncover. A collection of correspondence, unknown to previous research, practically untouched, not only from Gallen-Kallela but from two other Finnish artists, Eero Järnefelt and Emil Wikström, as well as the Frenchman Henry de Vallombreuse. We were also able to read Dørnberger's memoirs from his Parisian years: chronicling in diary form various scrapes and adventures with his beloved Finne-gutt ('Finn boy'). With great reverence we studied the files in the twilight of the old studio. The age of more than a century past came to life for us, places and people got their names, events and incidents came into clearer focus.

I think it's a once in a lifetime chance to be able to uncover such a find. This also reminds us of the fundamental importance of studying primary sources. Research and interpretations can only be built on the reality constructed by primary sources.

The exhibition Suomipoika ja puuromaalari ('The Finn boy and the porridge painter') was held at the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Summer 2013.

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