Biography

Eero Järnefelt 1863–1937

Photographs: KKA/EJA


Biographical notes

Based on Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse’s article, Eero Järnefelt 1863–1937: Biograpfical notes, published in Heikki Malme’s (ed.) work on Eero Järnefelt 1863–1937. Helsinki 2001: Finnish National Gallery, Joensuu Museum  of Art.

1863

Eero Järnefelt was born in Vyborg on 8 November as the third of nine children.  His father, Senator and General August Alexander Järnefelt (1833-1896), was a member of the Finnish nobility and a military topographer with studies in Russia.  His mother, Elisabeth Konstantinova Clodt von Jürgensburg (1839-1929), came from the Baltic nobility, a family with great artistic talent.   She is considered an inspiration and patron of Finnish literature.  Her circle of influence included her own sons besides Juhani Aho.  Her father, General Konstantin Karlovich Clodt, was a skilled wood engraver; her uncle, Pyotr Karlovich Clodt, was the best known Russian sculptor of his time, and her uncle’s son was the genre painter Mikhail Petrovich Clodt.  Elizabeth’s brother, Mikhail Konstantinovich Clodt, was a famous landscape painter and professor at St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.

1863–1870

Early childhood in Vyborg with summers at the not too distant Hapenensaari.

1870–1880

Family moved to Helsinki where the children were put in the Finnish-language schools.

Eero studied at the drawing school of the Finnish Art Society during the spring terms of 1874 and 1878.   His brothers Kasper and Arvid attended classes there as well.  Teachers were Fredrik Ahlstedt and Hj. Munsterhjelm.

1881

After graduation from school entered voluntary military service at the Uusimaa battalion in Helsinki.

Enrolled at the University of Helsinki for studies in the humanities department, but quitted after the first semester.

Met Juhani Aho.  Paintings on display for the first time at the Finnish Art Society exhibition. Landscape studies:  Country Road and Lake View.

Signed works for some time by the name of Eero Rauta.

Early production influenced by the von Wrights and Munsterhjelm.

1883–1885

Studied in St. Petersburg from the beginning of 1883 to the end of 1885.  Teachers at the Academy of Arts were e.g. his uncle Mikhail Konstantinovich Clodt von Jürgensburg and Pavel Chistyakov. His works from this period are strongly influenced by Russian landscape painting.

In 1883 received third prize in the Finnish Art Society competition for landscape painting.

1886–1887

Stayed at Janakkala and painted a portarait of farmer Vilhelm Kiipula.  In the fall of 1886 began studies in Paris at the Académie Julian under Adolph Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury.  Became close friends with Axel Gallén.  Other friends during the stay in Paris were among others Hans Jaeger, Carl Adam Dørnberger, Henry de Vallonbreuse, Erik Rothman, Carl Laurin and Carl Larsson.  Served at the request of Juhani Aho as the Paris correspondent for the Savo-paper.  His first contribution, 27 March 1887, described the Merliton Club exhibition. The second dealt with the rules of the Salon and the city as an art center.

Admired and copied works of Jules Breton, Leon Belly and François Millet.  Like other Scandinavians, admired especially Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose influence is distinctly present e.g. in Pyykkiranta (Washing on the Shore).  Spent time in Normandy at his friend, Count Henry de Vallonbreuse´s house, where he painted village scenes and townscapes.

1888

Continued studies at Académie JulianIn the spring, in Veneux-Nadon at Fontainebleau  Landscape, Fontainebleau.  Painted in Paris his early masterpiece Le Franc – Wine Merchant and Sewing Studio.

On his return to Finland at the end of May, saw the Scandinavian art exhibition in Copenhagen.

Spent the summer in the Kuopio area.  Painted In the Bilberry Forest, Portrait of his brother Arvid Järnefelt, Portrait of H. G. Th. Brofeldt, and Girl Sitting on the Veranda.

Participated in the Finnish Art Society fall exhibition with nine works: including Row Boat from Savo, In the Bilberry Forest, Portrait of Pastor Brofeldt, Portrait of Mr. J., French Landscape, Landscape in Normandy, In the Forest, On the Vicarage Veranda, and Sewing Studio.

1889

Spent the early part of the year at Janakkala where he painted Two Girls Spinning, Interior and portraits of August Ahlqvist and Agathon Meurman.

Received second prize in the Finnish Art Society competition for his Row Boat from Savo.

Took part in the Paris World Fair with In a Farmhouse and Row Boat from Savo.  Was awarded a gold medal of the first class.

In the summer the Järnefelt family spent time at Kolho in Keuruu.  Axel Gallén and Louis Sparre were staying on the opposite side of Lake Keuruu, and Juhani Aho together with J. H. Erkko, the poet, were in the neighborhood as well.  In addition, the editor of the paper Keski-Suomi  Eero Erkko visited Kolho. Arvid Järnefelt was planning his Isänmaa novel (Land of our Fathers). The decision to establish a liberal newspaper in Helsinki under the name of Päivälehti, was made at Kolho. A village festival with a lottery was held.  The program included a play by Robert Kiljander, Amalia ystävämme (Our Friend Amalia), starring Saimi Swan and Arvid Järnefelt.  The set was painted by Eero Järnefelt, Gallén and Sparre.

Eero Järnefelt received two altarpiece commissions for the new church of Keuruu: Christ on the Cross and Gethsemane.  They were partly painted in Paris in 1889 and 1890–1891.

Painted Washing on the Shore, Summer Night Moon and Midsummer Night, and sketched illustrations for Juhani Aho’s short story Rautatie (The Railway).

 Moved close to Lappeenranta in late summer as a house guest of the Swan family.  Became engaged to actress Saimi Pia Swan.  Painted portraits of Saimi and her father Carl Gustaf Swan.

Took part in the annual exhibition of the Finnish Art Society with three paintings:  Summer Night, Seine Net Shacks and Washing on the Shore.  Competed with these for the state prize in landscapes, winning the second prize.

Travelled to Paris with Juhani Aho, Jean Sibelius and Werner Söderhjelm in early September.  Studied at Académie Julian.

1890

Worked as assistant illustrator for Päivälehti, which started appearing from the beginning of the year.  Married Saimi Swan in the summer.

Painted At the Breakfast Table, Sisters and portrait of his sister-in-law Anni Swan.

Spent time at Kangasala where he painted Lake Landscape, portraits of Senator A. E. Arppe, Mrs. Hilma Kerppola, Christian Sibelius and Vice Chancellor J. Ph. Palmén and others.

Received a state grant, and travelled to Paris with his wife in October.

1891

 First part of the year in Paris where he painted Pekka Halonen Playing the Kantele.

Participated in the competition to illustrate the Kalevala.   His Kullervo themes were not placed, and the sketches are likely to have been destroyed.   Took also part in the competition for murals in the Assembly Hall of the University of Helsinki with his entry “212059”, which brought him the third prize.

Stayed at Muuruvesi from June and illustrated a special edition of Suomi 19:llä vuosisadalla (Finland in the 19th century).  Among the illustrations were Farmer in his Cabin, Lynx Hunter, Sledges, and a Per aspera ad astra vignette.  Furthermore, illustrated the first Christmas Album of Nuori Suomi (Young Finland) and continued to contribute to the publication.

Painted Burning Brushwood, Hut in the Wilds (Forest Hut, now called July Noon) and Cows in Turf  Smoke.

Participated in the fall exhibition of the Finnish Artists with fifteen works inluding Cows in Turf Smoke, Forest Hut (July Noon), Burning Brushwood, Anni and Old Workhorse. Awarded first prize in the state landscape painting competition for his Landscape from Savo (now called July Noon).

First child, Heikki Arvid, born at Muuruvesi on 23 June.

1892

Started painting details of nature, e.g. water crowfoot, rowan and marsh marigold.

Travelled in August with Juhani Aho and the latter’s wife, painter Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, to Russian Karelia.

In the fall, painted a portrait of his brother-in-law Jean Sibelius as well as portraits of H. R. Standertskjöld  and J. Ph. Palmén, the latter for the University of Helsinki.

Took part in the fall exhibition of the Finnish Artists with seven works including portraits of J. Ph. Palmén, Jean Sibelius and Gunnar Berndtson as well as the original illustrations for Juhani Aho´s short story Rautatie (Railway).

It is worth noting that Eero Järnefelt and Gunnar Berndtson painted portraits of each other.

1893

In the first half of the year, finished over ten portraits of Larin Paraske, the rune singer.

Spent late winter in Kuopio painting landscapes, including Late Winter Sun. 

Summer at Lapinlahti near Kuopio, where he painted one of his masterpieces, Under the Yoke. Other works painted there included his first sarcastically humorous work, Farmer and Farmhands as well as Cloud Study, and portraits of C. G. Swan, Uno Kurtén, Alfred Kihlman and Yrjö-Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen.

Took part in the Finnish Artists´ exhibition with nine paintings including Under the Yoke, Farmer and Farmhands, Portrait of Uno Kurtén and several winter landscapes.  Under the Yoke was bought for the Finnish Art Society’s collection.

1894

Continued keeping a regular diary he started in 1885.

Painted portraits included those of Alexander von Collan, J. R. Aspelin and Otto Edvard Hjelt.

Spent summer at Tyynelä near Kuopio, painting Girl from the Backwoods and a symbolist lake view with gold effects.

Participated in the Finnish Art Society’s spring exhibition with Burning Woodland, and in the Finnish Artists´ fall exhibition with two paintings, one of which was Girl from the Backwoods, (called Landscape in the catalogue).

Received the Hoving travel grant and went via St. Petersburg to Berlin in November, continuing from there to Dresden and Munich. His wife joined him later in Munich.  They continued to Italy where the main attractions were early Renaissance art, the Pre-Raphaelites and Arnold Böcklin.

1895

In early spring the Järnefelts settled down in Florence. Painted two gouaches: Children Playing (The Youth of Adam and Eve) and Portrait of Saimi Järnefelt.

 Magnus Enckell, who was in Florence as well, painted a portrait of Saimi Järnefelt, Black Madonna.

The Järnefelt family spent the summer at Tyynelä near Kuopio.

Painted seascapes on the Järvö island west of Porkkala.  With the purpose of photographing travelled to Koli with I. K. Inha.  Painted a small gouache: Autumn Landscape.   Many of the photographs taken by Inha at Koli are almost identical with Järnefelt’s paintings in terms of composition.

1896

The altarpiece Jesus with Drowning St. Peter, originally intended for the Jyväskylä town church, but rejected by the church board for its allegedly too dark background, was instead placed in the church of the village parishes of Jyväskylä.

Nine works in the Finnish Artists´ exhibition, including Portrait of Mathilda Wrede, which could be regarded as his main achievement of this year.  Other works were Children Playing (Study of Naked Children), Portrait of Emilie Bergbom, and three seascapes.

Five works in the annual exhibition of the Finnish Art Society:  Burning Brushwood (watercolor), Cows in Turf Smoke, portraits of Vice-Chancellor, Baron J. Ph. Palmén, Miss Mathilda Wrede and Professor J. R. Danielson-Kalmari. Portrait of Mathilda Wrede was purchased for the collection of the Finnish Art Society.

Four works in the Nizhni-Nowgorod Russian exhibition: Burning Brushwood, Peregrine Falcon, Up the Hill and Finnish Landscape.

1897

Spring in Florence for the second time, now accompanied by the whole family.  Trained to become a carpenter, producing a master’s proof.  Toured the country, visiting e.g. Pisa, Assisi and Perugia.  Painted Portrait of the Artist’s Son.

Suffered a crisis as an artist and spent some time “resting his nerves” in Enköping, Sweden, on his return to Finland.

Participated in an Art and Industrial Exhibition in Stockholm with nine paintings, including all of his masterpieces.

Daughter Leena Birgitta was born at Lappee on 3 July.

1898

Finished his major painting of the year, Winter Seascape, which represents the symbolist idea of the landscape of the mind, reflecting the serious political situation in Finland.  Painted portraits of Consul K. Stockmann and Mrs. Enni Selin-Runeberg.

Took part in a Russo-Finnish exhibition organized by Serge Diaghilev in St. Petersburg in February with some thirty paintings including portraits of Mathilda Wrede and Gunnar Berndtson, After-meal Nap (Farmer and Farmhands), Children

Playing, and several landscape watercolors. Princess Tenisheva immediately purchased three watercolors, including Green Islands and Birds (today at the Hermitage).  Some of the works of the Russo-Finnish exhibition continued to Munich and Berlin.

 Took part in the Finnish Artists´ exhibition with five paintings, including Winter Seascape, Portrait of Professor E. G. Palmén, Portrait of a Child, and Portrait of Consul Karl Stockmann.

1899

Stopped keeping a regular diary.

In the spring, travelled to Crimea with his brother Arvid.

While visiting Koli later in the year, painted Autumn Landscape at Lake Pielinen. 

Took part in the International Mir Isskustva (The World of Art) exhibition organized by Serge Diaghilev in St. Petersburg with four paintings: Winter Seascape, Portrait of Professor E. G. Palmén, Portrait of a Child (today Portrait of the Artist’s Son) and At the Grave (Larin Paraske).

Participated in the Finnish Artists´ fall exhibition with four paintings: portraits of Dr. Matti Äyräpää, Professor O. E. Tudeer, and Colonel R. Schulman as well as Autumn  Landscape of Lake Pielinen.

1900

Took part in the Paris World Fair with nine paintings: Portrait of Baron J. Ph. Palmén, Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielinen, Under the Yoke, Portrait of the Artist’s Son, Winter Landscape, Winter Seascape and three gouaches: Portrait of Saimi Järnefelt, Portrait of Mathilda Wrede, and Farmer and Farmhands.  Received a gold medal.

Took part in the Finnish Artists’ exhibition with fourteen paintings.

The Antell Delegation bought Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielinen from Victor Hackman.

Bought a piece of land in the village of Järvenpää by Lake Tuusula with plans to build a villa with a studio.

1901

The villa Suviranta by Lake Tuusula, designed by architect Usko Nyström, was completed.  In the neighborhood lived Juhani Aho and Venny-Soldan Brofeldt at Ahola, Pekka and Maija Halonen at Halosenniemi, J. H. Erkko, the poet, at Erkkola, as well as the Sibelius family at Ainola from 1904.

Works: Portrait of Professor L. L. Lindelöf, Portrait of Judge Frosterus, Snowy Owl and Great Crested Grebe.  Details of Lake Tuusula nature, flowers, frogs and water fowl, appeared in several paintings.  

Took part in the Finnish Artists’ exhibition with seven paintings. Received first prize in the state landscape painting competition for Autumn Landscape of Lake Pielinen.

1902

Appointed teacher of drawing at the University of Helsinki.  His objectives were emphasis of the line, use of simple forms, avoidance of perspective, and using just a few primary colors.  During his long career as a teacher, Järnefelt’s pupils included Marcus Collin, Eero Nelimarkka, Lennart Segerstråle, Eero Snellman, Matti Warén, Eino Johannes Härkönen, Martta Wendelin, Erkki Kulovesi, Hanna Suomalainen, Eva Anttila, Hjalmar Hagelstam and his daughter Laura Järnefelt.

1903

Painted portraits of daughter Leena and Mr. Edvin Kaslin.

The Finnish Art Society bought Children Playing (1895).

Took part in the Finnish Artists´ exhibition with seven paintings, including On the Way Home and Marsh Marigold.

Albert Edelfelt organized an exhibition of Finnish Art in the Schulte Salon in Berlin.  Järnefelt participated e.g. with Farmer and Farmhands and On the Way Home.

Daughter Sara Emilia born in Helsinki on 16 March.

1904

Painted portraits of Amalia Järnefelt, Henning Söderhjelm and Anton Gabriel Blomqvist.

Daughter Laura Elisabet born at Tuusula on 27 June.

1905

Visited Stockholm and Berlin in winter.  In April, left for Paris via the Netherlands together with Albert Edelfelt.

Painted at Järvenpää The Village Shop, and some versions of Lake Shore with Reeds.

Portrait of Tekla Hultin, Finland’s first female Ph.D. and journalist of Päivälehti, was painted at the end of the year.

1906

Painted several portraits, including those of his mother-in-law Emilia Charlotta Swan, Juhani Aho and Edvard Hjelt.

The Antell delegation purchased Lake Shore with Reeds and Portrait of Tekla Hultin.

In late winter painted two versions of Boys Fishing.

Took an increasing interest in the various techniques of metal graphics, especially soft- ground techniques (vernis mou).

Spent time at the Pitkäpaasi fishing village outside Virolahti in 1906–1907.  Painted the large Landscape of Pitkäpaasi and some versions of Bathers and On the Beach.

Participated in the International Winter Exhibition in Budapest (1906–1907) with eight works, including portraits of Juhani Aho and Larin Paraske, In the Summer Wind and Bathing Women.  Was awarded a gold medal.

Son Carl Erik Olai was born at Tuusula on 3 October.

1907

Participated in an exhibition of etchings in Helsinki.  The Finnish Art Society bought a soft-ground color etching, Landscape (Lake at Sunset).

Painted portrait of Professor Ivar August Heikel.

1908

Altarpiece Jesus and the Fallen Woman in the making for the Church of Lieto.

 Took part in the Finnish exhibition at Salon d’Automne in Paris with fourteen works, including four etchings.  Purchased there – together with Magnus Enckell – at the Ambroise Vollard’s Paul Gauguin’s Landscape La Dominique (1903) for the Antell collection.

Copied at the Gripsholm Castle in Sweden the portrait of King Charles XII, commissioned by the City of Vaasa.

Painted portraits of Nelma Sibelius, Elisabeth Järnefelt and Professor Edvard Hjelt.

Elected deputy member of the Antell delegation.

1909

Painted portraits, including those of F. Kr. J. Nybom and Heikki Järnefelt, his son.

Travelled in late September to Koli with Sibelius. His Koli landscapes became more decorative from now on.

His motifs in painting concentrated more on his home Suviranta and the children.

Opposed modern extremes in art and became a painter of official portraits to a greater extent.

Jean Sibelius dedicated his fourth symphony to Eero Järnefelt.

1910

Private exhibition at Ateneum in February.

1911

A large oil painting (5 m by 8 m) designed by Järnefelt, a Finnish lake landscape, was on display at the Berlin International Travel Fair.  A.W. Finch and Ilmari Aalto assisted in making this neo-impressionist pointillist painting.  In 1920, the painting was placed at the Helsinki Railway Station.

Portrait of Juho Lallukka, a well known patron of the arts, was unveiled in Viipuri in November.

Painted a set of Four Seasons in a decorative Rococo style for Villa Indrenius in the province of Uusimaa.

1912

Was awarded the honorary title of Professor.

1913

Private exhibition at Salon Strindberg in October.

1914

Participated in the exhibition of Baltic art in Malmö, Sweden, with nineteen works.   The Nationalmuseum of Stockholm bought the Portrait of Saimi Järnefelt.

Elected regular member of the Antell delegation.

1916

Finished the diptych mural, Meeting of the Aurora Society, for the University of Helsinki (destroyed in an air raid on Helsinki in the winter of 1944).  The model for the painting was the library at the Fagervik mansion, built and decorated in the 1770s.

Private exhibition at Galerie Hörhammer, displaying sketches for the Aurora Society, attracted special attention.

Painted portraits of Ernst Dahlström, Werner Söderhjelm and Gösta Björkenheim.

Took part in the exhibition of Finnish art at Liljevalch Art Exhibition Hall in Stockholm with seven paintings.

1917

Was invited to participate in the exhibition of Finnish art at the Dobychina Salon in St. Petersburg/Petrograd with several paintings.  Attended the grand opening in April.

Moved to Bernhardinkatu 5 in Helsinki, where he lived until his death.   Spent summers at Suviranta.

1918

Had an extensive private exhibition at Galerie Hörhammer in Helsinki.

1919

Took part in the exhibition of Finnish art at Charlottenburg in Copenhagen with ten works.

The Antell delegation purchased Le Franc, Wine Merchant, from 1888, and Peasant Cottage.

1920

Finished the diptych mural Flora Festival in the Kumpula Field for the University of Helsinki (destroyed in an air raid on Helsinki in the winter of 1944).

1921

Oy Atenaion AB published an Eero Järnefelt portfolio of six four-color pictures.

Painted portrait of Alfred Kihlman.

1922

A joint exhibition with Alfred William Finch at Galerie Hörhammer in October-November.   Both critics and the public were especially interested in the portraits, which included that of General C. G. E. Mannerheim.

1923

Received honorary doctorate at the University of Helsinki.

1924

Extensive private exhibition at Ateneum, which travelled to Stockholm the same spring at the invitation of the Swedish Art SocietyThe Stockholm exhibition had excellent reviews, signifying one of the artist’s greatest successes.

1925

Painted portraits of Professor Ali Krogius and Mr. Anders Wiksten.

1926

Completed altarpiece for the Raahe Church, Jesus Calming the Storm.

Painted portrait of Professor Anders Donner.

1927

Private exhibition at Galerie Hörhammer.

Elected vice chairman of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland.

1929

Painted a double portrait of Professor J. J.Mikkola and his wife Maila Talvio, the writer, as well as a portrait of Professor Axel Leonard Wallgren.

1930–1931

Travelled widely, painting mostly Italian, Ostrobothnian and Lapp landscapes.

Served as chairman of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland in1930–1933.

Painted portrait of Juho Kusti Paasikivi in 1931.

1932

Completed altarpiece Conversion of St. Paul (Conversion of Saul or Heavenly Vision) for the Johanneksenkirkko (St. John’s Church) in Helsinki.

1933

Painted portraits of President P. E.Svinhufvud and C.G. E.Mannerheim as Commander-in-Chief in 1918.

1934

Painted portrait of Professor Alfred Oswald Kairamo.

1935

Was appointed foreign member of the Swedish Academy of Arts.

Private exhibition at Galerie Hörhammer.

Travels with daughter Laura Järnefelt in eastern Finland for painting purposes.

1936

Last visit to Koli.  Energy for painting no longer existed.  Instead, he wrote about the beauty he found in Nature.

1937

Died of heart failure in Helsinki on 15 November.