Saturday, August 31, 2013

St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Isaac's Cathedral was originally the city's main church and the largest cathedral in Russia. It was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. One hundred and eighty years later the gilded dome of St. Isaac's still dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg.

The cathedral's facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns (made of single pieces of red granite), while the interior is adorned with incredibly detailed mosaic icons, paintings and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli. A large, brightly colored stained glass window of the "Resurrected Christ" takes pride of place inside the main altar. The church, designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers, was closed in the early 1930s by the communist soviet government. Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of religious trappings and reopened as a museum. Today, church services are held here only on major ecclesiastical occasions.

Beautiful Mosaic

Heavenly Dome

Mikhailovskiy Palace, State Russian Museum

Mikhailovsky Palace
The State Russian Museum (formerly the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III) is the largest depository of Russian fine art in Saint Petersburg.

The museum was established on April 13, 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many private collections were nationalized and relocated to the Russian Museum.

The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, erected in 1819-25 to a design by Carlo Rossi on Square of Arts in St Petersburg.

My favorite part of the museum was its collection of iterate artists (Peredvizhniki). In 1863 a group of fourteen students decided to leave The Imperial Academy of Arts. The students found the rules of the Academy constraining; the teachers were conservative and there was a strict separation between high and low art. In an effort to bring art to the people, the students formed an independent artistic society; The Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel). In 1870, this organization was largely succeeded by the Association of Traveling Art Exhibits (Peredvizhniki) to give a chance to people from provinces to follow the achievements of Russian Art, and to teach people to appreciate art. The society maintained independence from state support and brought the art, which illustrated the contemporary life of the people from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to provinces.

From 1871 to 1923, the society arranged 48 mobile exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow, after which they were shown in Kiev, Kharkov, Kazan, Oryol, Riga,Odessa and other cities.
Peredvizhniki were influenced by the public views of the literary critics Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Belinsky thought that literature and art should attribute a social and moral responsibility. Like most Slavophiles, Chernyshevsky ardently supported the emancipation of serfs, which was finally realized in the reform of 1861. He viewed press censorship, serfdom, and capital punishment as Western influences. Because of his political activism, officials prohibited publication of any of his writing, including his dissertation; but it eventually found its way to the artworld of nineteenth-century Russia. In 1863, almost immediately after the emancipation of serfs, Chernyshevsky’s goals were realized with the help of Peredvizhniki, who took the pervasive Slavophile-populist idea that Russia had a distinguishable, modest, inner beauty of its own and worked out how to display it on canvas.

Peredvizhniki portrayed the many-sided aspects of social life, often critical of inequities and injustices. But their art showed not only poverty but also the beauty of the folk way of life; not only suffering but also fortitude and strength of characters. Peredvizhniki condemned the Russian aristocratic orders and autocratic government in their humanistic art. They portrayed the emancipation movement of Russian people with empathy (The Arrest of Propagandist; Refuse from Confession; Not Expected by Ilya Yefimovich Repin).
Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin

Portrait of Artist Ivan Shishkin by Ivan Kramskoy

The Taking of a Snow Fortress by Vasily Surokov

Tolstoy by Ilya Repin

Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, Ilya Repin

Friday, August 30, 2013

Boat to St. Petersburg, Russia

We took the boat overnight to St. Petersburg, Russia.  I have never seen so much herring before.  They must have had at least herring 40 different ways.

Neva River, St. Petersburg

Neptune's Trident and Sea Horses on Bridge

Neo-classic Architecture

Saint George and the Dragon

Kalevalakoru and Fazer

We visited Kalevalakoru which makes jewelry out of gold, silver and bronze with motifs from the iron age and Viking era, then stopped by Fazer confectionary shop. We were introduced to Finnish licorice which is rather unique.  Salty licorice, also known as salmiakki or salmiak, is a variety of licorice flavoured with ammonium chloride, common in the Nordic countries, Netherlands, Baltic States and Northern Germany. Ammonium chloride gives salty licorice an astringent, salty taste (hence the name), which has been described as "tongue-numbing" and "almost-stinging." Salty licoorice is an acquired taste and people not familiar with ammonium chloride might find the taste physically overwhelming and unlikeable.

There was a licorice-flavored icecream bar that wasn't too bad - otherwise it was quite overwhelming to me.

Finland's National Archives, Helsinki

128 shelf kilometers (79 miles) of archived material from 1316 and after.

Finnish National Archives

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Design Museum, Helsinki

Our guided tour of the museum focused on Finnish Textiles and weaving tradition.

Design Museum is a museum in Helsinki devoted to the exhibition of both Finnish and foreign design, including industrial design, fashion, and graphic design. The museum, which is 140 years old, was first founded in 1873 but has operated in its present premises, a former school, designed by architect Gustaf Nyström in 1894 in the neo-Gothic style, since 1978.

The museum includes a permanent exhibition devoted to the history of Finnish design from 1870 to the present day, as well as space for changing exhibitions. The museum's permanent collection consists of over 75,000 objects, 40,000 drawings and 100,000 drawings.

Ateneum, Helsinki

Ateneum is an art museum in Helsinki, Finland and one of the museums of the Finnish National Gallery. It is located in the centre of Helsinki at the Rautatientori square opposite Helsinki Central railway station. It has the biggest collections of classical art in Finland. Previously the Ateneum building also housed the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and University of Art and Design Helsinki.

The collections of Ateneum include extensively Finnish art all the way from 18th-century rococo portraiture to the experimental art movements of the 20th century. The collections also include some 650 international works of art.

Finnish National Museum

The museum collections include also the Mesa Verde artifacts from the cliff dwellings of Colorado. These were dedicated to the museum by the Swedish-speaking Finnish explorer Gustaf Nordenskiöld. They comprise the most-extensive collection of Mesa Verde items outside the United States and one of the largest collections of native Americana outside the American continents.

Finnish National Museum

Rya Rugs and Market Square

Beautiful Berries, Market Square 
Locals Drying Rya Rugs, Helsinki

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Road Trip to Helsinki

We drove to Nuutajarvi Lasikyla where glass has been blown continuously since 1793. It was the 220th anniversary year for this oldest glass manufacturing site in Finland.

Glass Blowing

We continued on to Visavuori, the Jugend style home and studio of sculptor Emil Wiktrom.

Studio of Emil Wiktrom

Studio and House

Sculpture by Emil Wiktrom

Then we journeyed on to the Ittala Glass Museum for a guided tour of the museum and glass factory.

To finish up we stopped by Hwitrask for a guided tour of the monumental home and atelier of architects Saarinen, Gesellius and Lindgren.

Cozy nook with rya
A rya is a traditional Scandinavian wool rug with a long pile of about 1 to 3 inches. They were made using a form of the Ghiordes knot to make the double-sided pile fabric. Though rya means "rug" in English, the original meaning in Sweden of rya was a bed cover with a knotted pile. The first ryas originated in the early fifteenth century as coarse, long-piled, heavy covers used by mariners instead of furs.

Nice Studio

View from outside

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova

Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova is a museum in central Turku, Finland. The museum is housed in a building known as the Rettig palace, originally built in 1928. Aboa Vetus displays portions of the city dating back to medieval times, while Ars Nova is a museum of contemporary art.

The museum was first opened in 1995 as two independent museums. Originally, plans were for only Ars Nova, the contemporary art museum, but during its construction a number of structures and artifacts dating back to the Middle Ages were discovered, and the archaeological excavation that was commissioned eventually transformed into Aboa Vetus.

Turun Linna Castle

Turku Castle is a medieval building in the city of Turku in Finland. Together with Turku Cathedral, the castle is one of the oldest buildings still in use in Finland. Turku Castle is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland. It was founded in the late 13th century and stands on the banks of the Aura River.

Abo Akademi Library, Turku, Finland

We viewed the dissertation of Peter Kalm. Peter Kalm was a Swedish-Finnish explorer, botanist, naturalist, and agricultural economist. He was one of the most important apostles of Carl Linnaeus.

In 1747 he was commissioned by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to travel to the North American colonies and to bring back seeds and plants that might be useful to agriculture. Among his many scientific accomplishments, Kalm can be credited for the first description of Niagara Falls, along the border of New York (United States) and Canada, written by someone trained as a scientist. In addition, he published the first scientific paper on the North American, 17-year periodical cicada Magicicada septendecim.

We also got to see their extensive collection of children's books. Which included the Moomins (Swedish: Mumintroll, Finnish: Muumi) who are the central characters in a series of books and a comic strip by Swedish-Finn illustrator and writer Tove Jansson, originally published in Swedish in Finland. They are a family of white, roundish fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. The carefree and adventurous family live in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theatre. They have had many adventures along with their various friends.

Children's Book

Little My

Turku Cathedral and Museum

Turku Cathedral is the mother church of the Lutheran Church of Finland, and the country’s national shrine.

It is familiar, even dear to every Finn. Its bells chime at noon over the radio (Channel Yle Radio 1) throughout Finland, and they also proclaim the Christmas peace to the country.

The cathedral museum has models showing stages of the cathedral’s construction from the 14th century, as well as medieval sculptures and religious paraphernalia.

The cathedral was originally built out of wood in the late 13th century, and was dedicated as the main cathedral of Finland in 1300, the seat of the bishop of Turku. It was considerably expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries, mainly using stone as the construction material. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, and was rebuilt to a great extent afterwards.

Architectural detail, Turku Cathedral

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stockholm Archipelago, the Sea of Aland, the Ahvenanmaa Archipelago

We boarded the Baltic Princess sailing through the Stockholm Archipelago and then on the east side of the Sea of Aland the Ahvenanmaa Archipelago which is the largest of its kind (6500 islands of which 65 are inhabited, total area 2620 square miles).  We docked that evening in Turku, Finland.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde, Stockholm

Prince Eugen Napoleon Nicolaus of Sweden and Norway, Duke of Närke (1 August 1865 – 17 August 1947) was a Swedish painter, art collector and patron of artists.

Prince Eugen (c. 1905)

After finishing high school, Prince Eugen studied art history at Uppsala University. Although supported by his parents, Prince Eugen did not make the decision to pursue a career in painting easily, not least because of his royal status. He was very open-minded and interested in the radical tendencies of the 1880s.  The Duke became one of the era's most prominent landscape painters.  He was first trained in painting by Hans Gude and Wilhelm von Gegerfelt. Between 1887 and 1889, he studied in Paris under Léon Bonnat, Alfred Philippe Roll, Henri Gervex and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.  Puvis de Chavannes's classical simplicity had the greatest influence of Prince Eugen's work.  The Duke devoted himself entirely to landscape painting, becoming one of the era's most prominent landscape painters. He was mainly interested in the lake Mälaren, the countryside of Stockholm (such as Tyresö, where he spent his summers),Västergötland (most notably Örgården, another summer residence) and Skåne (especially Österlen).

I love all the windows and light.

Painting by Prince Eugen

Prince Eugen's Studio

Nordic Museum, Stockholm

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about going to the Nordic Museum to see an antique filing system from the beginning of the 20th century, but the illustrations in watercolor by artist Emelie von Waltersdorff were amazing!  Check them out.

The Nordic Museum is a museum located on Djurgården, an island in central Stockholm, Sweden, dedicated to the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden from the Early Modern age (which for purposes of Swedish history is said to begin in 1520) until the contemporary period. The museum was founded in the late 19th century by Artur Hazelius, who also founded the open-air museum Skansen.

For the Nordic museum, Hazelius bought or managed to get donations of objects – furniture, clothes, toys etc. – from all over Sweden and the other Nordic countries; he was mainly interested in peasant culture but his successors increasingly started to collect objects reflecting bourgeois and urban lifestyles as well.

King Gustav Vasa

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm

We went to the Carl Larson Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853 – January 22, 1919) was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts Movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes.

After several years working as an illustrator of books, magazines, and newspapers, Larsson moved to Paris in 1877, where he spent several frustrating years as a hardworking artist without any success. Larsson was not eager to establish contact with the French Impressionists; instead, along with other Swedish artists, he cut himself off from the radical movement of change.

After spending two summers in Barbizon, the refuge of the plein-air painters, he settled down with his Swedish painter colleagues in 1882 in Grez-sur-Loing, at a Scandinavian artists' colony outside Paris. It was there that he met the artist Karin Bergöö, who soon became his wife. This was to be a turning point in Larsson's life. In Grez, Larsson painted some of his most important works, now in watercolour and very different from the oil painting technique he had previously employed.

Carl and Karin Larsson had eight children and his family became Larsson's favourite models. Many of his watercolours are now popular all over the world. Many of the interiors depicted was a work of Karin Larsson who also worked as an interior designer.

Swedish Museum, of Natural History, Stockholm

The Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, is one of two major museums of natural history in Sweden, the other one being located in Gothenburg.

The museum was founded in 1819 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, but goes back to the collections acquired mostly through donations by the Academy since its foundation in 1739. These collections had first been made available to the public in 1786. The Museum was separated from the Academy in 1965.

One of the keepers of the collections of the Academy during its earlier history was Anders Sparrman, a student of Linnaeus and participant in the voyages of Captain James Cook. Another important name in the history of the Museum is the zoologist, paleontologist and archaeologist Sven Nilsson, who brought the previously disorganised zoological collections of the Museum into order during his time as keeper (1828–1831) before returning to Lund as professor.

The present buildings for the museum in Frescati, Stockholm, was designed by the architect Axel Anderberg and completed in 1916, topped with a dome; the main campus of Stockholm University was later built next to the museum.

The museum has an IMAX cinema called Cosmonova. The cinema is also the largest planetarium in Sweden.

Viewing the collection.

Painting and specimen.

Skansen Outdoor Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

I loved Skansen.  The crafts people, the exhibits, the farms were awesome.

Skansen was founded by Artur Hazelius in 1891. It is the world’s oldest open-air museum and is situated on the island of Djurgården within the city limits of Stockholm. The founder’s aims live on in the museum today. He wanted to bring the traditional rural culture to life by exhibiting furnished houses and farmsteads, cultivated plots and gardens and both domestic and wild animals. When Skansen started, its focus was on farming and Sami culture.

Visitors to Skansen meet a miniature historical Sweden reflected both in the buildings and their surroundings – from the Skåne farmstead in the south to the Sami camp in the north. The venues illustrate the different social conditions in which people lived in Sweden between the 16th centure and the first half of the 20th century. The majority of houses and farmsteads are from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

Old homestead with sod roof

Making rope out of flax

Making linen from flax

Thatched roof and wagon