Hugo Simberg

Finnish Painter (1873 - 1917)

01.12.11: Biography

Born Hugo Gerhard Simberg on 24th of June 1873. Finnish painter and graphic artist, born at Hamina, Finland. After training at the Finnish Fine Arts Association and in Helsinki, he studied privately with Gallen-Kallela, on whose advice he made a tour abroad in 1896, visiting London, where he admired the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and Paris. In 1897–8 he travelled in Italy, and in 1899 he visited the Caucasus.

Although he painted fairly straightforward landscapes and portraits, most of Simberg's work is in a highly distinctive Symbolist vein. Drawing on his country's rich folk traditions, he depicted a vividly imaginative world in which devils and angels and personifications of Death and Frost mingle with humans. In such work his style was colourful and bizarre, sometimes with an almost naive quality of freshness.

Gallen-Kallela wrote that Simberg had a ‘quite wonderful gift, completely in the character of the Old Masters of the thirteen or fourteen hundreds. And it is a genuine, not affected, naivety. His works seem like sermons that everyone must listen to, and they stick in the memory.’

Simberg usually worked on a small scale (his output includes many watercolours, drawings, and etchings), but in 1904–7 he did impressive monumental work, including frescos and stained glass, for the newly-built church (now catherdal) at Tampere, Finland's second largest city.

His later career was marred by illness.

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01.12.11: The Wounded Angel

Pictured above and below, The Wounded Angel (Haavoittunut enkeli), 1903, is undoubtedly Simberg' most famous work. Located at the Ateneum in Helsinki, it was voted Finland's "national painting" in a vote held by the museum in 2006. It is indeed so deeply ingrained in Finnish culture that parodies can be found everywhere.

For me it is the two boys who make this picture so haunting. The look of the boy on the right is haunting and troubling. Does he really want to be carrying the bloodied and blind angel? Is it a chore, something he has to do? The boy on the left seems on intent on getting it done, a stare fixed ahead but looking slightly weary. So sensible and mature in his black suit and hat, he looks like a junior undertaker. It's these contradictions that for me make the painting so marvellously troubling.

The landcape is at Eläintarha and Töölönlahti bay, Helsinki. The healthy boys are carrying the injured girl towards the Blind Girls’ school and the Home for Cripples. In her hand is a bunch of snowdrops, symbolic of healing and rebirth.

As Simberg always declined to explain the painting it is left to each individual to come up with his/her own explanation.

That is the power of the piece.

Oil, 50 in × 61 in.


01.12.11: Images - All Images © Estate of Hugo Simberg

Allposters.com are a good starting point to build any collection. From time to time they have stock from the Finnish masters. More details here.


The Wounded Angel, 1903 (Detail)

hugo simberg


The Garden of Death, 1896 (Detail)

hugo simberg


Self-Portrait, 1907 (Detail)

hugo simberg


Devil By The Pot, 1897 (Detail)

hugo simberg


Fantasia, 1896 (Detail)

hugo simberg


Näky, 1895 (Detail)

hugo simberg


Näky, 1895 (Detail)

hugo simberg




Prints:
The Wounded Angel Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page
Dark Optimist Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page
Sheds Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page


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Gallery here. Wounded Angel details here. Search site. Prints.


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Choosing A Child Laptop/iPad Page


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The Wounded Angel Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page


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Dark Optimist Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page


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Sheds Laptop/iPad Page, Smartphones Page

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Egon Schiele

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