Female Artists in the Önningeby Artists’ Colony in Åland



The exhibition features the oeuvre of the female artists of the last decades of the 19th and the early 20th century who worked in the Önningeby artists’ colony in Åland: Hanna Rönnberg, Elin Danielson, Anna Wengberg, Ida Gisiko, Eva Topelius, Dora Wahlroos, Ellen Favorin, Amélie Lundahl, Elin Alfhild Nordlund, Nina Ahlstedt, Helmi Sjöstrand and Hanna Svanström-Lodenius.


The Önningeby artists’ colony was the only example in Finland of a typical phenomenon of the European art life during the last decades of the 19th century: artists, inspired by the impressionist en plein air painting, left their studios to look for creative impulses in nature. Beginning in 1886, a creative community gathered in Önningeby in Åland at the initiative of the well-known landscape painter, charismatic art teacher and, beginning in 1904, the director of the Turku Art Museum, Victor Westerholm. Several artists from both Finland and Sweden arrived in Önningeby and the number of female artists working in the colony was remarkably high.


The reputation of the Önningeby artists’ colony attracted the Young Estonia artists Konrad Mägi, Nikolai Triik and Aleksander Tassa to Åland in 1906. In 1913, Tassa spent another summer in Åland, together with the writer Friedebert Tuglas and the sculptor Anton Starkopf. Tuglas travelled to Åland in 1907, challenged by the information received from the artists, and was so fascinated by the atmosphere that he came back to Åland several times, spending the summers of 1909, 1910 and 1913 there. The memoirs written by Tuglas about his time spent with the Estonian artists in Åland are a literary landmark in the history of Estonian literature.


The present exhibition continues the cooperation between the Adamson-Eric Museum and the Önningeby Museum in Åland, which started in 2006 with the project “Åland Phenomenon. Young Estonian Artists and Writers in Åland in 1906–1913.” In 2006, an exhibition was organised in Tallinn as well as in Åland, an international conference was held and a catalogue was published. To commemorate the stay of the young Estonians in Önningeby a century earlier, Jüri Ojaver created a sculpture of five symbolic benches, which was placed near the Önningeby Museum.


The present exhibition in Tallinn introduces the Öningeby artists’ colony, which fascinated the Estonian artists of the beginning of the 20th century and drew them to Åland. For the Adamson-Eric Museum, one of the main lines of activity involved compiling the series of exhibitions “The First Estonian Female Artists”, which introduces the position of the female artists from different aspects of their time and society. This is why the exhibition features the Önningeby artists’ colony through their female artists.


The works of art displayed at the exhibition mostly belong to the Önningeby Museum’s art collection. The Önningeby Museum was founded in 1992 by the Önningeby Heritage Society to revive the memories of the long-forgotten, but in its own time one of the most prominent, Scandinavian artists’ colonies. More than two decades of research and collection, as well as attending art auctions all over the world, have resulted in the creation of archives and a remarkable and culturally valuable collection of art.

Exhibition curators:

Kjell Ekström (Önningeby Museum)
Kersti Koll (Adamson-Eric Museum)

Design of the exhibition: Kjell Ekström

Design of the printed materials of the exhibition: Tiit Jürna

Educational programmes: Liisi Selg

Exhibition team: Tuuli Aule, Aleksander Josing, Renita Raudsepp, Katri Ristal and Uve Untera