Flowers and Angels showcases the work of artists from Ostrobothnia who worked in the vernacular tradition of visual art. The exhibition is based on the studies of researcher and conservator Marko Kasto.
Lars Gallenius, Mikael Toppelius and Emanuel Granberg are known in Ostrobothnia primarily as church artists, but they also worked with different projects and materials: in addition to church interiors, their paintings decorate numerous chests, cupboard exteriors and boxes. In addition to these well-known painters, the exhibition features a number of works by unknown artists.
The title of the exhibition, Flowers and Angels, reflects the themes and motifs common to many artworks displayed in the exhibition. "The subject of flowers comes up naturally when speaking of Mikael Toppelius. He was truly a master of painted flowers", says researcher and conservator Marko Kasto. "Angels, on the other hand, are a key element of Toppelius' church art, and also appear regularly in both church and profane art by Emanuel Granberg. The exhibition features five chest paintings by Emanuel Granberg, two of which feature a putto or an angel", he continues.
Several studies have been published about Finnish rustic painters, but to date no systematic overview of the secular works of Northern Ostrobothnia's most important painters, Mikael Toppelius and Emanuel Granberg, has been available. The works of Lars Gallenius, who was active in the 17th and 18th centuries, have previously been exhibited in 2011 in the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum's special exhibition also curated by Marko Kasto.
As a conservator, Marko Kasto is also interested in the colour palette of the paintings and the pigments* used by the artists. The study of pigments is sometimes made easier by parish account books, which contain information of pigments used in church interiors and exteriors. The palettes used by the artists are often remarkably rich. Common binding agents include linseed oil and glue, the finest of which was made of materials such as calf skin.
Some pigments, however, lose their colours in prolonged exposure to light. Chests are, in this regard, a fascinating exception. Since chests are most of the time closed, the colours of their internal decorations are still very close to what they were when they were painted more than 200 years ago. The tones of church paintings, for example, have often become lighter or darker over time because of natural conditions.
* Pigments are fine-grained powders that do not dissolve into the binding agent. They define the colours and other visual properties of the paintings, and can be translucent or opaque. They usually come as powders, and are usually mixed with binding agents to produce paint.
Painters: Lars Gallenius, Mikael Toppelius, Emanuel Granberg, H. O., Unknown I and II
The exhibition items are from the collections of the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum, National Museum of Finland, Raahe Museum, Museums of Vaasa, Museum of Central Ostrobothnia and private collections.
Marko Kasto (1966–), the curator of the exhibition, is trained as a furniture conservator. He has studied the field in Teuva, Stockholm and Helsinki.
He has previously curated five exhibitions and authored three publications related to them: Mestareiden jäljillä, Mestareita ja oppipoikia and Itä-Uusimaa kukkii. He has also published several articles on decorative painted furniture.