Artturi H. Virkkunen

Artist(s):Wilho Sjöström Date:1923 Medium:oil on canvas Dimensions:100 x 73 cm

Trusted portrait painter Wilho Sjöström painted the portrait of the first Rector of the Finnish University of Turku, Artturi H. Virkkunen (1864–1924) in 1922, handing it over as his donation to the University in the same year. Virkkunen was a firm advocate of Finnishness and a charismatic popular educator, but the portrait shows him as a gentle-hearted, ordinary and approachable figure. The water jug and glass act as attributes and refer to a meeting or a speech.

Virkkunen’s discipline was Finnish History. He was one of the first seven professors to be appointed to the University in May 1921. Before his career at the University, he had worked as a teacher, the editor-in-chief for Uusi Suomi and as a Member of Parliament. From the societal perspective, he was a convincing leader for the new university. However, his career was short-lived as he passed away in 1924.

Wilho Sjöström (1873–1944) made his debut in 1897 and by the 1920s, he had already established himself as an acclaimed portrait and landscape painter. He and Eero Järnefelt were the preferred portrait painters of the Finnish-speaking and pro-Finnish intellectuals and enterprises in the early 20th century. He completed his most notable art studies under the private instruction of Akseli Gallen-Kallela and the Danish artist P. S. Krøyer and at the Académie Julian in Paris. He remained faithful to the legacy of 19th century Academic Realism even later in his career.

Tutta Palin 2024

Hanka, Heikki. “Sjöström, Wilho (1873–1944).” Kansallisbiografia online publication, 23 June 2000. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Huhtamäki, Ulla and Taina Lammassaari, eds. Wilho Sjöström 1873–1944. Hämeenlinna: Hämeenlinna Art Museum, 1990.

Jäntere, Kaarlo. Turun yliopiston perustaminen. Helsinki: Oy. Suomen kirja, 1942.

Niitemaa, Timo. “Artturi H. Virkkunen, rehtorina 1921–1924.” University of Turku, n.d.