Autumn Morning

Artist(s):Otto Mäkilä Date:1939 Medium:gouache on paper Dimensions:33 x 39 cm

Otto Mäkilä’s Autumn Morning (1939) is thematically linked to the Turku-based artist’s Omega series, which he began around the same time and which, according to local interpretations, is willingly linked to the times the artist spent on the verdant island of Ruissalo, although the work approaches it more as a mindscape than a recognisable place. Omega, the final letter in the Greek alphabet, refers to human finitude. Accordingly, the figure resting by the window is contemplating mortality.

In contrast to his better-known painting Poésie (1938, Turku Art Museum), where the main figure lies on a sunny meadow, accompanied by a red horse, in the Omega series, the dream-like horses graze outdoors behind the window in the early hours of the morning. Some of the horses even peek through the window. Only the unnumbered Omega painting from 1939 depicts a female figure sleeping peacefully with her back turned towards the window (Pori Art Museum). Although Autumn Morning’s atmosphere is poetic and light, the work clearly reflects on the relationship between the inner and outer worlds as a profoundly philosophical question. However, the ordinary checkered bedcover makes the small gouache painting approachable despite its solemn theme.

Mäkilä saw colour as a medium for expressing inner reality, preferring, in particular, juxtapositions in cool colours. He distanced himself from nationalism à la Koskenniemi. Instead, his imagery is often interpreted as being linked to the romantic Unen kaivo (“The Well of Dreams,” 1936) collection by poet Kaarlo Sarkia (1902–1945). The poet had joined Koskenniemi’s literary circle in Turku in January 1927. The themes in Mäkilä’s art and his pursuit of immediacy approach the self-analytical “central poetic” perspective that focuses on the emotions of the lyrical subject and the fundamental questions of life.

Otto Mäkilä (1904–1955) studied at the Drawing School of Turku Art Society in 1920–1924. He held his first exhibition in Turku in 1926 and soon became known as a central figure in the second generation of the so-called Turku Modernists. A connoisseur of French culture, Mäkilä is also regarded as a pioneer of Finnish Surrealism, although he did not follow any externally dictated art manifestos or artistic programmes. Mäkilä was a member of the Pro Arte group of Finnish-speaking artists in Turku in 1933–1938.

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Vihanta, Ulla. “Otto Mäkilän intentioista, taiteesta ja taidetta koskevista ajatuksista.” Otto Mäkilä. Punainen levoton kipinä – En röd orolig gnista – A Red Restless Spark, ed. Mia Haltia, 49–69. Turku: Turku Art Museum, 2011.

Vihanta, Ulla. Unelmaton uni. Suomalaisen surrealismin filosofis-kirjallinen ja psykologinen tausta: Otto Mäkilän surrealistinen taide. Helsingin yliopiston taidehistorian laitoksen julkaisuja XI. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 1992.