Church of the Holy Cross, Rauma

Artist(s):Martta Helminen Date:1922? (date unclear) Medium:oil on canvas Dimensions:61.5 x 52.5 cm

Martta Helminen’s painting of the medieval Church of the Holy Cross in Rauma is a summer landscape impression that demonstrates the artist’s familiarity with Post-Impressionist brushwork, which she learned with her teacher, the French painter Charles Guérin. It is possible that the work is an experiment inspired by Paris, as the artist’s oeuvre is generally less Impressionist in spirit.

Helminen is linked to the Finnish University of Turku’s establishment; she was one of the ladies from Tampere who donated the furniture designed by Armas Lindgren for the Chancellor’s room in autumn 1925. An informal society called Turun Suomalaisen Yliopiston Tamperelaiset Ystävät (“Friends of the Finnish University of Turku from Tampere”) had been formed for organising a raffle and a festive soirée. The chairperson of the society, which had over ten members, was Ester Reinius and its secretary was Göta Sinervo (later Salovius), who would later become Helminen’s fellow reporter and life partner. Raffle prizes included two children’s beds and a doll house made according to Helminen’s design. The artist had also designed a symbol for the society with an image of the Phoenix building.

Martta Helminen (1890–1983) studied at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society in 1905–1909 and under Charles Guérin in Paris in 1913–1914 and 1920–1921. However, she continued to work in Tampere, her hometown, for many years, even after she moved to Helsinki in the late 1920s. Besides her artistic work, she taught drawing at the Girls’ High School (1910–1927) and was an active member of the Tampere Art Society. Helminen made her debut in Helsinki in 1915. She is best known for her altarpieces and portraits.

Tutta Palin 2024

Consistory meeting minutes, 30 September 1925.

“Julkisten rakennusten taiteellinen sisustaminen. Kuvia ja tekstiä Tampereen naisten Turun Suomalaiselle Yliopistolle lahjoittamasta kanslerinhuoneen kalustosta ja taiteilija Helmisen Pihtiputaan kirkkoon maalaamasta alttaritaulusta.” Aamulehti, 31 May 1925.

Konttinen, Riitta. Täältä tullaan! Naistaiteilijat modernin murroksessa. Helsinki: Siltala, 2017.

Lönn, Rauha, ed. Kuvataiteilijat 2004. Helsinki: Artists’ Association of Finland / Kustannus Oy Taide, 2004.

Palin, Tutta. Ester Helenius. Värihurmion palvoja. Kirjokansi 113 – Hämeenlinnan Taidemuseon julkaisuja 1/2016. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2016.

“Turun Suomal. Yliopiston Tamp. Ystävät.” Aamulehti, 8 September 1922.