Gustaf Komppa

Artist(s):Emil Rautala Date:1938 Medium:oil on canvas Dimensions:114 x 89 cm

Emil Rautala’s portrait of Gustaf Komppa (1867–1949), a member of the founding committee for the Finnish University of Turku and the University’s Chancellor in 1935–1949, was painted in 1938 and unveiled on the University’s anniversary on 27 February 1939. Komppa was one of the most esteemed researchers in chemistry in Finland and a pioneer in the modern chemical industry. He became world-renown for his total synthesis of camphor (1903). In the portrait, he is shown holding a lecture, although he was not a teacher at the University of Turku, but worked as Professor of Chemistry at the Technical University when he was appointed Chancellor. He retired from his position as Professor at the age of 70 in spring 1937. It is likely that the artist used photographs of him lecturing at the Helsinki Technical University when painting the portrait. The objects on the lecture hall table suggest this.

Painter Emil Rautala (1883–1948) had been a member of the Red Room artist group in Turku and continued to paint portraits of the University’s staff members and supporters even after his move to Helsinki in 1927. He exhibited his works mostly in Turku. Rautala studied both at the Turku Drawing School (1898–1900) and the University of Helsinki Art Room (1904–1905), where his teacher was Eero Järnefelt. He had also begun studies at the Helsinki Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society (1905–1906). During his studies, he sojourned in, for example, Munich (1907–1908) and Paris (1912–1913). Portrait painting was an essential part of his oeuvre, which is characterised by expressive use of the brush and a Post-Impressionist palette with strong shades of blue, green and purple.

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Bergh, Erik and Päivi Hovi, eds. Punainen huone – Röda rummet. Turku: Turku Art Museum, 1988.

Koskinen, Mirva, ed. Silmin nähden. Taideteoksia Turun yliopiston arkkitehtuurissa – Art in Architecture at the University of Turku. Turku: University of Turku, 1997.

Niinistö, Lauri. “Komppa, Gustaf (1867–1949).” Kansallisbiografia online publication, 11 October 2000 (updated on 9 May 2016). Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.