Keijo Virtanen

Artist(s):Kaari Hilkka Könönen Date:2005 Medium:oil on canvas Dimensions:100 x 75 cm

The University of Turku’s longest-standing Rector, Professor of Cultural History, Keijo Virtanen (b. 1945), was appointed Rector no fewer than five times, for the first time in 1997. Before his appointment as Rector, he served as Vice Rector in 1993–1997. Known for his strong commitment to the University, Virtanen built functional relationships with both students and staff, as well as the Ministry of Education during his 15-year rectorship. He was also an active participant in developing the research career system. Virtanen retired in 2012.

Virtanen began his studies in history at the University of Turku in 1966 and earned his master’s degree in 1972, licentiate in 1977, and doctoral degree in 1980. He served as the newly established Department of Cultural History’s acting professor and lecturer in the 1980s and was appointed Professor of Cultural History in 1990. Virtanen’s interest in North America has been central to his research: his research topics have included the history of migration, Finnish migrants in America, and the effects of North American culture on Europe. He was one of the founders of the John Morton Center for North American Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences in 2013. Virtanen has also played an active role in developing cultural life in Turku. For instance, he served as the chairperson of the organising committee of Turku’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2011.

In his portrait, completed in 2005, Virtanen is shown standing, leaning against a red chair. The painting’s tactile surface contrasts with Virtanen’s formal clothing, which together with the sitter’s fixed gaze and sturdy pose underline the impression of a determined leader. The portrait was painted by contemporary artist Kaari Hilkka Könönen (b. 1952), who has painted several portraits in the University’s art collection, including of Stina Syrjänen, Professor of Oral Pathology (2010). Könönen studied at the Turku Drawing School and the University of Helsinki in the 1970s and has worked as a teacher and as Rector of the Turku Drawing School (later known as the Degree Programme in Fine Arts at the Turku University of Applied Sciences / Arts Academy).

Emma Vuolaslempi 2024

“Kaari Hilkka Könönen.” Online Artist Register of the Artists’ Association of Finland.

Niitemaa, Timo. “Keijo Virtanen, rehtorina 1997–2012.” University of Turku, n.d.

Vares, Vesa. Turun yliopiston historia, 2. Monimuotoisena maailmalle 1974–2020. Turku: University of Turku, 2020.