Lauri Viljanen

Artist(s):Essi Renvall Date:1964 Medium:mixed media Dimensions:63 x 48 cm

Lauri Viljanen (1900–1984) served as Professor of Finnish and Comparative Literature at the University of Turku in 1949–1954. Viljanen was a literary scholar as well as a poet, a member of the literary group Tulenkantajat (“The Flame Bearers”), and an eminent cultural figure. His best-known works include the essay collection Taisteleva humanismi from 1936. Viljanen was appointed Professor of Finnish and Comparative Literature in December 1949. His predecessor V. A. Koskenniemi (1885–1962), who had served in the role since the University’s early days, had transferred to the Research Council of Finland the previous year. Viljanen, in turn, transferred to the University of Helsinki in 1954, where he took on the post of Professor of Finnish Literature.

The portrait of Viljanen in the University’s art collection was painted by Ester “Essi” Renvall (née Lähde, 1911–1979) in 1964. Known primarily as a sculptor, Renvall was an accomplished and multitalented artist whose extensive oeuvre ranges from charcoal drawings and medals to public monumental sculptures. Renvall was also the first woman in Finland to earn her livelihood from sculpture. The subtle liveliness that characterises Renvall’s works is evident in her pastel portrait of Viljanen, whose gold-foil motif sprawls across the work’s smooth surface.

Emma Vuolaslempi 2024

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Hosiaisluoma, Yrjö. Lauri Viljanen. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2000.

Nikkari, Virpi. “Ihmisyyttä etsimässä. Essi Renvall muotokuvataiteilijana.” Essi Renvall, ed. Tarja Kekäläinen, 10–73. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2016.

Vares, Vesa. Turun yliopiston historia, 1. Kansallinen tehtävä 1920–1974. Turku: University of Turku, 2020.