Primal Force (Destruction of Culture)

Artist(s):Wäinö Aaltonen Date:1915 Medium:plaster Dimensions:ht. 20 cm

Seven bronze casts are known to exist of Primal Force, an early statuette by Wäinö Aaltonen. The University’s collection includes a plaster version of the piece. The motif is related to vitalism and the emotionalist theory of aesthetics of the time, and reflects the young artist’s interest in Expressionism. In the sculpture, a figure of physical male force pushes aside the obstacles and restraints imposed by established culture. This can be interpreted as a symbol of the emerging population groups that were fighting their way up in society. It can also be seen as a version of the more tragic iconography of Samson, based on a section in the Old Testament (Judges 16:29–30), where the strongman destroys the temple of the Philistines, and himself, by breaking its two middle pillars.

Inscribed on the pedestal: monogram

Wäinö Aaltonen (1894–1966) was born in Turku and studied at the Drawing School of Turku Art Society in 1910–1915. He learned the techniques and practices of sculpture at the studio of his kinsman Aarre Aaltonen. Making his debut in 1916, he first joined the modernists in Turku and showed his works together with the Expressionist artists’ association November Group. Aaltonen soon became established as one of the leading contemporary sculptors in Finland. His large body of public works includes Genius Guides Youth (1958–1960), a fountain sculpture on the main square of Yliopistonmäki (University Hill) in Turku, which was unveiled in 1961.

Tutta Palin 2024

“Decades of Art.” Wäinö Aaltonen: Poses, eds Elina Ovaska, Marjo Aurekoski-Turjas and Riitta Kormano, 10–69. English transl. Grano Oy / Multidoc. The Yearbook ABOA of the Museum Centre of Turku 2015 / 79. Turku: Museum Centre of Turku, 2017.

Huusko, Timo and Tutta Palin. “Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Discourses on Expressionism in Finland: From the November Group to Ina Behrsen-Colliander.” The Routledge Companion to Expressionism in a Transnational Context, ed. Isabel Wünsche, 222–256. New York: Routledge, 2019.

Pfäffli, Heidi and Heikki Ahvenjärvi. “Teosluettelo.” Wäinö Aaltonen 1894–1966, ed. Heidi Pfäffli, 96–312. Turku: Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, 1994.