Volter Kilpi

Artist(s):Edwin Lydén Date:1935 Medium:oil on canvas Dimensions:50 x 41 cm

Edwin Lydén painted a bust-length portrait of author Volter Kilpi (1886–1939), who worked as the first Chief Librarian at the Finnish University of Turku, in 1935. Intimate in size, the commissioned portrait is in its style more naturalist and formal than most portraits by the artist. Lydén is not known to have often accepted official commissions, and it is possible that the middleman for this particular commission was a shared acquaintance: Docent Kaarlo Jäntere, who had by then already served as temporary Professor of History and held a speech at the unveiling of the portrait. The warmly depicted likeness pays full respect to the Argus-eyed sitter.

Volter Kilpi managed the library in 1920–1939; the library was in function even before the University was inaugurated. During these years, he wrote his magnum opus known as Saaristosarja (“the Archipelago series”), which comprises the novel Alastalon salissa (“In the Parlour at Alastalo,” 1933), the short story collection Pitäjän pienempiä (“Lesser Parishioners,” 1934) and the novel Kirkolle (“To Church,” 1937). In the series, he presents himself as a modernist author who experiments, among other features, with the stream of consciousness technique. When Kilpi turned 60 on 12 December 1934, his friends, acquaintances and colleagues asked for permission to have his portrait painted. The portrait was acquired through fundraising and unveiled and handed over in the library reading room on the night before the University’s anniversary, on 27 February 1935. Kilpi and his spouse had a collection of Finnish art in their home that reflected their personal interests and included a sketch by Lydén.

Edwin Lydén (1879–1956) studied at the Turku Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society in 1894–1899 and at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, in 1899–1906. Lydén was a painter, drawer, illustrator and political caricaturist, and also experimented with graphic art. Open-minded and experimental, he tried out a wide range of styles, from Symbolism and Expressionism to abstraction. Lydén was a central figure in the first generation of the so-called Turku Modernists.

Tutta Palin 2024

Aarras, Raimo. Edwin Lydén. Ed. Aimo Reitala. Taidehistoriallisia tutkimuksia – Konsthistoriska studier 5. Helsinki: Society for Art History in Finland, 1980.

Kokko, Laura. Volter Kilpi. Elämäkerta. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2022.

K. R–nen. [Kalle Rautiainen]. “Turkulaisia taidekoteja ja -kokoelmia. III. Kirjastonhoitaja Volter Kilven koti.” Uusi Aura, 1 January 1931.

“Ylikirjastonhoitaja Volter Kilven muotokuva paljastettiin eilen Turun yliopiston kirjaston lukusalissa.” Turun Sanomat, 28 February 1935.