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Sotheby's London to sell seminal work by Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt in sale of 19th Century European Paintings
The Boys’ Workhouse, Helsinki on public view at Galerie Donner in Helsinki on Friday 26 April 2013. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- On 23 May 2013 Sotheby’s London will offer a celebrated work by Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt in its sale of 19th Century European Paintings, along with other important works by Scandinavian artists. Painted in 1885, The Boys’ Workhouse, Helsinki comes to auction for the first time in almost thirty years, with an estimate of £350,000-450,000 (€411,000-530,000). The painting, which combines the influences of Edelfelt’s years in France with his innate love of his homeland, will be on public view in Helsinki on Friday, 26 April at the Galerie Donner (Havsgatan 1, Helsinki, Finland) from 10am to 12.30pm. In attendance will be Adrian Biddell, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s 19th Century European Paintings Department, Claude Piening, Senior Director, 19th Century European Paintings, and Anna-Maija Bernard, appointed by Sotheby’s in 2012 as the company’s representative in Helsinki.

Adrian Biddell, Head of Sotheby’s 19th Century European Paintings Department, comments: “We are delighted to be offering this evocative work by Albert Edelfelt, painted in 1885 at the height of the artist’s career when he had become recognised as Finland’s foremost painter. Such works very rarely come to the market, and the re-appearance of ‘The Boys’ Workhouse’ after almost three decades in a private collection marks an exciting opportunity for collectors of Edelfelt’s work.”

Having honed his skills as a painter of historical subjects first at the Art Society in Helsinki and later in Antwerp, Edelfet moved to Paris in 1874, where the tenets of Impressionism and the plein air naturalism of Jules Bastien-Lepage proved particularly compelling. The year of his arrival coincided with the first group exhibition held by the Impressionists, and it was not long until he befriended Bastien-Lepage, whose influence on artists of the time cannot be underestimated. From this point on, Edelfelt developed a new aesthetic, drawing on everyday subjects painted in a luminous, bravura palette. Though he embraced a style he had encountered abroad, and Parisian subject matter, he never lost touch with his Finnish roots. The Boys’ Workhouse, Helsinki draws on a subject closer to home and intimately familiar to him. His contemporary fellow Finns shared his approach, including artists Helene Schjerfbeck and Akseli Gallen-Kallela who, like Edelfelt, trained in Paris and whose paintings from the 1880s and 1890s bear striking similarities to his. The Boys’ Workhouse, Helsinki was acquired from the artist at the 1885 Finnish Art Society Exhibition and was so popular with the public, it was also published as a print.

Sotheby’s auction will also include two landscapes by Gallen-Kallela, Lake View in Autumn from 1905 (est. £60,000-80,000 / €70,500-94,000) and Spring Sun at Konginkangas (est. £80,000-120,000 / €94,000-141,000) from 1906. Both show the Finnish landscape at different times of year, and are an expression of the artist’s strong feelings for his country. They will be on public view in Helsinki alongside the Edelfelt.

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