As some of you may remember, I have a thing for Soviet art. So when I heard that the Didrichsen museum was going to feature treasures from Moscow collector and gallerist Mikhail Arefyev’s collections, I knew I had to go.
Since I’d bought my mom a Museum card for her birthday, it was easy to convince her to join me. I noticed on the museum’s website that on Sundays they have free guided tours, in Finnish and Swedish. So Sunday it was.
The Didrichsen museum is located in a villa from the late 1950’s designed by Viljo Revell. His idea was to combine art, architecture and nature. Instead of flowerbeds, sculptures adorn the outside areas. Huge windows bring the outdoors and the inside closer together. The museum is located in Helsinki’s Kuusisaari neighbourhood which is outside the city center but easily accessed by bus from Kamppi.
Moscow dentist Mikhail Arefjev has acquired an impressive collection of Soviet art. Out of the 1000 paintings in his collection, 40 are featured at Didrichsen – unseen in Finland ever before. Of these, most are from the 50’s and 60’s. From the paintings in this era, you can easily see the focus on everyday, personal life of the Soviet person but nevertheless, the ideology is still subtly there.
I’m just going to concentrate on a few of my favourite pieces but the truth is that I could just go on and on about these works of art.
Soviet art was meant for the masses. Many pieces were meant to be displayed high up, so that crowds could still access the message from afar. Alexey Kadushkin’s “Welders” is one of these pieces. Notice how the men are shown to be on a break. Traditionally the Stalin-era socialistic realism presented people busy at work. The works of post-Stalin era were able to showcase everyday moments like this – having a smoke and hanging out with the guys. It tells us of the change from what could be called “pure propaganda art” to a more down-to earth approach on life.
Alexander Deineka’s painting “Good Morning” is stunning. Again, it’s a huge painting. You can clearly see that the Soviet man was fit and muscular! Well, at least that’s what the state wanted the people to think. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these men are being idle and enjoying a summer’s day with friends. Naturally behind this scenes is the state’s ideology – for example one interpretation could be that it’s a good morning because the men have decided to take an early swim in order to be refreshed for work. Also, the men’s fit frames hint at the fact that they do manual labour – hard and productive work benefiting the state and the people. Note how the guy in the water is looking right at you and draws you into the picture.
Can you now see why Soviet art is so fascinating?
The “Good Morning” painting has been made into a mosaic – I would love to see it live one day. Deineka was considered one of the most important painters of the Soviet state and one place to see his work is in the Moscow metro stations.
Below you can see Mihail Zautrennikov’s “At the duck farm”. Once again, the subtle message of this piece is that even children for the good of the Soviet state – this girl’s chore was duck farming. At Didrichsen you will also find a painting of a very old lady, busy doing laundry. Work was for everyone!
The newest painting showcased at Didrichsen is from 1995, Erofeev V.I.’s “Boys”. By that time, USSR had fallen. But what is interesting about this piece is that it still has the same kind of composition as had Soviet art in the 50’s and 60’s. Even here the boys are busy fishing instead of playing.
There are many more interesting pieces of art, so if you have the chance, do take some time to visit this interesting exhibition. The museum is a small one but perfect to display these particular paintings.
Don’t you love museum shops? At Didrichsen you can find really cute matryoshka dolls.
And even the museum’s own tea. You can buy the museum’s own design cup to go with it too.
After our visit, my mom and I decided to visit Villa Angelica. It’s a café near Seurasaari island. It is an extremely quirky café worth visiting because of the eccentric decor and atmosphere.
The villa was build in 1901. Beautiful flowers greeted us at the front porch. The style inside is very romantic.
In the middle of the café you will find a table adorned with goodies. The apple pie with vanilla sauce was lovely.
The prices are very steep and the lady of the house was in a terribly fowl mood. But it’s a beautiful house and the cakes are delicious. It’s like taking a step back in time and experiencing it at least once.
Have you seen any interesting art exhibitions lately? Or have you perhaps popped in Villa Angelica on your way to Seurasaari island?