Relations between Generations in Finnish Art: Exploration of social space as represented in pictorial space

Tiedekunta tai koulutusyksikkö: Yhteiskuntatieteiden tiedekunta | Organisation sub unit: Terveystieteet | Tieteenala: Gerontologia
Albert Edelfeldt, Women of Ruokolahti on the Church Hill

Relations between Generations in Finnish Art:
Exploration of social space as represented in pictorial space.

A blog by Richard Pieper
Docent of Social Gerontology at GEREC, University of Tampere

Under construction  -  opening in August 2021

People of different age, gender and social status are often the subject of painting in Finnish art. Their relations - expressed in gazes, gestures and activities – form a social space in pictorial space.
In many cases, the space reaches beyond the painting to include agents outside the picture space - like the painter, the viewer, or other people implied by the activity.
We will focus on the period of about 1850 to 1950, partly because this avoids copyright issues. See above an example from Albert Edelfeldt (1887) from the “Golden Age” of Finnish painting.
But this is also an interesting period in which the collective spirit of Finnish nation-building changes into the individualism of a modern welfare state.
In a visual society, we need to explore this alternative medium of cultural expression and reflexivity.

The theme of the blog: Social relations between persons, not (primarily) the portraying of individuals.
Therefore, we want to discuss paintings with, typically, 3 to 7 persons.
This excludes still lives, landscapes, most portraits or couples (unless “unrepresented” figures are involved), and larger gatherings (unless most of the participants are background to a group).
We will find that this restricts us to a relatively limited number of paintings. Figurative art is only a section of art, and paintings focusing on social relations rather than psychological profiles of individuals are even less frequent.

The methodology of the blog: We will collect and present examples, and explore them using diagrams representing the social relations. The development of diagrams representing social relations will be one of our tasks. Participants are encouraged to suggest own examples.
(For the analysis of multi-figure paintings by Edouard Manet (1832-1883), I am currently developing a “formal scheme” in another blog ( You might like to take a look.)

Painting styles and techniques will be of secondary importance, only in so far as they are supporting the expression of relations (e.g. colours and agitated brush strokes expressing emotions).
Being a social scientist, I am not an expert in art history or art theory. Therefore, we will focus on how the painting “speaks for itself” and interprets social relations. Background information about the painting will be used whenever available and meaningful.
Painterly experts and practitioners are, however, highly welcome to the blog to help us in the interpretation!

At this point, I am busy with collecting examples and designing first diagrams.
I will inform you on this website, when I start the blog.
For more information or comments, feel free to contact me:

Richard Pieper

Contact: richard.pieper [at]