(b Pori, 26 Apr. 1865; d Stockholm, 7 Mar. 1931). Finnish painter, graphic artist, designer, and architect. A major figure in the Art Nouveau and Symbolist movements, Gallen-Kallela travelled widely and was well known outside Finland, particularly in Germany (he had a joint exhibition with Munch in Berlin in 1895 and exhibited with Die Brücke in Dresden in 1910). He was deeply patriotic (he volunteered to fight in the War of Independence against Russia in 1918, even though he was in his fifties) and he was inspired mainly by the landscape and folklore of his country, above all by the Finnish national epic Kalevala (‘Land of Heroes’).
His early work was in the 19th-century naturalistic tradition, but in the 1890s he developed a flatter, more stylized manner, well suited to the depiction of heroic myth, with bold simplifications of form, strong outlines, and vivid—sometimes rather garish—colours. Apart from easel paintings, Gallen-Kallela did a number of murals for public buildings (including the Finnish National Museum, Helsinki, 1928). His work also included book illustrations (notably for an edition of Kalevala, 1922) and designs for stained glass, fabrics, and jewellery. He is regarded not only as his country's greatest painter, but also as the chief figure in the creation of a distinctive Finnish art, and he was given a funeral befitting a national hero. His former home (which he designed himself) at Tarvaspää near Helsinki is now a museum dedicated to him.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)