Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815–1891) was one of the most successful and celebrated French artists of his time. His small, almost miniature oil paintings are masterful depictions of historical stories, smoking rooms and salons. He was also greatly admired by the young Finnish artists Albert Edelfelt and Gunnar Berndtson who came to Paris to study in the 1870s. The exhibition Among Men at Art Museum Tennis Palace introduces Meissonier as a painter of men – his works show noblemen and military men spending time together, reading, painting or smoking their pipes. The exhibition also includes portraits and sculptures and pencil and watercolour studies for paintings. There are 33 works of art from the collections of eight museums.
Meissonier came from meagre circumstances and his becoming an artist was a difficult and uncertain process. Because he lacked formal training, he was not a member of the inner circle of artists in Paris. He began as an illustrator, gradually changing over to oil painting. His earliest paintings were inspired by the 17th century Dutch genre painters and genre painting became his speciality. He is best known for his Rococo interiors where 18th century gentlemen immerse themselves in pursuits expected of them: reading, painting, writing, playing music or playing games. The interiors are fabulous halls and salons and the men wear the best silks.
Among men is a study of companionship and brotherhood among men and of a world that seems to have been chemically cleansed of family life, women and children. Although the artist seemingly depicts the 18th century, he in fact deals with his own life and times. Meissonier is a master of small form and idyll. He has captured the perfect moment and harmony.
Minerva Kustannus Oy will publish the book Ernest Meissonier: Among men in conjunction with the exhibition. Both its articles and the exhibition itself offer a new and perhaps surprising view of the French salon painter. The articles by Berndt Arell and Anna Kortelainen, which in many ways share ideas and interpretations, shed entirely new light on the artist.
Guided tours: guided tours free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 18 o’clock and on Saturdays and Sundays at 14 o’clock; in Swedish, 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 13 o’clock. To book a private tour at another time or in another language, please call: +358 9 310 87003.