Martta Wendelin, Children in the Garden, pastel 1959, image: Museum image/Tuusula Art Museum


Celebrating the 130th anniversary of the birth of Finnish illustrator and painter Martta Wendelin (1893-1986), the exhibition "Martta Wendelin - Golden Sand on the Paths of People" will be held at Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi, Finland from March 5th. The exhibition showcases her best paintings alongside her illustrations, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the beloved artist.

Martta Wendelin was one of the most well-known Finnish illustrators in the first half of the 20th century. Her illustrations' peaceful atmosphere and genuine depictions of home and family life were essential to the Finnish people. The idyllic portrayal of Finnish lifestyle throughout the seasons and calendar celebrations was most notably conveyed through her illustrations for the magazine Kotiliesi. Wendelin's production comprises more than 400 book covers, 3,000 illustrations for books, 1,000 postcards, 300 Kotiliesi covers, and over 1,000 illustrations for children's magazines, totaling more than 6,000 illustrations.

Born in Karhula, Kotka, on November 23, 1893, Martta Wendelin grew up in a family of sawmill managers. She studied under Eero Järnefelt at the University of Helsinki's drawing hall from 1910 to 1916. Her career as an illustrator began at WSOY in Porvoo in 1919. Painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela was Wendelin's supervisor for a brief time in the early 1920s and also mentored her in oil painting. Wendelin returned to Helsinki in 1925 and began working for other publishers as well. In the fall of 1937, she moved to a full-board home run by Lotta Svärd in Tuusula and settled in the Suopellon villa she rented in the spring of 1938. Her own artist's home was completed in Annivaara in 1947. In her home, surrounded by a beautiful garden, Wendelin lived with her foster daughter Helena and her family.

Martta Wendelin also had a broad production as a painter. The exhibition is divided into independent themes such as Flowers, Valamo & Karelia, Landscapes, Portraits, and Illustrations. As she aged, flowers and gardening became important to Wendelin, and her love for flowers is evident in her paintings. As a portrait painter, she followed her teacher Eero Järnefelt's teachings and depicted her models with expressive environmental portraits, whether they were strangers, friends, or family members. During her trip to Italy in 1927, she created an oil painting reminiscent of Helene Schjerfbeck's style, titled Water Carrier Girl in Taormina. Wendelin painted her most impressive landscapes not only during her trip to Italy, in Sicily and Rome but also by continuing the footsteps of previous Lake Tuusula painters Pekka Halonen and Eero Järnefelt with her views of the lake in the 1940s. Her late-stage work, the Kuusamo Lake landscape (oil, 1968), is an impressive and simplified masterpiece.

Martta Wendelin was also a skilled colorist in pastel painting. One of her finest pastel paintings is Children in the Garden (1959), which she painted in her own home's Annivaara garden. As a popular portrait painter in the later years of her career, she vividly captured her models' features in pastel sketches.

The artist also made the flowers glow with different colors, and her talent with color brought to life her illustrations and paintings. The exhibition of her work at Valamo Monastery showcases her talent as a versatile artist who conveyed the Finnish people's everyday life and landscapes with her.