Greta Hällfors-Sipilä & Sulho Sipilä

Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, 00100 Helsinki
Helsinki Art Museum HAM

Greta Hällfors-Sipilä (1899–1974) and Sulho Sipilä (1895–1949) were two exceptionally ope…

Greta Hällfors-Sipilä (1899–1974) and Sulho Sipilä (1895–1949) were two exceptionally open-minded artists in Finland in the 1910s. The radical trends in European art at the time disrupted the traditional representative form in visual arts and created a new kind of colour expression. Greta and Sulho were eager to take part in these experiments.

Greta and Sulho, whose nicknames were Tiva and Halle, studied at the Finnish Art Society’s Drawing School in the 1910s. The lively pair became an inseparable couple. The early modernism of both artists is related to the new art trends of their time, especially the Russian avant-garde. A number of works from the early years of their careers have been preserved, in which they boldly try out colours and new forms.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Sulho Sipilä and Greta Hällfors-Sipilä focused on things close at hand, what they saw and experienced in both their daily lives and celebrations. In their works, both artists depicted each other, their home or the surrounding city and its amusements. The exhibition has a special focus on captivating street views from Helsinki, not forgetting the city’s busy social life. The couple also painted a number of works depicting their summers in the archipelago in Uusimaa and in the countryside in Southwest Finland. Boats, bathing huts and beach life recur especially in Greta’s paintings and sketchbooks. The sea was also important to Sulho, who even made another career for himself as a naval officer.

In addition to visual arts, music and playing instruments were important to both artists and remained a part of their shared life through the decades. Greta was almost a concert pianist, and the Sipiläs also organised small home concerts for their family and friends.

Greta and Sulho’s shared life and art is a fascinating topic that raises many questions. The works convey the joy of life and, at the same time, loneliness and melancholy. And why did Greta’s career as an artist not really take off during her lifetime, like Sulho’s did?

The exhibition presents the art and life of the artist couple from the 1910s to the 1950s. The exhibition consists of 60 works from different collections. The life of these two strong artistic personalities is also preserved in a number of photographs, holiday greetings from the couple and letters that reflect their fast-paced life together.

The exhibition has been curated by Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, who has also written the book Greta Hällfors-Sipilä and Sulho Sipilä, which will be published in connection with the exhibition. Produced by HAM, the book is based on the works of Greta Hällfors-Sipilä and Sulho Sipilä that are part of the City of Helsinki’s collections. Pictures of these works have been complemented with photographs and pictures from the collections of museums that have borrowed works for the exhibition and from private collections.