SPEECH GIVEN BY MRS EEVA AHTISAARI
AT THE OPENING OF THE EVA MANNERHEIM SPARRE EXHIBITION
ON MAY 6, 1997 AT THE PORVOO MUSEUM
The 1990s have been the heyday of Finnish women artists. The history of the Finnish arts is constantly being rewritten. The scale of the impact of talented women artists has been unprecedented. The Fine Arts Association of Finland, founded as long ago as 1846, encouraged the young hopes of the nation - including women - to foster Finnish culture.
The Association's drawing schools accepted both men and women as students right from the beginning. By an international yardstick, the situation was quite unique.
One of the most interesting women artists who lived at the turn of the century was Countess Eva Mannerheim Sparre. Later generations remember her mainly as the author of an excellent cookery book, of which new editions come out regularly. Until recently, Eva Mannerheim remained in the shadow of her impulsive and industrious artist husband, Count Louis Sparre. Together Eva Mannerheim and Louis Sparre formed a working couple who had a major impact on Finnish applied arts and interior design. The Sparres worked and lived in Porvoo until 1906, when they moved to Sweden.
Eva Mannerheim Sparre also holds an individual place in our art history during its most successful period. The young Eva completed a diploma in wood sculpting and leatherwork at Stockholm Technical School in 1891. She was a pioneer and the first teacher in her own field in Finland, when leatherwork was introduced as a subject at the Ateneum's art school. Eva Mannerheim was a popular teacher who dedicated herself to her work. She made book covers, albums, condolence and congratulation cards, woodcuts and miscellaneous souvenirs, of which there are several interesting examples in this exhibition.
Eva Mannerheim Sparre's life exemplifies the diversity of the common history that Finland, Sweden and Russia share. She had a cosmopolitan background. The Mannerheim family came from Sweden to Finland towards the end of the 18th century. Many of the family members made a career in Czarist Russia. Although she was an aristocrat herself, she and her husband were interested in the way ordinary people lived at a time when this was extremely uncommon. They were both passionate adventurers. In the early years of their marriage, they travelled in the Finnish wilds in search of artistic inspiration. Later, they travelled to North Africa, which they found particularly fascinating, keeping a careful journal of their experiences.
I hereby declare the exhibition of Eva Mannerheim Sparre's life's work at the Porvoo Museum open.