Lynx, The Sulking one, Excelsior
Jussi Mäntynen was an active nature enthusiast, preparator and curator of the Department of Zoology, sculptor and hunter. Work, hobbies and art were all entwined together in his persona. Mäntynen is known for diverse and realistically depicted animal motifs that included birds as well as large animals endemic to Finland, such as moose, bears and lynxes. He usually worked them in diorite or granite. Naturalness, exact features and vividness are the common features of his animal figures.
The lynx is an average-sized feline and the only wild feline found in Finland. In Ilves (Lynx, 1929), which is part of the exhibition, Mäntynen has depicted the animal in a sitting posture. The sturdy sculpture is typical of his art both in terms of material and expression. The bear has been depicted by Mäntynen at different stages of its life from playful cubs to old and wounded bears. He even named one of his bear-themed works as a self-portrait. At this exhibition, the bear balancing on a ball, Murjottaja (The Sulking One, 1926), does not give the impression of the majestic nature usually associated with the totemic animals of northern peoples. Perhaps the bear is not standing on a globe that represents the universe, but in Mäntynen’s depiction, the poor animal has been forced to entertain people at a circus. Mäntynen’s later works contain many bird motifs. He liked to depict swans and cranes spreading their wings while taking flight. The depiction of motion is central to his bird motifs. After the war Mäntynen’s birds taking flight became symbols of sorrow and liberation. The Excelsior sculpture (1940) has been produced in multiple casts in bronze and silver. One of the casts adorns the headstone of the artist and his wife at the Turku cemetery.
Jussi Mäntynen (1886 Helsinki – 1978 Turku) studied sculpture at the Central School of Applied Arts in 1901, 1904 and 1912–13. He studied sculpture also under Alpo Sailo in 1912–13. Mäntynen made a study trip to Berlin in 1919–20 and to Paris in 1926–27 and 1934. When visiting the museums on these study trips Mäntynen was epecially interested in animal sculptures. His works were on display for the first time in 1925 in Helsinki. Perhaps the most well-known of his sculptures is Hirvi (Moose, 1924), the original bronze cast of which was erected in the Torkkelinpuisto Park in Viipuri. Three new castings have later been erected, one in the Erkonpuisto Park in Lahti in 1955, one in the Kupittaanpuisto Park in Turku in 1969 and one in front of the Natural History Museum in Helsinki in 1972. Mäntynen has carved numerous public sculptures around Finland.
The private exhibitions in Stockholm in 1934 and in London in 1939 were of great importance to his career. He participated in the Milan Triennial in 1933, where he won the bronze medal. He was awarded the Grand Prix in the Brussels International Exposition in 1935 and in Paris World’s Fair in 1937. In 1943 Mäntynen moved to Lidingö, Sweden, where he then was better known as an artist than in his native country. He moved back to Finland, to Turku, in 1967. Over the years Mäntynen donated almost 120 works of art to the Turku Art Museum. Small sculptures by him are on permanent display in the so called “Mäntynen Room” on the second floor of the Art Museum. Jussi Mäntynen was awarded the Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 1949 and in the same year he was also given the honorary title of professor.
Studies and prizes
- Jussi Mäntynen, Lynx, 1929, red granite, Tampere Art Museum, Deposition from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation-
- Jussi Mäntynen, Excelsior, 1940, silver, LocalTapiola
- Jussi Mäntynen, The Sulker, 1926, red granite, private collection.
Photos: Vesa Aaltonen.