Magnus Enckell, Christmas Tree at Kilo Manor, 1920s
Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation acquired Magnus Enckell’s oil painting Christmas Tree in the Salon of Kilo Manor in 2001. The artwork is undated but on the basis of artist’s biographical information it can be dated to the early 1920s. At that time, Enckell resided near the Kilo Manor in Villa Eka designed by Eliel Saarinen.
Magnus Enckell is known for his symbolistic artworks from 1890s as well as for post-impressionist paintings from 1910s. For the impressionist and post-impressionist painters, the most important mediums of expression were colour and light that the artists resorted to open the viewers’ eyes to transient atmospheres, impressions and sensations.
Magnus Enckell’s interpretation of the Christmas tree of Kilo manor has been implemented in the spirit of the impressionists. Brushwork is relaxed and swift, and the spruce twigs seem to sway in front of the eye. Actually, you can hardly distinguish them from the background. And, when you study the painting more closely it seems that, instead of needles, the spruce rather consists of circles of light and decorative flags hanging on the twigs. An interesting detail among the Finnish flags is the red-blue-white Tricolore – a reference to the country of origin to impressionism – France to which Enckell felt closely connected.
Also the artwork’s composition gives an impressionistic and ephemeral feeling. The motif has been depicted as if it were behind the window and the viewer had been peeking from outside into the candlelit room. A corner of a window frame can be detected on the left side and top of the painting. The man seated in the salon of the manor is only partly visible behind the reddish curtain, obviously unaware of being viewed.
Viewer’s relation to the room depicted allows interpretation. If we want, we can let our imagination run wild and think that the artist has depicted his artwork from the viewpoint of an elf. On the other hand, in 1920s Christmas was celebrated in Finland as an atmospheric and religious family feast. Magnus Enckell’s artwork portrays some characteristics of this atmosphere of devotion and at the same time making it accessible to us.
Peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!