Erik Enroth, Café Colombia, 1971


The year 2017 marks the centenary of Finland’s independency as well as 100th anniversary of artist Erik Enroth (1917–1975). Three paintings by Enroth have been included in the Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation’s collection: Still-life with Chicken and Fish (1953), A Fruit Market in Spain (1955) and Cafe Colombia, which represents the artist’s late output.

Born in Helsinki, Enroth relocated to Tampere after having been married to Sara Hildén in 1949. He moved back to Helsinki Capital Region early 1960’s after his remarriage. Enroth became renowned in Finland’s art circles as cubistic expressionist, who often depicted intense motifs that were considered manly, such as factory workers and carcasses hanging in butcher’s shop. He was even called the “Strongman of Tampere”.

Enroth’s oeuvre is, however, more versatile than this characterization implies. Artist’s output comprises more floral still-lifes and landscapes than either of the above-mentioned. Enroth cannot either be restricted to just one or two stylistic pigeonholes. He explored broad-mindedly several stylistic trends from lyrical realism to informalism and concretism. Enroth found important paragons in Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, for example.

During 1960s Enroth’s colour palette became brighter, the fields of colour more contiguous and the forms more plastic. The themes and images of pop art had an effect on the artist, which lead him to experiment with several techniques, such as spray painting. Combining figurative motifs with non-figurative background remained in the focal point of his artistic expression, but started to get new features.

Motifs inspired by arts and crafts or drawing on Matisse’s output composed one part of the realm of his painting. These non-figurative elements form harmoniously an integral part of the figurative interior that creates entities indicative of tablecloths, curtains and wallpapers hence at the same time dealing with the issues of form and colour.

The international atmosphere of the painting Café Colombia is created through the name as well as the silhouette of a metropolis visible through the window. A fashionably dressed woman wearing sunglasses is sitting at the table in the café. Artist’s second wife Sirkka Enroth sat model for the work. The painting was completed the same year that the Enroths moved from their flat in Nallepolku artist house in Espoo to Tölö Helsinki.

Artist’s many works in the 1970s are based on the inspiration of the landscapes of Tölö even though they often manifest influence from Enroth’s several trips abroad. Compared to other artists of his time, Enroth travelled exceptionally often since 1940s. Spain was especially important for the artist. In 1959 Enroth travelled to the United States, Canada and Mexico on a scholarship. The metropolitan landscapes discernible through the window of Café Colombia may be results of this trip.

Tomi Moisio

Erik Enroth, Café Colombia, 1971
Erik Enroth, Café Colombia, 1971, acrylic paint on hardboard, Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation. Photo: Hannu Miettinen.