Huhkojärvi Sauna Doors

Artist Hannes Autere played a significant role when, in the late 1920s, Gösta Serlachius built his Huhkojärvi home in an ideal image of Finnish peasant culture. The sauna doors the Autere sculpted for Huhkojärvi, are part of the collection of the Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation.

In the late 1920s, Gösta Serlachius created his Huhkojärvi home by combining buildings and land he acquired in Koskenpää, a neighbouring parish of Mänttä. The old structures did not correspond with Serlachius’ view of what beautiful peasant buildings should look like. The new buildings, however, were constructed utilising the logs of the old ones. Autere participated in designing the buildings as well as their decorations and furnishings.

The material of Huhkojärvi sauna was stone. In addition to the relief doors, it was decorated with paintings by Autere. A poem in Kalevala meter, telling of the acquisition of the Huhkojärvi property, was immortalised on the changing room walls. Autere painted fourteen girls on the ceiling of the sauna. Gösta Serlachius later related that by 1940 soot already had covered them.

There are two relief-decorated pinewood sauna doors. One door has two male figures bathing in the sauna. Gösta Serlachius explained the image in one of his letters: “The composition is completely Autere’s and it shows two young girls, who are bathing me, and an older woman, who is washing Autere himself.”

Unfortunately, no contemporary description exists of the other door. The relief depicts a man and woman cooling off after sauna bathing. The man is sitting on a rock at the foot of a pine tree and the woman is handing him a towel. The timber framework of a log building stands in the background.

The official opening of Huhkojärvi sauna was on 26-27 June 1930. Gösta Serlachius invited to the event a number of artists and other friends. Pekka Halonen and Louis Sparre were unable to come, but present were Gösta and his son R. Erik Serlachius, and as guests the artists Hannes Autere, Eric O.W. Ehrström, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Jorma Gallen-Kallela, Agricultural Counsellor Adolf Forssell, Curator of the Ateneum Art Museum Torsten Stjernschantz and Forester Emil Vesterinen.

For the official opening of the sauna, Gösta also invited to Huhkojärvi Karelian bathing attendant, Marfa. Serlachius had become acquainted with her at the Syskyjärvi forest estate, which he owned in Karelia. People say that Marfa’s spells, aimed at driving away evil spirits, enchanted Akseli Gallen-Kallela so much that he forgot about the sauna entirely.

Milla Sinivuori-Hakanen

Hannes Autere, Huhkojärvi Sauna Doors, late 1920s.
Hannes Autere, Huhkojärvi Sauna Doors, late 1920s.