32 Elin Danielson-Gambogi (1861-1919)

Elin Danielson-Gambogi was one of the first professional women artists of Finland, part of the group known as the "Painter Sisters' Generation", which included Helene Schjerfbeck Maria Wiik, Helena WestermarckEllen Thesleff and Dora Wahlroos. Elin exhibited in Paris, Milan, and Finland. Her work was considered controversial, and sometimes offensive for the way she disregarded traditional women's roles. Despite this, she won a silver medal from the city of Florence (for a self-portrait), a bronze medal at the 1899 World's Fair in Paris, another bronze at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, and a silver in the 1901 National Portrait Competition in Finland. She is now considered a leading figure of the Finnish Golden Age of Art. I admire her not simply for her technical skills, but her range and vision - take a look and you'll see, no two artworks are alike.

'Self-Portraits 1900 & 1899'

Ellen Danielson was born in the small village of Noormarkku, near the town of Pori (now considered a city, but in her day had around 10,000 residents). She showed a talent for drawing as a child. Her family soon moved to Ilmojoki, where her father Karl tried to start a farm. Unfortunately, the Finnish Famine of 1866-8 came, and ruined his farm. He had to sell it, and was so devastated he shot himself. Following this, Ellen's mother, Rosa took Ellen and her sister (also Rosa) back to Noormarkku.

'Self-Portrait', 1903

At 15, Elin received financial help from her uncle, Mauritz Gestrin, and moved to Helsinki to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts, under the painters Hjalmar Munsterhjelm and Adolf von Beckerand sculptor Carl Sjöstrand. There, she learned to paint on porcelain, an invaluable way to make ends meet. In 1883, age 22, she got a grant to go to Paris and study at the Académie Colarossi, studying painting, and even sculpture under Auguste Rodin. While in France, she spent her summers travelling and painting in Brittany. After her studies, she returned to Noormarkku and opened her own atelier, and taught at several art schools. She also started a relationship with the Finnish sculptor Gustav Vigeland, that lasted five years.

'On the Way Home, Evening Light', 1901

In 1895 Elin received a scholarship to travel to Florence, Italy. She then moved to the village of Antignano, where she met and fell in love with another artist, thirteen years younger, named Raffaello Gambogi. They married in 1898 and traveled throughout Europe painting and exhibiting their art - all with the help of uncle Mauritz Gestrin, who organized all their exhibits in Finland.

'Portrait of Walborg Jakobsson', 1900

In 1901 Elin invited her friend Dora Wahlroos to stay with them in Italy. Unfortunately Raffaello fell in love with her, starting their first real marital crisis - Dora had no interest in him, and returned to Finland, refusing to even open the several letters he sent her (she also never married). In 1902 Raffaello began to show signs of mental illness, and Elin left him, going back to live in Finland. But, she returned to Italy a year later to try and salvage her marriage. In 1905 Raffaello entered a mental hospital in Volterra, and Elin was left to support them both with her painting.

'Fishing Boats', 1903

At the outset of WWI Elin had no way to travel or communicate with Finland, and tried to wait out the war in Italy. She kept exhibiting work in Italy throughout the war. Unfortunately, she died of pneumonia in 1919, by which time she had been largely forgotten in her home country. Luckily, she's now regarded as one of Finland's greatest painters.

'On the Beach', 1904

'Kimito Church Altarpiece'

'Story Time', 1900

'Winter Night', 1898-9

'After Breakfast', 1890

'Cards Entertainment', 1886

'Sisters', 1891

'Hilma Westerholm Playing the Piano'

'Lady Sewing', 1885

'Girl by the Oven', 1894

'Poor Girl', 1885

'In the Vinyard', 1898

'Sunny Day', 1900

'Potato Harvesters', 1893

'Two Women', 1905

'In the Vinyard', 1898

'Italian Family', 1900

'Young Woman with Cats', 1891

'Portrait of Rosa, the Artist's Sister' 1895

'Portrait of Hilma Westerholmin', 1888 - This won her a bronze medal at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris

'Young Mother, Brittany', 1885

'Motherhood', 1893

'Sara Adelaide Constance Sofia Ulriksdotter Ithimaeus', 1913

'Antignano Korkealta', 1917

'San Michele-kirkko Vo'

'Grape Harvesting', 1900

'The Outskirts of Antignano', 1916

'Sparkling Water in Turku Archipelago'

'Landscape from Sääksmäki'

'Olive Grove', 1910's

'Italian Washerwomen', 1900

'The Coast of Florence', 1902

'Villa Benvenuti', 1915

'Maisema Italiasta'

'The View from Samppalinna Hill'


'A Friend', 1882

'Meadow Flowers'

'Still Life with Fruit'

'Mother and child', 1893


'Italy', 1890

'Girl Cleaning the Fishing Nets'

'Girls on the Meadow',

'Man at a Table', 1886

Some notes taken from Joëlle Bolloch at Awarewomenartists.com and bGiovanna Bacci di Capaci Conti at 800artstudio.com