Sigfrid August Keinänen (born February 7 1841 in Kuopio – died September 25, 1914 Lempäälä) was a Finnish painter and teacher of drawing, known best now for his portraits and landscapes as well as for his Kalevala artwork. Keinänen’s father was a carpenter in Kuopio carpenter and he himself worked initially as a carpenter and dyer, but left in 1863 to study art at the then newly established Jyväskylä Seminary, from which he graduated in 1867, at the age of 26. He continued his artistic studies at the Finnish Art Society drawing school from 1867 to 1868. To raise funds for further study abroad, he organized a seminar in 1868 – the Jyväksylä Art Exhibition, which was the first such art exhibition held in Jyväksylä.
From 1869 to 1872 Keinänen studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen and the Stockholm Royal Academy of Fine Arts. His debit as an artist was with his first exhibition in 1870. From 1872, he taught as a drawing teacher in several schools in Helsinki. He also taught Art and Design at the Finnish Art Society drawing school from 1874 to 1876 (where one of his students was Axel Gallén-Kallela). In 1877 he was awarded second prize in an art competition. Between 1887 and 1888 Keinänen used the Hoving travel scholarship to paint in Italy and Paris. Keinänen belonged to the Finnish Artists’ board from 1882-1911 and was elected an honorary member in 1914. From 1875 to 1912 he taught art at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.
Keinänen painted in the style of the Düsseldorf school, a style characterized by finely detailed landscapes and realistic potraits of people, often with religious or allegorical stories implied in the landscapes. Leading members of the Düsseldorf School advocated “plein air painting”, and tended to use a palette with relatively subdued and even colors. The Düsseldorf School grew out of and was a part of the German Romantic movement and would influence a number of Scandinavian painters. It was a popular style and between 1819 and 1918, some 4,000 documented painters belonged to the Düsseldorf school of painting.
His best known portrait is an 1880 portrait titled “Käräjätalon eteisessä” (The District Court in the hallway of the house). Keinänen painted the first of his Kalevala paintings in the 1870’s and he attracted others into this subject area, including a couple of his friends, among then Julius Krohn. In addition, one of his teachers in Stockholm, Mårten Winge, had specialised in portrayals of ancient Scandinavia. In the 1870’s he spent the summer months in Karelia collecting ethnographic material. Keinänen won the 1885 Savo-Karelia Students’ Association first competition for Kalevala artwork and in the years 1895-1898 he published Photos of the Kalevala, the pictures from which became well known as postcards. Keinänen’s illustrations of the Kalevala were overshadowed by the later works of his former student of Axel Gallén-Kallela (in 1890 he participated a renewed competition for the illustrations to the Kalevala, which was won by Gallén-Kallela).
Keinänen also prepared teaching materials for schools of education on drawing and his son, Väinö Keinänen, went on to become a well-known architect.
The Art of Sigfrid August Keinänen
The Kalevala Postcards of Sigfrid August Keinänen
Keinänen was a prolific artist and he drew a large number of depictions of folk songs and illustrations from the Kalevala, many of which were used as postcards. These cards are widely found in Sweden and in North America and were released in many different editions. Many of the postcards included short verses from the Kalevala and would continue to appear well after his death in 1914, being published through the 1920’s, with some even appearing in 1940. Below is a small selection (some sourced from http://suloensio-kotilaakso.blogspot.ca/2012/03/kalevala-sigfrid-august-keinanen.html)