The Abodes of the Blessed – Eemil Halonen’s Funerary Sculptures

A maiden is looking far into the distance with her arms reaching up to heaven; a bird is sitting on the open palm of a kneeling youth ready fly off into the blue sky; death has its presence in the gaze of a mother but her hand still rests gently on the shoulders of a grieving child. These funerary sculptures by Eemil Halonen (1875, Lapinlahti – 1950, Helsinki) clearly and strongly express the theosophical teachings that prevailed in his period and the values and stories of the people commemorated in the works. In his art, Halonen sought to depict a deeper beauty and truth to all people, because for him as a theosophist death was the liberating interim stage of the spirit on its way to enlightenment and rebirth.

Eemil Halonen was a pioneer of Finnish sculpture. Funerary sculptures and other commissioned works were a significant part of his oeuvre from the 1920s to the 1940s. The collections of the Halonen Museum Foundation contain hundreds of works, sketches and drafts by Eemil Halonen related to the death of a close and highly-regarded person. They consist of death masks, portraits, funerary monuments, sculptures and reliefs, and their drafts and sketches.

Researcher Jaana Luttinen has written the biographical notes and provided background information on the origins of the funerary sculptures and reliefs. They include works that involved various stages of discussions, and they sometimes took years to be realized and finally completed in stone and bronze. There are also accounts of the origins of Halonen’s war hero statues and the tragic drowning accident at Puutelahti in Siilinjärvi where eight children died. These accounts and stories tell in an interesting way how Finnish identity was constructed, and of the lives of prominent local people and the emergence of Finnish businesses and enterprises. They also tell of boundless shared grief and longing. The stories also outline a background for the networks of contacts of Eemil Halonen, who was already well-known and highly regarded in his own day. They tell the story of a sculptor who supported himself with his own art: Eemil Halonen belonged to the Young Finnish political movement and, along with other artists, seriously addressed the nature of national culture and its manifestations in the arts.

This compilation of Eemil Halonen’s work in funerary sculpture presents 43 grave sites and almost 50 works in various parts of Finland and Karelia. Readers can study the sites and works through the narratives and with the aid of map positioning. Eemil Halonen’s funerary art can also be seen in the exhibitions of the Museum of Fine Arts Eemil. The charting of the works does not, however, end here. We welcome further information and details regarding this subject.

Eemil Halonen’s funerary sculptures are a beautiful and sensitive message of the transition from this world to eternity. They tell of love and respect for the departed. We welcome you to the Abodes of the Blessed.

Riitta Marin, Museum director


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