Hugo Simberg

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Hugo Simberg
Hugo Gerhard Simberg

(1873-06-24)24 June 1873
Died12 July 1917(1917-07-12) (aged 44)
Ähtäri, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire
(now Ähtäri, Finland)
Known forPainter
Notable workThe Garden of Death (1896)
The Wounded Angel (1903)

Hugo Gerhard Simberg (24 June 1873 – 12 July 1917) was a Finnish symbolist painter and graphic artist.

Life and career[edit]

The birthplace of Hugo Simberg in the town of Hamina
Working on the Tampere Cathedral frescoes, 1904

Simberg was born on 24 June 1873, at Hamina (Swedish: Fredrikshamn), Finland, the son of Colonel Nicolai Simberg and Ebba Matilda Simberg (née Widenius).[1] In 1891, at the age of 18, he enrolled at the Drawing School of the Viipuri Friends of Art, and he also studied at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society from 1893 to 1895. Then, in 1895, he decided to become the private pupil of Akseli Gallen-Kallela at his wilderness studio Kalela in Ruovesi. He studied under Gallen-Kallela for three periods between 1895 and 1897.[1][2]

In 1896, Simberg went to London, and in 1897 to Paris and Italy. During these years he exhibited several works at the Finnish Artists' autumn exhibitions, including Autumn, Frost, The Devil Playing and Aunt Alexandra (1898), which were well received. Critical success led to his being made a member of the Finnish Art Association and to his being appointed to teach at the Drawing School of the Viipuri Friends of Art.[1]

In 1904, he was commissioned to decorate the interior of St John's church in Tampere (now Tampere Cathedral), a project which he carried out with Magnus Enckell between 1904 and 1906. At the turn of the year 1907-08 he made a short visit to the United States.[1] He also designed the UPM-Kymmene logo, the Griffon (1899).

From around 1907 to 1913, he taught at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Association at Ateneum.[1] In 1910, he married Anni Bremer. They had two children, Tom and Uhra-Beata, the latter of whom became a rya artist.[3]

He died in Ähtäri on 12 July 1917.[1][4] His biographer, Helena Ruuska, suspects that he battled an unknown disease, possibly syphilis, for a long time.[5][6][7][8]


Simberg's paintings emphasize mainly macabre and supernatural topics.[9] Simberg's most famous painting is The Wounded Angel. Its titular character appears in the shape of a winged angel with a bandaged head, borne on a stretcher by two somberly dressed boys, one of whom looks toward the viewer with a serious expression. The painting is the best known of the artist's works and is especially famous in Finland.[1] The Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish released in 2007 a music video influenced by this painting, "Amaranth".

Another famous painting is The Garden of Death, which, like many of Simberg's paintings, depicts a gloomy, otherworldly scene. The central figures are reminiscent of the classic black-clad Grim Reaper, but paradoxically are tending to gardens, traditionally symbols of birth or renewal.[11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simberg describes how in London at dusk he saw youths gathering at a park, forming a circle, with a man and a woman entering the center and beginning to passionately kiss. He described the feeling as if he had heard the devil playing somewhere nearby.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Syvälahti, Hanne. "Hugo Simberg elämäkerta". Didrichsen Museum. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Hugo Simberg". Artist Register. Artists' Association of Finland. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  3. ^ Priha, Päikki (9 October 2006). "Simberg-Ehrström, Uhra (1914 - 1979)". Kansallisbiografia. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  4. ^ Leiwo, Hanne (11 June 2017). "Hugo Simbergin kuolemasta 100 vuotta – muistomerkki paljastettiin kuolinpaikalla Ähtärissä". Yle. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b Ruuska, Helena (2018). Hugo Simberg: pirut ja enkelit. Werner Söderström. ISBN 9789510421826.
  6. ^ Halonen, Kaisa (22 November 2018). "Helena Ruuska penkoi Hugo Simbergin elämää kahden ja puolen vuoden ajan, mutta jotkut kysymykset jäivät vastausta vaille". Kirkko ja kaupunki. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  7. ^ Varjus, Seppo (7 October 2018). "Hugo Simbergin enkeli antoi kasvot sisällissodan julmuudelle – vaikka synkkä salaisuus vei maalarin hautaan jo ennen". Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  8. ^ Kotiranta, Pirkko (24 October 2018). "Vaiettu sairaus leimasi piruja ja enkeleitä maalanneen Hugo Simbergin elämää – uusi elämäkerta tuo julki monia puuttuvia palasia". Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  9. ^ Kruskopf, Erik (20 June 2019). "Simberg, Hugo (1873 - 1917)". National Biography of Finland (in Finnish). Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Haavoittunut enkeli on suomalaisten suosikkitaulu". Yle. 2 December 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  11. ^ Pellinen, Kirsi (2016). "Symbolistinen taidevalokuva tunneilmaisukeinona: Kuinka tulkita ja ilmaista symbolistisen taidevalokuvan keinoin?" (PDF). Theseus. OAMK. Retrieved 1 June 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • S. Koja, ed. Nordic Dawn: Modernism's Awakening in Finland 1890-1920 [exhibition catalogue] (2005. Prestel)
  • Hugo Simberg 1873-1917, ed. A. Olavinen [exhibition catalogue, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki] (2000)
  • Hugo Simberg 1873-1917. His life & art [CD-rom, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki] (2000)

External links[edit]