The oldest art – Folk art painters

Flickan med parasoll av Carl Kuhlman

Flickan med parasoll av Carl Kuhlman

The oldest of all Ålandic art consists of archaeological finds such as clay idols and decorated pottery. The oldest preserved examples of pictorial art are the frescos of the medieval stone churches that can be found all over the Åland islands. What artists produced these works, however, is impossible to know. One of the few artists known to have painted church frescos is Master Mårten Johansson whose name is mentioned during the 1600s. One of his works, “Sankt Göran och draken” (Saint George and the Dragon), is still preserved in the church in Saltvik.

During the 19th century the amount of artists on Åland increased, although relatively few of them occupied themselves with studio painting. Rather, many folk artists painted murals in wealthy homes or decorated furniture and articles for everyday use. Most of these artists too remain unknown.

The most famous of all folk art painters on Åland is Carl Kuhlman (1823-85) from Nääs in Saltvik. Kuhlman painted murals and blinds with grand land and cityscapes but he also decorated furniture and produced easel paintings.

Around the same time shipping and peasant sailing grew ever more important. Consequently, ship owners and captains commissioned portraits of their ships and, in fact, the first real painting in many homes was a ship portrait. Foreign oil prints and lithographs also began to find their way into Ålandic homes.