The Önningeby artists’ colony

During the 1870s and 1880s an entirely new kind of painting emerged: outdoor or plein air painting. Artists ventured out from their studios in order to paint in the open air. The idealized landscape composition was substituted with realistic depictions of nature in which particular attention was paid to portraying the changing light. This was facilitated by the appearance of completely new pigments and shades of colour.

Many artists gathered to live in colonies where they could work together and be inspired by each other. The most famous of the Nordic colonies was located in the Danish village of Skagen. A Finnish equivalent was the Önningeby artists’ colony which was founded in 1886 by Victor Westerholm (1860-1919) from Turku. In 1884 Westerholm bought a summer house by the Lemström canal and encouraged all his friends to come to the Åland islands to paint. Artists who spent time in Önningeby include J.A.G. Acke, Hanna Rönnberg, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Edvard Westman and Elias Muukka.

The artists at Önningeby chose to depict nature, often farmers at work or scenes of people moving about in the cultural landscape. Although the Önningeby artists did influence local art to some degree, most locals had little understanding for their choice of motif and method. The Önningeby artists’ colony era ended with the outbreak of the First World War and the death of Westerholm.

Since 1992 there is a museum in Önningeby which, apart from a permanent exhibition on the Önningeby artists’ colony, also holds special exhibitions of contemporary art.


Elin Danielson-Gambogi (1861-1919), Skördetid (detail), OOP.

  • Ålands landskapsregering