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INFO – English

Baltic Drawing exhibition:

Kulttuuritalo Virta, Imatra
5.5. – 30.6.2016

Opening 4th of May 5 pm. The exhibition will be opened by city mayor Pertti Lintunen.


Kalevasali, Kulttuuritalo Virta

10:00 Opening of the seminar
Tiina Wilen- Jäppinen
Imatran kaupunginhallituksen puheenjohtaja

10:15 Drawing in Poland
Prof. Janina Rudnicka
Gdansk Academy of  Art 

11:30 – 13:00 Lunch

13:00 Do students draw in their projects
Prof. Marija Marcelionyte – Paliuke
Vilnus Academy of Art


14:30 Thanks and presentation of the exhibition
Juhani Järvinen and Radoslaw Gryta
Saimaa University of Applied Sciences

Imatra is a small town in South Karelia near the Finnish-Russian border that is known for the Imatra Rapids and for its paper industry.

In the 19th century, the Imatra Rapids were in the same category as the Eiffel Tower in Paris as one of the most famous attractions in Europe. Around 6,000 years ago, Lake Saimaa broke through the Salpausselkä esker formation, creating a passageway to Lake Ladoga. Before the waterpower was harnessed to operate the plants, the drop of the Vuoksi River was 18.4 metres and the length of its course was 1.3 kilometres. In addition to Finland’s first hydropower plant, the waterpower of Lake Saimaa has been utilized by one of the world’s largest paper industry clusters. Both have their roots in the local arts sector.

The reputation of the rugged rapids of Imatra, which at the time was just a remote village in Ruokolahti, had reached the Russian Imperial Court. In the 1750s, the Empress Catherine the Great was engaged in a vigorous correspondence with Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), a French philosopher and a key figure of the European Enlightenment. Inspired by Voltaire’s admiration of nature, the Empress visited Imatra in 1772. This marked the start of Imatra’s development into a significant travel destination and a rich source of inspiration to artists.

In the beginning, Imatra’s reputation spread through literature in the form of romanticised descriptions of the town. In the late 18th century, lithographs and aquatints were enclosed with the travel accounts. The early 19th century was the heyday of landscape graphics, lithography, and drawings. Later, the Imatra Rapids became almost a stereotypical painting theme due to the trips made by professors of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.

The Czar Nicholas I appointed Cosroe Duz, a recognized artist who had studied in the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice and worked as a draughtsman in a lithography shop in Venice. Duz was an academician and later a professor of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. The Imatra Rapids painted by Duz in 1844 is an excellent example of a typical art piece depicting Imatra. The last journey made by Russian artists to Imatra was the honeymoon of Wassily Kandinsky in 1917, because the borders were closed after Finland gained independence. Before 1917, Imatra was visited by many renowned musicians, writers, and visual artists including Ilja Repin, Maxim Gorki, and Mihail Glinka.

The industrialist and arts patron Jalo Sihtola is a key figure in the arts sector in Imatra. He was the Director of the Enso-Gutzeit paper mill from 1932 to 1949. During this time, he travelled throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. In his leisure time Sihtola studied painting, which became his passion.

In 1945, an arts society was established on Sihtola’s initiative, and he was selected the first chair of its managing board. Jalo Sihtola invited leading Finnish artists to Imatra, some of whom taught at the Finnish Academy of Arts (currently the Academy of Fine Arts / University of the Arts). The artists enjoyed Sihtola’s hospitality at his home in Harakanhovi. Sihtola purchased paintings from his guests, who also taught art courses held in Imatra. The guests included Eva Cederström, Unto Pusa, and Olli Miettinen.

During Sihtola’s time as chair, the Imatra Art Society developed greatly. From 1944 onwards arts enthusiasts organised drawing evenings, first in private homes and later in the tower room of Imatran Valtionhotelli (Imatra State Hotel). The drawing school of the Imatra Art Society began two years later on the premises of the Art Museum, which was founded in 1951. The first invited teacher was the painter Olavi Valavuori, who also acted as intendant at the Art Museum.

In 1998, the school became part of the South Karelia University of Applied Sciences, which later became the Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. A central aim of the institution was to continue the tradition established by Sihtola of inviting visiting artists to teach there. At first most of the artists came from Helsinki, but the operations soon became international. The St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Tartu Art College were the first foreign cooperation partners. Later, visiting artists arrived to Imatra from various European countries and from the United States. Summer workshops in graphic art, landscape painting, photography, and sculpture became established parts of the school’s operations. The historical connection with the Imatra Art Society has continued in the form of joint drawing evenings.

Jalo Sihtola’s art collection includes the works of the most important Finnish painters of the post-war era. The collection also includes graphic art and the works of many significant foreign artists. The Imatra Art Museum was opened in 1951, following a donation by Sihtola. Although most of Sihtola’s Imatra collection is on display in the Ateneum Art museum, some works are included in the collection of the Central Finland Museum.

The works belonging to Sihtola’s collection that are currently in Imatra are on display in the art museum of the Culture House Virta. Designed by professor Arto Sipinen, the building is part of an architecturally significant complex and represents the very best of modern Finnish architecture.

The Baltic Drawing biennale in Imatra is a tribute to the extensive life work of Jalo Sihtola.

Juhani Järvinen


Ulla Särkinen, Cultural House Virta, Service Manager
Marja-­Leena Kurittu,Imatra Art Society, Chairman
Kimmo Heikkilä, Graphic Designer
Radoslaw Gryta, Sculptor
Juhani Järvinen, Curator