Factory landscape in Ladoga Karelia
This year marks the 150th anniversary since the birth of artist Professor Pekka Halonen (1865–1933) who is known for his depictions of forest interpretations of Finnish winter landscape. In winter 1917, he painted two winter landscapes at Leppäkoski mills (Leppäkoski Fabrikers Aktiebolag) in Karelia on Lake Ladoga. Both oil paintings belong nowadays to Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation’s collections.
Mill owner Gösta Serlachius from Mänttä acted as the chair of the board 1913–1918.Posterity has no knowledge of whether Serlachius commissioned the artworks directly from the artist himself or whether they came from another source. The artworks depict a view of a snowy factory site with its chimneystack and buildings made of bricks or painted with red ochre paint. The artist has outlined one of the paintings so that behind the snow stack standing on the foreground, one can see a dammed rapid through which the water from Jänisjärvi flows toward Lake Ladoga.
Leppäkoski was located in the rural municipality of Sortavala, subsequently called Harlu municipality since 1922, in the middle reach of River Jänisjoki, north of the industrial centre of Läskelä, which lied closer to the Lake Ladoga shore. Factory complex consisted of a power plant, a saw mill as wells as paper and brick factories. The area was familiar to Pekka Halonen for his wife Maija (formerly Mäkinen) was born in Myllykylä, a quite a small village of the rural municipality of Sortavala. The distance between Myllykylä and Leppäkoski was by road about 35 kilometres.
The paintings were completed one year before Serlachius gave up his position as the chairman of the board of Leppäkoski mills in 1918. Paper industry suffered of recession after Finland became independent. This resulted in Serlachius selling his shares of Leppäkoski in 1924. Four years after this he stated that businesswise Leppäkoski had been the biggest act of stupidity he had taken in his life.
Halonen was presumably commissioned to paint the artworks. It must have been closer to his heart to paint the snowy old pine trees of Karelia than the industrial production plants. The forest was an unending treasury of motifs for Halonen whereas Serlachius saw it as a stock of raw material that he, however, also could enjoy spending his free time there hunting or fishing.
Beside Leppäkoski, Gösta Serlachius has another point of reference in Karelia. In 1915 he has acquired at Suistamo and Impilahti several forestry holdings, which in 1916 constituted the over 6000-hectare-wide Syskyjärven Hovi Oy. Serlachius owned the forestry holding until the Spring 1928.
Finnish artists had made pilgrimages to different parts of Karelia since the first part of 1890s. Serlachius invited artists to Syskyjärvi to work and ”to be hosted in an genuinely Karelian environment”. Also Pekka Halonen was invited there just before Syskyjärvi was sold. Presumably he never made the trip to Syskyjärvi before it was sold.
In late 1927 Serlachius had delivered a batch of paper. After receiving the delivery the artist had suggested an exchange where Halonen would trade one artwork depicting possibly Syskyjärvi to a second batch of paper. In exchange for paper sheets Serlachius would receive, according to Halonen, ”a canvas slightly smeared with colour”.
Curator, art historian