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From database to a global readership: developing the Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné project

by Kiersten Thamm on

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931), the iconic figure in Finnish ‘Golden Age’ art, painted the myths of the Finnish National epic, the people of the countryside and captivating views from the Finnish wilderness to the busy streets in Paris, creating magnificent and expansive oeuvre. Discover how his impressive contribution to Finnish art history is being recorded and published in the Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné project.

The Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné project is developed under the Nordic Art Intelligence foundation (NAI) with research by Irene Riihimäki. Index collected by the artist’s granddaughter, Aivi Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, form the project’s foundation. 

Akseli Gallen-Kallela achieved an iconic status in his homeland, and his impact on Finnish society remains visible. During his life, he painted and designed across three continents, contributing to the development of novel ideas and movements in art.



Lemminkäinen's Mother (Lemminkäisen äiti), 1897. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

The goal of Nordic Art Intelligence Foundation is to further the knowledge of Gallen-Kallela’s oeuvre internationally. To reach this ambitious goal, the team at NAI chose to publish the project online instead of in book format.

The digital solution allows the NAI team to publish information as it arrives. The team uses this flexibility to publish the Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné project in stages. It currently includes the 300 paintings residing in public collections. The team aims to catalogue all his known paintings, and in 2024, it will begin to include those held in private collections. 

The NAI team selected the platform to support its goals. Its easy publishing feature, provenance feature, and helpful staff helped the small team get more done quickly. Georges Armaos, Managing Director of the NAI, spoke about the simplicity and ease of publishing with the all-in-one platform, saying, “On other projects, we had to export the data and enter it into an online platform that supported the website. The possibility to click and publish online immediately is a huge asset.” For Riihimäki, using structured data and the standardized terms on the website decreased the required edits and allowed her more time to complete her research. Riihimäki also celebrated the team’s availability and helpfulness, as well as the guides and tutorials on the website. 

At, we’re thrilled to support such an important catalogue raisonné project. This research project clearly elevates Gallen-Kallela knowledge to new heights, and the user-friendly digital catalogue simplifies the process of finding information, making it a valuable resource.

The Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné projects offers a model for other researchers invested in Nordic artist, as well as living artists across the world. “This is a pilot project,” explains Armaos. “There are very few catalogue raisonnés for artists from Finland. Hopefully, this one will convince more people to support similar projects and spread this practice widely.”

The team behind the Akseli Gallen-Kallela catalogue raisonné project also hopes the project will inspire living artists to direct their narratives using digital tools. “We want to inspire living artists to maintain their archives and create catalogues raisonnés. They’re still alive and can control what does and does not go into their catalogues,” said Armaos.