Lot 206
  • 206

Albert Edelfelt

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
458,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Albert Edelfelt
  • The Boys' Workhouse, Helsinki
  • signed and dated Edelfelt 85 lower centre
  • oil on canvas


Count C. M. Creutz, Åbo (acquired from the artist at the 1885 Finnish Art Society Exhibition)
Sale: Bukowski's, Stockholm, 4-5 December 1914, lot 30
Gösta Fraenckel, Gothenburg (by 1942)
Sale: Bukowski's, Stockholm, 28 October 1985, lot 9
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Helsinki, Edelfelt Exhibition, 1885
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Exposition de la Société Internationale de peintres et de sculpteurs, 1885, no. 43
Helsinki, Riddarhuset, Finnish Art Society Exhibition, 1885, no. 64 (Edelfelt was awarded Gold Medal and judged to be Finland's greatest painter)
Punkaharju, Retretti, Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905), 1983, no. 51 (as Interiör från Arbetshemmet för gossar i Helsingfors)
Helsinki, Ateneum; Stockholm, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde: Albert Edelfelt, 2004-05, no. 101 (Helsinki), no. 35 (Stockholm), illustrated in the catalogues


Finland, 28 May 1885
J. J. Tikkanen in Finsk Tidskrift, 1885, I, p. 394
Bertel Hintze, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki, 1942, vol. I, p. 168, illustrated; vol. III, p. 71, no. 321, catalogued (titled Interiör från Arbetshemmet för gossar i Helsingfors)
Marina Catani, Kansankuvausta ja työnteon iloa, Eino Valtosen kokoelma, Rauma, 2009, p. 33

Catalogue Note

In The Boys' Workhouse, Helsinki of 1885, Edelfelt beautifully pays tribute both to the youth of Finland, and also to his friend Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose untimely death the previous year had sent shockwaves through the contemporary art world.

The painting depicts an interior at Tarkk'ampujankatu 14, where young poor boys, who might otherwise have slipped into delinquency and criminality, were taken in and encouraged to learn a trade. Studying them in their new occupations, sewing, darning, and stitching, Edelfelt fills his work with optimism for the boys' new future, rescued from the street thanks to the social mission of the workhouse, funded by the city's counsellors, banks and Anniskelluyhtio.

Having honed his skills as a painter of historical subjects first at the Art Society in Helsinki and later in Antwerp, Edelfelt moved to Paris where he fell under the spell of the 'new painting' - notably the plein air naturalism of Bastien-Lepage (fig. 1), and also of the Impressionists, who held their first group show the year of his arrival in 1874. From this point on, Edelfelt developed a new aesthetic, drawing on everyday subjects painted in a luminous, bravura palette, and culminating in his most impressionistic painting of all, In the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris (1887, Helsinki, Ateneum).

Though embracing a style he had encountered abroad and although Parisian subjects and landscapes became central to his œuvre, Edelfelt never lost touch with his Finnish roots. In common with his seminal 1879 oil A Child's Funeral Journey, the present work draws on a subject closer to home and intimately familiar to him. With Russia tightening its grip on Finland, in his own form of protest Edelfelt took up patriotic subjects, in this case Finland's children and its future, as can also be seen in the second work Edelfelt exhibited at Galerie Georges Petit in 1885 (fig.  2). His approach was shared by contemporary fellow Finns Eero Järnefelt, Helene Schjerfbeck, and Akseli Gallen-Kallela who, like Edelfelt, trained in Paris and whose paintings from the 1880s and 1890s bear striking similarities to his.

A preparatory drawing for the present work is in the collection of the Ateneum, while the oil sketch is in the collection of the Åbo Akademi. It was also published as a print.