Eva Anttila

Work and Life

Textile • 200 x 480




If a piece of art has to be chosen that best defines the rapid changes that Finland underwent in the 1950s, it would be Eva Anttila’s (1894–1993) textile creation, “Work and Life”. Its narrative can be read from left to right; from a woman in national dress and a farmer holding a spade, all the way across to city dwellers on the right. Between them we go to school, wander in school graduation caps, typical of Scandinavia, and wear cylindrical Doctoral graduate top hats, then on to shop, and build both houses and industrial sites.

Anttila presents a Finland which is not only repairing the damage of war but is setting in motion an impressive shift from being an agrarian society to one of high technology and education. In her work Anttila has used vibrant shades of reds and yellows. She has crafted a creative aura of optimism reflective of the atmosphere of the period’s economic success. The work is shot through with countless glimpses of humorous details. Bumptious men in top hats, briefcases and papers in hand, could be seen arriving straight from meetings with the Bank of Finland’s Board of Governors. Elegant ladies in wasp-waisted dresses and showy hats possibly arriving from a shopping trip and an invitation to coffee – at last coffee was available again in Finland after the rationing of war! Women’s powerful role portrayed in Anttila’s work is telling of the successful artist’s attitudes and perhaps also that women’s roles during the war enhanced their esteem and gave them a stronger position in society.

kuva © Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland

In the composition of this vast work, Eva Anttila used a vertical layout. The images depicted progress as one might read it, from left to right, making for sharp and rapid changes of scene that create a light and nimble rhythm. All of this is enhanced by the variations from warm to cool colours. The minimalism and angular geometric lines used to portray the figures bring to mind the works of artist Gösta Diehl, but Anttila has successfully managed to blend the influences of painted art seamlessly in with her personal style.

The artist wove her monumental work herself and complained about how much work it entailed. The almost five-meter-long work is so filled with subtleties and details that it is hard to comprehend how the artist was able to complete the epic task of weaving in the time she did. Ronald Cruickshank, the Scottish master weaver living in America, was of the opinion that the largest size suitable for these kinds of loom woven works was 180 x 150 cm. Anttila exceeded this by more than twice.

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