Hjalmar Hagelstam on Odd Nerdrum, Rembrandt, Florence Academy and the Failure of Finnish Painting | The Cave of Apelles

The young draughtsman and painter from Finland has proven his talent with narrative portraits from live model. Aiming for the Classical Greek ideal, Hjalmar Hagelstam is already well-equipped, having studied painting with Odd Nerdrum and sculpture at the Florence Academy
Growing up in a country known for Sibelius and Gallen-Kallela, Hagelstam asks the following question: “Which lessons can we learn from the strange fate of 19th century Finnish painters?”
As he sees it, they were rightfully concerned with Kalevala, the native, mythical epic. However their political desire to find something “national” in it, invariably led to failure.
Making matters worse, influence from contemporary ideas of “progress” and styles like symbolism and impressionism only further removed their work from a truly timeless context.
So what makes a universal story?
And could you grip the essence of a myth by simply illustrating it?

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Chapter markers:
00:30 Introduction
01:22 Does Finnish painting exist?
02:20 How Hagelstam got interested in painting
05:06 The free art school and Odd Nerdrum
07:39 What Hagelstam saw at the auction house
09:14 FAA, storytelling and being close to nature
13:27 Intuitive vs “rational” painting method
17:43 Props: contemporary or timeless?
21:34 Naturalism and symbolism — pitfalls and strengths
28:21 Rembrandt & Greeks: Shame, forgiveness, elevation
34:16 Empathy & drama vs “everyday” motifs
41:47 Experience life to become a good painter?
45:26 Munch’s Sick Child and Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
52:36 Calmness vs action and combining opposites
58:19 “The Poor Fisherman” and The Squint Test
1:02:39 Do not just illustrate the title
1:06:55 One can only set a great example
1:09:54 Recommending Florence Academy of Art?
1:11:36 How to become more mythical in your motifs?

This episode featured Hjalmar Hagelstam & Jan-Ove Tuv and was filmed and edited by Bork Nerdrum.
The centerpiece was “Breath” by Hjalmar Hagelstam (portrait of the poet Thomas Løland).


Fergus Ryan
Shaun Roberts
Matthias Proy
Børge Moe
Eivind Josten

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  • Apelles was asked why he touched and retouched his pictures with so much care, to which he replied:
    "I paint for eternity"