"There is only myself in my paintings. In them are my happiness and my pain, my unfulfilled longing, my whole life.”
Reidar Särestöniemi (1925–1981) is one of the most famous Finnish artists and the most important Lappish artist of his time. He was born as the youngest child in the seven-child family of Alma and Matti Kaukonen, later Särestöniemi, in the Kaukonen village of Kittilä.
Reidar Särestöniemi studied at the Finnish Academy of Arts in Helsinki (1947–1952) and the Ilja Repin Institute in Leningrad (1956–1959). Särestöniemi's career as an artist took off with his first solo exhibition, which he held in Helsinki in 1959. Apart from his student years, Särestöniemi lived his entire life on his home farm. He was awarded the title of artist professor in 1975. Reidar Särestöniemi was a colorful person who, in his time, sparked debate about the content of his art as well as his own personality.
The Särestöniemi Museum was opened to the public in 1985. The operation was maintained by the Särestöniemi Museum Foundation until spring 2016. Today, the Kauko Sorjonen Foundation is responsible for museum operations. The cafe and office building was completed in 1988 and was designed by architects Reima and Raili Pietilä.
Vanha Särestö is Reidar Särestöniemi's birthplace. The homestead represents the old Perepohja building tradition. Reidar Särestöniemi's grandfather Heikki Kaukonen bought the farm at the end of the 19th century. The main building was built in 1873. Opposite the main building is a stable and next to it a barn. The Ounasjoki River flows next to it, which used to be a passageway. The road to Särestö was only made with the foundation of the museum in 1985.
During Reidar's childhood, Särestö's economy was largely self-sufficient. Cattle were kept in the house, barley, hay and potatoes were cultivated. Catching and hunting salmon played an important role. A lot of handicrafts were done in the self-sufficient economy. Both men's and women's handicraft items can be seen in Pirti.
Reidar's mother Alma was born and raised in Norway and longed to return there. He put pictures of Norwegian royalty on the wall. As a child, Reidar used to tell visitors that there were pictures of his grandparents on the wall. The clock collection on Pirti's wall is collected by Anton's brother. Pirtti served as Reidar's studio between 1960 and 1965. In order to get natural light for painting, Reidar enlarged the windows and painted the walls and ceiling white. The bookshelf has photos from the days of the pirtti atelier.
Särestöniemi's parents lived on their homestead until the mid-1970s until their death. The house was left to live in by Anton's brother, who died in 1997. The buildings of the old Särestö have been restored in the 21st century and have been returned to reflect Reidar's youth in the 1940s and 1950s.
The studio apartment building was completed in 1978 and was designed by architects Reima and Raili Pietilä. Reidar Särestöniemi had the first studio apartment building on the river bank, which was destroyed in a fire in 1977. Very soon after the fire, planning for a new studio began and it was completed in October 1978. It took four months and 13 days to build the house. The studio has 200 square meters per floor.
Good lighting is planned for the studio. The office window opens to the west, which avoids the dazzling light from the south. In addition, the log walls are treated from the inside with ultraviolet varnish, which preserves the light color of the log. Särestöniemi didn't settle into his new home, but missed the old one
to the studio home. The new house felt strange, empty and uninhabited. Reidar had time to live in his new home for a good two years, because he died in 1981 at only 56 years old. The cause of death was a heart attack.
The gallery was completed in 1972 and was also designed by architects Reima and Raili Pietilä. Reidar Särestöniemi was a well-known artist during his lifetime and Särestö was a popular place to visit. In the early 1970s, thousands of visitors wandered to Särestö every year. Since the artist could not get peace of mind in his studio due to constant interruptions, a separate exhibition space or gallery was built next to the studio.
Särestöniemi's art got its content from the surrounding nature of Lapland. Woodpeckers and fells, grouse, lynx and reindeer as well as Jaara, or ram, appear in numerous works of Särestöniemi. Often the animal figures depict the artist himself. The nature of Lapland can be seen not only in the motifs, but also in the strong color scheme of Särestöniemi's works, which at the time was very unusual in Finnish art. He experimented with colors and explored the possibilities they offered throughout his career as an artist.
Although Lapland was an important artistic starting point for Reidar Särestöniemi, his works are influenced by the big names of European modernism, Russian art and prehistoric cave paintings. Different periods can be seen in Särestöniemi's production: the paintings and graphics of the 1950s differ from his most famous works, the large and colorful oil paintings of the 1960s and 1970s.
Burnt Atelier (1965-77)
The current studio building was preceded by a previous studio apartment building, which was destroyed in a fire on New Year's Eve 1977. In the fire, Särestöniemi's entire property was destroyed; home and workplace with loved memories. The cause of the fire remained unclear, but electrical equipment was suspected to be the culprit. The stone foundation of the first studio can be seen next to the gallery. A log building was later built on top of the basement floor. The building was designed by architect Robert Gunst.