Born in Turku, Finland, Harry Kivijärvi studied at the Turku Art Association Drawing School from 1947-50 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Finland 1950-52. He then went to Italy to study at the Academia di Belle Art in Rome from 1955-56. He taught at the School of Art and Design from 1964-68 and at the Finnish Academy of Arts 1968-71 and 1977-80 and as a Principal in 1980-82.
His works were first exhibited in 1953 and are now in several art collections at home and abroad. His art career began with painting and figurative sculpture before turning later to more abstract sculptural work. His most famous public works include the Uno Cygnaeus monument (1965) in Hämeenlinna, the President Juho Kusti Paasikivi monument (1980) in Helsinki, and the Urho Kekkonen funeral monument (1987).
Kivijärvi eventually established nine basic themes to which he returned in his works: windy day, Andrew’s Stone, sail, bird, gate, sunset, the Nile, Autumn, and Nightingale Rock. Some of these can be seen, for example, in his sculpture On the Nile (1979), in which a fan-shaped upper part rests upon a narrow, high stone to resemble a billowing sail, inspired by the felucca sailing boats seen by the artist on a trip to Egypt.
He valued natural materials in his work, especially smooth-surfaced solid stone, often in black or white, and the forms of his works often appear to grow organically out of the ground. On the other hand, he was also deeply interested in art tradition and was inspired by built environment, and so there are also recurring elements in Kivijärvi’s works that can be compared to classical architecture forms, such as columns.
As well as creating art, Kivijarvi was inspired by art and built up an impressive art collection during his lifetime that included European works from the 14th-18th centuries, as well as Finnish and French art from the late 19th century.
In Mantta, the Serlachius Museum’s Gösta Pavilion includes the Kivijärvi Hall, named after Harry Kivijärvi, that holds many of the works donated to the Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation by his estate in 2012, which included 24 Kivijärvi sculptures from the period 1966–1987, as well as 64 works from his own art collection. These are known collectively as the Harry Kivijärvi Collection and sculptures belonging to it are currently displayed in the gardens of Joenniemi Manor. These sculptures are examples of Kivijärvi’s characteristic non-representational forms, sculpted from black stone, the carefully worked surfaces of which alternate between smoothly polished areas and sections that have been left rough.
Harry Kivijärvi received the Pro Finlandia medal in 1970, Sweden’s Prince Eugen Medal 1987, and the 2003 Ars Fennica Lifetime Achievement Award.
Contributed by Chrystopher J Spicer.