Hugo Simberg (June 24, 1873, Hamina - July 12, 1917, Ähtäri) was a Finnish painter and graphic artist and the foremost representative of Finnish Symbolism. He is known for his works representing multidimensional images, life and death, angels and devils. He is the author of part of the murals and stained-glass windows of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Tampere. Simberg's Wounded Angel, depicting two boys carrying an angel on a stretcher, is a trademark of Nordic symbolism and is very popular in various cover designs and illustrations.

He was born into a large military family. At the age of eight, he and his family moved to Vyborg, which at the time was one of the cultural centers of Finland. In the summer, the family traveled to the coast of the Gulf of Finland in Niemenlautta. Having already become a famous artist, Hugo Simberg built a studio on the shore of the bay, and coastal landscapes feature prominently in his works[1]. In 1891 he entered the Vyborg Drawing School for Art Lovers, and later studied (1893-1895) at the Art School of the Finnish Art Society in Helsinki, where one of his teachers was the famous artist Helena Schjerfbeck[2]. He did not finish any of them, as he did not like the teaching[3]. Deciding to educate himself, Hugo Simberg turned to Axeli Gallen-Kallela, a major Finnish symbolist painter who lived in the countryside in Ruovesi, near Tampere. Between 1895 and 1897 Simberg took lessons from Gallen-Kallela three times. As early as 1895 he was strongly influenced by Arnold Böcklin, writing that he "is an artist of God, and before him all must bow.

In 1896 Simberg traveled through Europe, visiting London and Paris and learning about modern European art. He was most influenced by Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites[4][5]. He subsequently worked in Paris twice more for extended periods of time, in 1903-1904 and 1910. In the fall of 1896 he participated for the first time in the Autumn Exhibition of Finnish Artists and presented several paintings that received favorable reviews from critics. These paintings were executed in a style characteristic of Simberg's entire oeuvre, combining symbolism with folklore motifs. In 1897 he visited Italy, where he was deeply impressed by the works of the Renaissance masters of the 16th century.

In 1898 his works, presented at the autumn exhibition, again received favorable reviews, after which Hugo Simberg was accepted into the Union of Artists of Finland and received a position as a teacher of painting at the Drawing School of Art Lovers in Vyborg. In 1899 he traveled through the Caucasus from Tiflis to Dagestan. The result was mountain atmospheric landscapes with deliberately intensified color[1].

At the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, he received an honorary diploma for his painting "Autumn" (1895). In the autumn of 1902, the artist had a serious nervous breakdown and was treated at the Kallio Hospital in Helsinki until the spring of 1903. After leaving the hospital, he created his most famous painting, The Wounded Angel[6]. As early as 1902, the artist received a scholarship to travel around Europe, with funds from which he visited Italy, Spain, North Africa, and worked in France in 1903-1904[7]. In 1904 he won first prize in a national portrait painting competition. In the same year he was commissioned to paint the church (later the cathedral) of St. John the Evangelist in Tampere.

In 1907 Simberg traveled to New York via London. Returning to Finland, he took a teaching position at the Art School of the Finnish Art Society in Helsinki and held it until his death in 1917. In 1908, twenty works by Simberg were selected for an exhibition of Finnish art in Paris, the first major such exhibition outside Finland. Of the 23 artists who participated in the exhibition, only two (Gallen-Kallela and Enkel) presented more of their works. Simberg undertook his last trip abroad in 1910, visiting the Netherlands, Belgium and France, where he was again able to stay for a long time thanks to a scholarship he received. After 1910, Hugo Simberg grew increasingly tired of Helsinki's artistic circles and gradually withdrew from painting. Very few works of the artist from these years are known; they are mainly small graphic works. In 1910 he married Anna Bremer, they had two children[7].

Simberg did not like to explain the symbolism of his works,[2] and they remain open to interpretation.

Most of Simberg's surviving works are graphic works. The vast majority of his works are in Finland, many in museums in Helsinki and Tampere. The largest collection of his works belongs to the National Gallery of Finland (Ateneum Gallery).
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