The Musée d'Orsay's exhibition of works by Akseli Gallen-Kallela may seem a bit simplistic to those very familiar with the artist and his work, but makes a good introduction to a fascinating painter for those who don't know him. My own art historical education neglected Finland entirely, and I'm very pleased to have now discovered the works of this turn of the century artist who captured his homeland, and places abroad, beautifully.
It's a bit disappointing to find the exhibition in the galleries at the back of the top floor -unless visiting specifically for the show, may of the Musée d'Orsay's visitors will reach it tired, at the end of their visit, and Gallen-Kallela's work perhaps won't have the impact it otherwise might. It is very good to see the museum, which generally focuses on French artists, giving exposure to an artist from outside central Europe, but wonders why it couldn't have been billed over the more familiar 'Degas and the Nude' exhibition on the ground floor. Nonetheless, those without fondness for the gloomy temporary exhibition galleries on the ground floor may prefer this new space for exhibitions, less cavernous and with windows overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
The Gallen-Kallela exhibition takes a more or less chronological approach to the artist, which also has the effect of carrying audiences increasingly away from their Left Bank starting point: first are Gallen-Kallela's paintings from Paris, where he studied, followed by his paintings from Finland, and finally paintings from his trip to Africa in 1909. The last twenty years of the artist's life are something of a mystery, with the exhibition ending somewhat abruptly on the room of paintings from Africa.