(Valdemar) [Gallén, Axel until 1904]
(b Pori [Swed. Björneborg], Finland, April 26, 1865; d Stockholm, March 7, 1931).
Finnish painter, graphic artist and designer. He learnt the elements of drawing and painting in Helsinki at the School of the Finnish Arts Society and the studio of the painter Adolf von Becker (1831–1909).
His first significant painting, The Boy and the Crow (1884; Helsinki, Athenaeum A. Mus.), shows his ambition to keep abreast of developments in Naturalism, a style introduced to him through the works of young Finnish and Scandinavian painters in Paris. In the autumn of 1884 he arrived in Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian and the studio of Fernand Cormon. In 1885 he completed his oil painting Old Woman with a Cat (Turku, A. Mus.), a veristic study of poverty and deprivation. Gallén’s single-figure compositions of this period followed a formula exploited by Jean-François Millet, Jules Breton and Jules Bastien-Lepage. In these seemingly static images, the life story of the protagonist was suggested through significant attributes, physiognomic elaboration and background details....