- Arttu Brummer

Arttu Brummer
Arttu Brummer
©Photograph: Museum of Applied Arts. 18695.

Arttu Brummer's teacher's career at the Central School of Applied Arts lasted for more than three decades, from the year 1919 to his death in 1951. During this time Finnish industrial art and education of it became thoroughly renewed. Arttu Brummer was an active promotor of the pedagogy of the whole school and of his own educational work. The successes of Finnish design after World War II depend on the teaching of the subject general composition developed by Brummer.

Brummer started as teacher of the first year's course of composition drawing in 1919, and soon he was also engaged in the administration of the school. In the middle of the optimistic 1920s, Brummer evaluated the position of the School of Applied Arts. The school had to go through the same development as industrial art in general, "To begin with it was a nest of dilettantes, then turned into a seat of learning for 'artists of God's mercy' lacking even the most elementary professional knowledge of industrial art, and at the present it strives at training workmen who are technically as competent as possible for the different fields of industrial art".

There was plenty of reason for change. The professional knowledge was incomplete and work was done 'to a too great extent on paper'. Workshops and ateliers were missing.

The educational programme also had to be renewed. Brummer hoped that the elementary education could be definitely the same for students of free art as well as applied arts, in other words, that there could be three lines of preparing for a vocation: of the artisan, the art craftsman and the artist.

The Central School of Applied Arts held seven courses in the day-school for the different fields of industrial art and art handicraft. All the fields presumed by the departments called for talents that were in many ways common to all, but also 'special clearly definable innate gifts for special fields'. You are born as an artist, and school can only direct your inherent gifts. According to Brummer's analysis, these innate gifts were the sense of colour, sureness of the hand, handiness, structural intelligence, taste, imagination, and an inner self. On top of this the different departments had 'natural requirements'.

Different Requirements

One of the main requirements to the department of art teacher training 'is, of course, an inherent sense of colour'. In the field of textile art a sense of colour is yet a greater help than sense of form. In the furniture design department you definitely must have a good sense of colour. In ceramics, too, sense of colour is a divine gift, but hardly as necessary for the porcelain decorator, and for the glass designer again a much less important inborn requirement, Brummer outlines.

A sure hand was required in decorative painting, graphic art, porcelain decoration, and ceramics. A skill to draw was also required of the textile designer, but for him it is only a secondary means, which 'naturally will not live in the actual piece of work'. In the department of furniture design a sure hand is a great merit, even if a furniture designer has to rely on the ruler to a great extent, Brummer characterizes.

Skill was taken into proper use especially in weaving. The woodcarver had inherent 'peculiar handiness'. Also the metalworker and the ceramic artist had to have greater or less handiness in his own field.

Artistic creativity, according to Brummer, requires an intuitive emotional life and instinct, but artistic handicraft and industrial art again need intellectual reflection. Structural intelligence was presupposed particularly in the treatment of wood and in planning furniture constructions in the furniture design department.

Just like sense of colour Brummer also thought of taste as an inherent gift, but differing from the former in that it could be developed with good education and favourable surroundings. A lack of taste Brummer easily noticed after a couple of test works. He meant that a person could change radically, sometimes even totally, to the better in new surroundings where good taste was present.

Brummer emphasized that imagination is an artistic gift and that you have to require imagination, ability to sense feelings, subtlety, and richness of emotional life. 'The one who has got the peace of a mummy and been swept in a shroud, is not able to work creatively'. In some departments there were other natural requirements. The person who chose advertisement graphics in the graphics department had to be intellectual and awake for the world, act quickly and be able to perform logically and analyze clearly. The illustrator again could be quite different from 'the advertisement artist who had been employed by the hectic business life'; he could even be a lonely dreamer, a stranger for real life. The porcelain decorator had to produce minute, exact embroidery and have an inherent drive for 'beating'.

In the department of training art teachers the requirements were high. An exam from the secondary school was obligatory, and besides a broad knowledge of the world. 'To some extent he must have an inclination for the ecclesiastical, as he has to attain a strong belief and after attaining it, act as an interpreter of this higher life as its proclaimer, like a John the Baptist. It would be well, if he was a living active artist, because he would then easier arrive to the living water, but still his mission is to preach on living art to the youth'.

New Ideas

During Finland's first years of independence many international connections broke. Accordingly new relations had to be built up with the other Nordic Countries and with the rest of Europe. Arttu Brummer was one of the builders of such relations.

Functionalism was for the first time presented visually to the Finnish public in the yearly exhibition of industrial art in 1930 in the Helsinki Art Hall. The same year it became the topic of debate during an exhibition in Stockholm arousing great attention. At the same time the bombastic House of Parliament was completed in Finland. The leading names of our industrial design took part in its interior design, especially tailored for that building. One of them was of course the interior designer Arttu Brummer.

Classicism and functionalism collided. A dispute of earlier unheard of dimensions arose on environment, industrialization, and art handicrafts. Gradually it began to have its effects on the whole Finnish life environment. The discussion also penetrated into education, information, society.

The automatization of society was in Brummer's opinion an unsolved problem. He compared the results of it with 'the personified Satan of the Middle Ages'. He thought that plenty of poetic 'Firebearing' (Tulenkantajat or 'The Firebearers' was a group of poets and other authors of the time) was needed if one wished to see anything but an inhuman state of things in the smoke and heat of the iron foundry. But for Brummer it was certain that 'where handicraft is able to economically compete with the mechanized industries, handicraft must always be put in the first place in the name of humanity'.

In the 1930s designers and artists did not hesitate to take on tasks that the former decorative artist would have considered too impersonal. New extensive chances were opened in the fields of furniture, textile, ceramics and glass industries, in gold- and silversmith's work, lighting, wallpaper and graphic industries, in several fields of the metal industry, advertizing and shop environments, toy and leather design, and in packaging, especially after the depression. Business enterprises and industries started to pay more attention to education. The school received orders, competitions were arranged among the students, who thus were engaged as model and print designers of e.g. wallpaper, furniture, and glass works. On top of this, several associations, shops and private persons ordered models and drawings from school. The directors of the school systematically promoted these activities.

Art Director

When Arttu Brummer became Art Director of The Central School of Applied Arts in 1944, the directorate was prepared to do deep reforms. Reviewing the report of The Central School of Applied Arts Committee in April 1945 Brummer ended up with a rather affirmative evaluation. He was pleased to note that the significance of the Central School of Applied Arts for our culture and industry was self-evident. Thus it could be assumed that the institute proposed in the report would be given a safe economic basis and large enough space for work to be continued 'without hindrance and obstacles'. Brummer pointed to the fact that a cultural institution of this kind would need an independent legislation fit for an art institution. Brummer also supported a state take-over of the school.

The committee that had evaluated the development of the Central School of Applied Arts also discussed the transforming of the school into a school of university level. In the end this was not brought forth officially. Brummer thought that Finland well could have two university level schools, one of which could educate artists and specialists for planning of buildings, and the other specialists responsible for the interior planning of them. It was difficult to combine these two fields in one and the same person.

The banner
The banner of the Institute of Industrial Art.
Arttu Brummer. 1950.
©Photograph: Kari Holopainen.

Brummer and His Students

The students considered Arttu Brummer a good art director. Among those who appreciated him was also Ilmari Tapiovaara, known to be generally critical. Brummer was an impresario for the students, they simply adored him. When Brummer held a critique, the hall was crammed. The students wanted to hear every word uttered. Antti Nurmesniemi tells that 'Arttu was not very garrulous'. But his critiques were full of matter. His teaching was a kind of 'small pushing'.

Brummer progressed along two ways in his work. He was on the one hand an organising analyst progressing along given tracks; he produced analyses that he combined with fantasy and associations. He progressed with the help of impulses, without order, sometimes even to chaos. But on the other hand he was able to present objections to reality. He had the thinking of a transformer, reformer. He could combine the scale with an incidental fantasy. Thus Brummer became a representative of classicism flavoured with functionalism.

Arttu Brummer taught composition drawing, and from the academic year 1928-29 on he was also responsible for furniture drawing. He was rather liberal in his teaching towards his pupils, allowed all flowers bloom. The line was more classic. His personality was his strongest power, Tapiovaara says.

Arttu Brummer has later become almost a mythical person. According to Nurmesniemi, Brummer was so distant and peculiar a personality that a myth could be born. His relation to the students was not very intimate. Brummer had either good or bad relations to others; there were no in-betweens, Tapiovaara recalls. Among his colleagues Brummer found understanding and even worshippers, but there was also a strong opposition, for instance in the association of his profession, Ornamo. Arttu Brummer was 'a capturing character'. He gave his school and his students support and direction: Brummer raised the standards of Finnish industrial art.


Basic information on Arttu Brummer