KAUPPALEHTI OPTIO -magazine
Kankaalle ikuistettu – Immortalized on canvas
Text written in Finnish by Heikki Haapavaara
2 February 2017
Immortalized on canvas!
There is hardly any other way to seal a leader´s career more beautifully like a real portrait.
Traditions have obliged leaders to be immortalized on canvas. Jorma Ollila, Sirkka Hämäläinen and Antti Tanskanen tells the story behind their portraits.
Nokia’s ex-CEO, Jorma Ollila (b. 1950) looks at his official portrait. It is elegant! The painting is hanging on the wall in Nokia’s manor house Båtvik. The portrait glows in classical and historical dark shades. When the light falls in the face you can see an appearance of Rembrandt. Ollila seems to be pleased with the portrait that Adrian Gottlieb (b 1975) the award winning, internationally recognized painter has done. The work was completed in 2012 and Ollila has not seen the painting for many years. As he is retired there are not many opportunities to go and view the work in Båtvik. Now he explores the oil canvas very carefully. It applies historic techniques and painting methods following the centuries old multi-layer, classical tradition.
Ollila’s portrait is perhaps one of the most elegant painted of a living Finnish model even when it is looked at with an expert´s critical eye. Ollila appears as determined, sophisticated as well as lively and contact inquiring.
The environment in Båtvik where the portrait is placed tells a lot about traditions in Nokia. From the walls the company founders Eduard Polon (Gummitehdas Finland Oy), Fredrik Idestam (Nokia Corporation) and Arvid Vikström (Finnish Cable Factory) supervise the company. Also portraits of former chairmen of the Nokia Board of Directors for the last 50 years can be seen on the walls: Lauri J. Kivekäs, Björn Westerlund, Mika Tiivola and Casimir Ehrnrooth, after whom Ollila took the lead.
Ollila left Nokia in the spring of 2012. Half a year earlier his successor Stephen Elop took up the question about the portrait asking if it would be ok to be painted. “At first, I was reluctant. Then receptive. Elop stressed that the Board of Directors wants this, and it is a tradition, which the company wants to continue with.” Ollila says. Ollila then emphasized that the aim was to have a high-quality work. “Don’t worry,” said Elop
The project of finding the painter started with the help of a well-known Finnish contemporary artist Osmo Rauhala and Raija Nikula who was responsible of Nokia’s public relations. Rauhala has personality and character that Nokia had used many times to explain to their customers all about the Finnish characteristics.
“Raija and Osmo considered Finnish painters as well as foreigners. They had two candidates and they ended up with Mr. Gottlieb, an American portrait painter. Rauhala contacted the artist. His concentration on portrait painting and his classical studies made the final impact also with Ollila.
In order to be able to paint the portrait Gottlieb moved to Finland for a while. From Helsinki he was able to travel to St. Petersburg where he could admire the artwork of old masters, which made it easier for him to take the decision of moving. Gottlieb built a studio in the old Nokia cable factory – where else.
Ollila knows the price of the work. It settles in the international price comparison in the upper half, but it is not in the most expensive category. From an outsider even that is a miracle when thinking that the artist is well known globally.
Gottlieb was born in Vermont. He found his professional orientation as a child: he was already then an extremely talented human drawer. Later, he studied at the University how the old master artist used to paint. He also visited the Charles H. Cecil Studio in Florence. He has won numerous awards. His absolute trump card is to be able to reach the renaissance and early impressionist tradition in his paintings. It means that in addition of materials also knowledge of traditional working methods is important. That skill has almost disappeared under modern art.
Gottlieb leads his own art school in Adrian Gottlieb Studio & Atelier. When he teaches he leans in the ways of how the old masters have drawn and painted.
23 sessions was reserved for Ollila and Gottlieb during spring 2012. “Try yourself to be a model like that. I recommend three hours standing at a time.” Ollila thinks back of the sessions. 21 sessions was good for Gottlieb. Two slightly different paintings were completed. The more casual painting is at Ollila’s home. Ollila is still impressed. The whole painting was done as it would have been done 600 years ago as to the posing of the model and as to the capturing of the light. If you first looked for the Rembrandt light in the painting, so Ollila finds also Caravaggio and perhaps even more Velasquez.
“Before, I assumed that the most difficult skill to capture in the painting are the eyes but that is not the case. The most difficult is the mouth area and the skin. Painting nude models is important in order for the artist to learn how to immortalize the skin.” Ollila says.
For Nokia and for the past leaders of Nokia valuable paintings were familiar. You can see that in Båtvik. Ollila being painted in an even globally significant work of art is a narrative of the miracle of the Finnish society. Ollila’s childhood home in Kurikka was not wealthy. You could almost say it to be close to poor. His mother took care of the children and his Engineer father provided the family. Ollila tells that culture in the family was represented by literature and the extensive use of the library. There were no oil paintings on the walls at their home. Ollila remembers that his interest in visual arts started around 1972 when he got married with his wife Liisa Ollila. Their first oil painting was purchased when they travelled to Paris in the spring of 1973. Later a couple of landscape paintings from Ostrobothnia were acquired to their house. And as years went past interest in the visual arts became the family hobby. During the past few years we have bought together with my wife many pieces of modern art. Ollila also favored visual art which was bought to Nokia during his Nokia years.
The experience with Gottlieb opened the rest of the dams. Ollila is definitely of the opinion that portrait painting represents the excellence of the fine arts tradition. Ollila is also concerned about the current role and status of portrait painting. Business leaders should not abandon the beautiful tradition. A portrait is worth to be painted, when there is a right time to do it. A photograph cannot replace a portrait done by a professional portrait painter.