Ferdinand von Wright

Ferdinand von Wright (19 March 1822, Haminalahti, near Kuopio - 31 July 1906, Kuopio) was a Finnish-Swedish painter. He is best known for his landscapes and animal paintings, especially his detailed depictions of birds, but he also created still-lifes and portraits. [1]


Ferdinand von Wright was born at the village of Haminalahti in Kuopio, Finland. His ancestors included Scottish merchants who had settled in Narva during the 17th-Century. His father Henrik Magnus von Wright was a retired Major who owned the family estate, Haminalahden. He was the youngest of nine surviving children and was tutored at home. Two of his older brothers, Magnus von Wright (1805–1868) and Wilhelm von Wright (1810–1887), also became painters and illustrators. Following in their footsteps, he showed an early aptitude for art, developed during time spent hunting and exploring nature while making sketchbooks. [2]

He travelled to Sweden for the first time when he was fifteen, visiting Bohuslän Province with Wilhelm,[3] who was working as an illustrator for the zoologist Bengt Fredrik Fries (1799–1839).[4]

The following year, he went by himself to work for the Swedish amateur ornithologist, Count Nils Bonde, who had recently subsidized the publication of the multi-volume Svenska Fåglar (Stockholm: C. von Scheele. 1828), with illustrations by Magnus and Wilhelm. [5]

After a few months back in Finland, he returned to Sweden where, in 1842, he briefly studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts with the sculptor Johan Niclas Byström (1783–1848). He went home again in 1844, having been in Sweden for almost six years. Five years later, he went to Turku, where he took some additional lessons from Robert Wilhelm Ekman (1808-1873).[3][6]

In 1852, he and his brothers went to Helsinki, where he set up a studio and began painting more detailed scenes, rather than individual animals. Six years later, he took a trip to Dresden, where he spent two months studying with the noted animal painter Johann Siegwald Dahl (1827-1902). [7] [3] He then travelled to the Swedish island of Orust with Wilhelm, staying for a year.[8]

In 1863, he built a home near his family's estate, which he named "Lugnet" .[9] He lived there for the next twenty years, occasionally spending time with his sisters in Kuopio. In the early 1870s, he had several strokes and was often bedridden,[3] but continued to paint as much as possible. Eventually, he had to move out of the main part of his home and occupy two smaller guest rooms upstairs. He made his last trip in 1881, to Orust, visiting Wilhelm, who was also ill.

His work became more commercial after this and, in 1886 he produced his best-known painting titled The Fighting Capercaillies.[3] He also contributed articles to various ornithological journals. About this time, he received a state artists' pension.[9] Many former students came to visit and, in the late 1890s, the bird painter Matti Karppanen (1873–1953) stayed on to be his pupil and assistant. Slowly, he became more withdrawn and died in 1906.[10] [11]

Selected paintings


  1. Jukka Ervamaa. "Ferdinand Von Wright". Biografiskt lexikon för Finland. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  2. Jukka Ervamaa. "Magnus, Wilhelm ja Ferdinand". tunturisusi. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  3. Brief biography @ the University of Jyväskylä website.
  4. Bengt Hildebrand. "Bengt F Fries". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  5. "Svenska fåglar efter naturen och på sten ritade af M. och W. von Wright". doria. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  6. Ragnar Josephson. "Johan Niclas Byström". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  7. "Johannes Siegvald Dahl, Norsk maler". Salmonsens konversationsleksikon. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  8. Aimo Reitala. "Robert Wilhelm Ekman". Biografiskt lexikon för Finland. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  9. Brief biography @ Lähteillä.
  10. "The Fighting Capercaillies. 1886". Finnish National Gallery. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  11. "Matti Karppanen". kuopio.fi. Retrieved January 1, 2019.

Further reading

  • Anto Leikola, Juhani Lokki and Torsten Stjernberg:
    • Von Wright -veljesten linnut (“The Birds of the von Wright Brothers”). Otava, 2003. ISBN 951-118-037-1
    • Taiteilijaveljekset von Wright: Suomen kauneimmat lintumaalaukset (“The Artist Brothers von Wright: Finland's Most Beautiful Bird Paintings”). Otava, 1986. ISBN 951-109-231-6
  • Wilhelm & Ferdinand von Wright dagböcker (journals). Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 2008. ISBN 978-951-5831-37-8

Media related to Svenska Fåglar (illustrations) at Wikimedia Commons

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