A.W. Ingman, pioneering advocate of Finnish

Our object of the month is a portrait of Professor Anders Wilhelm Ingman by the German-born portraitist Bernhard Reinhold. A.W. Ingman (1819–1877) was Professor of Biblical Studies at the Imperial Alexander University from 1864 to 1877. He was not just a clergyman and theologian, but also a passionate advocate of the Finnish language. His skills in Finnish exceeded those of most of his colleagues at the University, and he was the first theology professor to lecture in Finnish at a time when Swedish remained the official language of teaching.

An oval-shaped half-length portrait, in a gold-coloured frame, of a man turned slightly to the right. The man is bald on top, with brown hair at the side extending over his ear. He is wearing a white shirt, a black jacket and a black bow tie.
Portrait of A.W. Ingman by the German artist Bernhard Reinhold from 1878. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Timo Huvilinna.

Interest in Finnish

Anders Wilhelm Ingman was born in Lohtaja, Central Ostrobothnia, to a Swedish-speaking family. He became interested in Finnish while still in school. At a secondary school for boys in Oulu, the pupils conversed in Finnish, and on excursions in the surrounding area, Anders became familiar with the rich local vernacular too. In 1838 he completed his matriculation examination at an upper secondary school in Turku and went on to study disciplines such as philosophy, Greek and oriental languages at the Imperial Alexander University. He developed his Finnish skills systematically and attended lectures given by Matthias Castrén, Docent of Finnish. His master’s thesis, published in 1841, was among the first to be written partly in Finnish. After being ordained in 1844, Ingman served as a clergyman for two decades in the Häme and Ostrobothnia regions. His interest in Finnish continued unabated during these years, particularly during his time as chaplain in Yli-Veteli (now the municipality of Veteli), where he began to keep the parish meeting minutes in Finnish and undertook to translate the Bible. In 1855 he was tasked with revising the language and spelling of the Church-authorised Finnish-language Bible. So enthusiastic was he that he eventually undertook his own translation of the entire text. His translation received a mixed response, however, and was adopted for use only on an experimental basis.

A rural clergyman becomes a professor

In 1864 Ingman was appointed as Professor of Bible Studies. He was the first to begin teaching the discipline in Finnish; in the 1860s Finnish-language teaching remained rare at the University, as it was only in May 1863 that a declaration allowed teaching in Finnish at the University in the first place. There were teething issues too. Although the initiative had come from theology students, not everyone was fluent in Finnish, which required Ingman initially to lecture partly in both Finnish and Swedish.

Ingman encouraged his students to develop their Finnish skills and converse in Finnish. As inspector of the Hämäläis-Osakunta student nation, Ingman himself participated actively in student life, introduced topics for discussion and gave presentations. Thanks to him, Finnish became the student nation’s official language.

Ingman continued his Finnish translation work during his professorship and issued a publication series on Bible studies in Finnish, the first of its kind. He furthermore chaired the linguistics section of the Finnish Literature Society and contributed actively to the debate on Finnish in the press. Ingman believed that a translation had to be as linguistically rich as possible and that a vernacular basis was crucial to language development. In his own translations, he used many poetic expressions, alliteration and dialect words. Although his style was heavily criticised, with Professor of Finnish August Ahlqvist dubbing it derisively as ‘dialectus ingmanius’, Ingman contributed significantly to the development of Finnish-language theology terminology.

Ingman and women’s right to study

In the 1870s the issue of women’s right to study was hotly debated by theology students. Ingman took a conservative position. He thought too much education could be detrimental to women, whose role he associated mainly with the house and home. Ingman nonetheless saw to the education of his own four daughters by hiring qualified private tutors. All became teachers and made careers for themselves after their father’s death. For example, the eldest daughter, Junia Ingman, was director of the Helsinki Craft School for 30 years and even made study trips abroad. It should also be noted that Lina Ingman, who worked as a private tutor and later as a teacher at the Finnish School for Girls in Helsinki, was the first to recognise the talent of the then 10-year-old Helene Schjerfbeck. Ingman showed the child’s drawings to the artist Adolf von Becker, who subsequently arranged a scholarship for Schjerfbeck to study in the Finnish Art Association’s drawing school.

Portrait painter Bernhard Reinhold (1824–1892)

Ingman’s portrait was painted by the German artist Bernhard Reinhold, who had moved to Finland from Dresden in 1869 after one of his Finnish students hinted that work was available for portraitists in the country. Reinhold lived in Finland from 1869 to 1874 and subsequently visited the country on multiple occasions between 1874 and 1878. He received several commissions and painted portraits of distinguished Finns, including University professors. Today, the University’s portrait collection, Galleria Academica, features 12 portraits by Reinhold. Those considered the finest are of Elias Lönnrot (1872), J.V. Snellman (1874) and Adolf Moberg (1875).

A knee-length portrait of a man sitting slightly sideways by a table and looking directly at the viewer. On the table are a book and some sheets of paper. The man is holding a large writing pad in one hand and a pen in the other. He is wearing a white shirt, a black suit and a black bow tie.
This portrait of Elias Lönnrot from 1872 has been called a ‘cultural gift’ to the Finnish people. Ingman’s translation work had brought him in close contact with Lönnrot. Photo: Helsinki University Museum / Timo Huvilinna.

During his years in Finland, Reinhold also painted altarpieces for three churches in Eckerö, Mäntsälä and Ruovesi, respectively. He was active in the local art scene and taught art to students including the 15-year-old Albert Edelfelt and A.W. Ingman’s niece Eva, who herself later specialised in portraits.

The portrait of Ingman from 1878 is one of Reinhold’s last portraits of Finns. Ingman died in 1877. It is not known whether Reinhold began to paint the portrait while Ingman was still alive or whether it was painted after his death, perhaps from a photo. The portrait appears to have come into the University’s possession from Ingman’s descendants. The meeting minutes of the University Senate for 24 May 1939 mention the bequest to the Faculty of Theology of two portraits of Professor A.W. Ingman, one of which was painted by Reinhold. Lina Ingman died in 1939, so it is possible the portrait came from her estate.

A.W. Ingman’s portrait was previously displayed in the teachers’ cafeteria and the chancellor’s anteroom in the University Main Building.

This object will be included in the museum’s new core exhibition, to be opened in the University of Helsinki Main Building in autumn 2023.

Merike Holmberg, Customer Advisor

Translation: University of Helsinki Language Services.



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