From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Enckell was the youngest of six sons in a vicar's family, in a small provincial town in eastern Finland. He studied painting in Helsinki.
Enckell was the first Finnish artist to break with Naturalism, which was the established style during his education in Helsinki 1889-1891. In 1891, he went to Paris for the first time, where he was a student of Jules-Joseph Lefebvre und Benjamin Constant at the Académie Julian. There he became a member of the Symbolist movement. He was strongly influenced by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and became interested in the then new Symbolist artistic movement and also in borrowing ideas from Symbolist literature.
During a stay in Brittany, he made two paintings in spare colors: Self-Portrait and Breton Woman. He was enthusiastic about the Renaissance and about the idealistic and mystical ideas Sâr Péladan, from whom he took the androgynous standard of beauty which he applied in his work.
During his second stay in Paris in 1893, he painted The Awakening, in which he used a rigorous composition and transparent colors to suggest a spiritual atmosphere.
Enckell was homosexual as this was reflected in his erotic paintings showing some quite uninhibited portraits given the time period. He often painted nude young men, not something unusual in itself, but gave them an erotic charge that wasn't common among his contemporaries.
In 1894 and 1895 Enckell traveled to Milan, Florence, Ravenna, Siena and Venice. These were years of painful inner conflicts, and his work showed the influence of the relationship between art and life.
The years in Italy gave his work a greater range of colors and a more optimistic foundation. In the first years of the twentieth century, under the influence of Post Impressionism, he developed a brighter, more colorful palette. An example is the series The Bathers in dark, lively colors. Together with Verner Thomé and Ellen Thesleff, he founeded the group Septem in which artists who shared his beliefs came together.
1907 Enckell received the commission for the altarpiece of the new cathedral in Tampere. The fresco, more than 10 meters wide and 4 meters high, shows, in subdued colors. the resurrection as well as people of all races and nationalities who are rising from their graves and walking in the sky. In the middle of the painting, two men walk hand in hand - a detail that has often been ignored.
Enckell died in Stockholm in 1925 and his funeral was a national event. He was buried in his native village in Finland.