Connect with us – Art History Stories

The Wounded Angel By Hugo Simberg

Painting of the Week

The Wounded Angel By Hugo Simberg

Two boys carry a stretcher, bearing an angel dressed in white. The angel is clearly ill – her eyes are bandaged, the wing is bloodied and she can barely hold onto the stretcher. This painting, entitled The Wounded Angel, was created by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg who painted it in 1903. It is one of the most recognizable of Simberg’s works, and was voted Finland’s “national painting”.

Wounded angel by Hugo Simberg

The Wounded Angel, sketch, 1902

The procession passes through a recognizable landscape, that of Eläintarha, Helsinki, with Töölönlahti Bay in the background. The pathway along Töölönlahti Bay remains there to this day. In Hugo Simberg’s time, the park was a spot popular among the working classes for leisure-time activities. At the time, many charity institutions were located in Eläintarha park; in The Wounded Angel the healthy boys are carrying the injured girl towards the Blind Girls’ School and the Home for Cripples. She clutches a bunch of snowdrops, symbolic of healing and rebirth.

Wounded angel by Hugo Simberg

Töölönlahti bay today. Source:

Simberg himself hated to explain his works and he always refused to do so, suggesting that the viewers draw their own conclusions. However, it is known that the artist had been suffering from meningitis and that the painting was a source of strength during his recovery. This can also be read metaphorically: meningitis is known to cause neck stiffness, lethargy and light sensitivity, each of which is exhibited by the central figure. If read as lungs rather than wings, such a diagnosis even explains the minor injury, as tubercular meningitis causes abrasions to the upper lungs.

Hugo Gerhard Simberg, The Wounded Angel, Ateneum, Helsinki Wounded Angel By Hugo Simberg

Hugo Simberg,  The Wounded Angel, Ateneum, Helsinki

Hugo Simberg spent many years preparing The Wounded Angel.  He left plenty of sketches and photographs which now tell us about its progress, e.g. at the beginning, the angel was pushed in a wagon by small devils.

Wounded angel by Hugo Simberg

The model posing for the Wounded Angel. Source:

Simberg developed the painting in his studio in Helsinki, and finished it in summer 1903 at Niemenlautta. It has been suggested that some of the last sitters for the angel were Gertrud and Adrienne, daughters of Karl Magnus Gadd, the town physician of Viipuri, whose family members were regular summer guests at Niemenlautta.

Wounded angel by Hugo Simberg

The boy posing for the Wounded Angel. Source:

Simberg’s painting, when exhibited, became a massive success. He wrote about the opening of the exhibition in the letter to his sister, Blenda:

“I want to share the good news with you – I was not rejected this year, even though the jury was terribly strict. It almost seems that I have achieved something of a grand succés among my colleagues and the members of the jury. Gallén is so excited that I can hardly take him seriously. His first words were the highest flattery of my work and, oddly, he seems quite beside himself with enthusiasm for the big painting. He said it gives him the impression that I had stood alone in a little cabin, huddled in the midst of a great forest with tree roots growing up to the corners of the cabin, and had painted in complete indifference to the outside world. He says that it radiates peace and harmony like no other work in the exhibition. – Even Edelfelt said nice things to me.”

Find out more:



Art Historian, founder and CEO of and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.


More in Painting of the Week

  • 20th century

    Painting of the Week: Robert Delaunay, The Red Tower


    When people speak of Paris, images of Notre-Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and Musée du Louvre flash into the imagination. And for good reason, as they are absolute must-see sites. Fresh croissants, fabulous chocolate, and fine perfume fill the senses with pleasure as you peruse this lovely...

  • Abstraction

    An Andalusian Dog – Surrealist Film of Dalí and Buñuel


    Quarantine is already distressing us, but An Andalusian Dog is always a good tip. Above all, the movie and Surrealism, show us how art can ease harsh realities and yet be real. The Surrealist Movement and the Cinema An Andalusian Dog belongs to the Surrealist movement which...

  • Zaretskyi Self-portrait Zaretskyi Self-portrait

    20th century

    Viktor Zaretsky: The Oeuvre of the Ukrainian Gustav Klimt


    Viktor Zaretsky is often called the Ukrainian Gustav Klimt. In fact, the influence of Klimt on the artworks of this Ukrainian artist is quite obvious. However, this does not mean that he just copied the works of the Austrian. Zaretsky developed his own artistic language, which...

  • Vincent Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888 Vincent Van Gogh, The Sower, 1888

    19th Century

    Vincent van Gogh Copying Other Artists


    Vincent van Gogh is famous nowadays for two things. Firstly, his unstoppable creativity – he produced 2,100 artworks in just over a decade. And, secondly, his struggles with his mental health. The famous ear incident was the catalyst for him admitting himself into the Saint-Remy Asylum,...

  • 20th century

    The Art of Adolf Hitler: Idyllic Paintings of a Monster


    Adolf Hitler is one of history’s most infamous dictators. After coming to power as Führer of Nazi Germany, he and his followers were responsible for the deaths of millions, not to mention the world’s greatest mass theft and destruction of priceless artworks. However, what you may...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy