Aino and Jean Sibelius


Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and Aino Järnefelt (1871-1969) met each other for the first time, when Aino’s brother Armas Järnefelt brought his fellow student home. Aino Järnefelt got secretly engaged with Jean Sibelius in 1890, and they got married in the summer of 1892. At first, the young family lived in multiple places around Helsinki, however, at the end of the 19th century Jean started feeling the need to take distance from the boisterous life of an artist in the capital. When moving to Ainola, the family had grown with the birth of their four daughters, as well as, experienced the painful loss of their third daughter Kirsti, who died in 1901.

”In Helsinki the song died within me”

After living in Kerava for couple of years, Sibelius’ bought less than a hectare large plot from Järvenpää, in 1903, which was located about half a kilometer east from the lake of Tuusula. A prominent artistic community of Young Finns had already been formed in the area in the late 19th century. It consisted of artists such as a writer Juhani Aho, his spouse Venny Soldan-Brofeldt who was a painter, a writer J.H Erkko and painters Eero Järnefelt and Pekka Halonen.

Ainola was finished in 1904. Moving to Ainola proved crucial in Sibelius’s composing work. Most of his works were composed in Ainola.

”I have composed the second symphony in Italy, the third in Paris and Voces Intimae -quartet in London. Most I have composed in Ainola. I always feel that everyone should either live in a forest or a big city. Here in Ainola, the silence speaks.”

Jean Sibelius radio interview 1948

Talented Aino Sibelius devoted her life to Jean Sibelius, his work and their family. She was a talented pianist, and understood music profoundly. Aino read a lot of fiction and did a lot of handicrafts from woodwork to embroidery. Correspondence with relatives and friends reveals detailed observations of an active, ethical, relentless, reflective and an analytical person. Raising five daughters was her life’s calling.

Traces of Aino Sibelius’s presence can be found all over Ainola – in the interior design, textiles and in practical solutions in the house, such as the water system in the sauna. The sauna building, designed by Aino, was finished in 1905. It was Aino’s biggest designing project. The vegetable and flower gardens, that were established in Ainola, became Aino Sibelius’s life’s work.

Aino Sibelius in the garden in the 1940s.

Picture: Santeri Levas, The Finnish Museum of Photography

In the beginning of the 20th century, Jean Sibelius traveled a lot. Ainola, Sibelius’s family and the artistic community offered a balanced and calm environment to the returning restless composer. A composer dressed in a neat suit, white shirt and a tie -occasionally with a bowler hat-even during ordinary days, must have been quite a sight, not only at home but also during walks in the countryside.

Altogether, Sibelius composed about 310 compositions, in addition to the drafts and lost and burned pieces, during his time in Ainola from 1904 till 1957. He was especially industrious for 25 years from year 1904 till 1929: during that time he composed over 300 pieces.

After the death of Jean Sibelius, Aino still lived in Ainola for 12 more years, until her death in 1969.