Expressionism in Sámi Art

John Savio’s Woodcuts of the 1920s and 1930s

Authored by: Tuija Hautala-Hirvioja

The Routledge Companion to Expressionism in a Transnational Context

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138712553
eBook ISBN: 9781315200088
Adobe ISBN:


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This essay addresses the art of John Savio (1902–1938), in particular his graphic works, offers a brief overview of his short life as a basis for understanding the development of his art, and provides an analysis of his work, specifically his use of Western pictorial conventions and expressionism. Savio was the northern-most expressionist in Europe and the first educated Sámi artist. He concentrated on making woodcuts, and is best known for his black-and-white woodcut prints, which depict the indigenous Sámi people and scenes from everyday Sámi life as well as the landscapes, villages, and seaports of Finnmark, located in the northeastern-most region of Norway. The Sámi people are not presented as an exotic motif but rather as ordinary individuals, with familiar human emotions, busy going about their daily lives. The prints consist of clear, plain, and vivid compositions, sometimes painted with watercolors; their atmospheric expression is effective. In both style and content, Savio’s graphic works relate to expressionism.

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