Reidar Särestöniemi (1925-1981) is one of the best known Finnish artists and was the most remarkable Lappish artist of his time. He was born the seventh and youngest child in the family of Alma and Matti Kaukonen in Kaukonen village, Kittilä. The family, who later changed their name to Särestöniemi, earned their living by agriculture and reindeer farming.
Särestöniemi studied first at the Finnish Art Society's Drawing School in Helsinki (1947-1951), then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki (1951-1952), and finally at the Ilya Repin Institute in Leningrad (1956-1959). His career got off to a start in 1959 when he held his first solo exhibition in Helsinki after returning from Leningrad. Another significant moment was to come fifteen years later when he was awarded an honorary professorship as an appreciation of his life's work. Reidar Särestöniemi was a colourful character who in his time prompted plenty of discussion of his art and personality.
Apart from his years of study, Reidar Särestöniemi spent all his life at the family farm. The natural world surrounding him in Lapland and local people with their beliefs and stories affected Reidar deeply and gave his art its content and strength. Peatlands and fells, willow grouse, lynx, rams and reindeer are frequent motifs in his works. Often an animal figure symbolises the person of the artist himself.
The Lappish countryside gave Särestöniemi not only motifs, but perhaps the most notable element of his art, its strong colours. He kept exploring colours and the opportunities they offered throughout his career. This was not always unproblematic, as such use of colour as Särestöniemi's was unusual in Finnish art in the 1960's and 1970's and often led to intense criticism.
Although Lapland was a major inspiration for Särestöniemi, his art has been seen as been influenced from other directions, such as by the great names of European modernism, by Russian art, and prehistoric cave paintings, to name a few. The Lappish influence strengthened in Särestöniemi's art as time went on. His works from the 1950's differ from his most well-known works, the large and colourful oil paintings from the 1960's and 1970's.