The art collection of the Finnish National Gallery is the most extensive in the country. Its historical layers go all the way back to the mid-19th century when the Finnish Art Society was responsible for forming and accruing the first public art collection in Finland. The Finnish Art Society started collection activities in 1849. They strived to form a model collection for their Drawing School.
In 1868, art collection accrual was added to the Art Society rules. After the Art Society moved to the Ateneum building in 1888, its collection started earning recognition and status as a museum collection. The collection was placed in a trust in 1939, and the Finnish Fine Arts Academy Foundation took over its administration.
The current collection covers a wide spectrum of art history from medieval icons to the latest contemporary art.