The first predecessor of the Academy of Fine Arts was the Finnish Art Society's Drawing School, established in 1848, the year of many European upheavals. Among the students of the Drawing School were the first Finnish artists of national and international importance: from Albert Edelfelt to Axel Gallén, from Helene Schjerfbeck to Ellen Thesleff.
From 1939, the Academy operated under the Fund of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland and was known as the School of the Fine Arts Academy of Finland. In 1985, the school became state-owned and the name was changed to the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. The Academy became an institution of higher education in 1993 and a university in 1998.