Monday, October 28, 2013

In the Beginning: Helene Schjerfbeck

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) was a Finnish painter who is much better known in Scandinavia than here in the United States. Which is too bad, because her artistic journey is interesting in that she went from being a highly competent naturalistic painter to becoming a modernist.

Her Wikipedia entry is here and a blog post containing biographical information and plenty of images is here.

The best place to view Schjerfbeck's paintings is the Ateneum in Helsinki where, if memory serves, a room is devoted to her works.

I have trouble evaluating modernist painting because I care for little of it. I'll simply mention that I think her best modernist paintings are those that don't stray far from realism.  Here are a few to provide a taste of where her style evolved.

Varjo Muurilla - 1928
She painted some landscapes.

Self-Portrait study - 1915
Just enough modernist traits to make this an interesting mostly-representational piece.

Self-Portrait with Red Spot - 1944
One of her last self-portraits.

Girl from Eydtkuhnen - 1927

Below are examples of her early paintings, most or all of which were made during the 1880s when she was in her twenties.


Boy Feeding His Younger Sister - 1881

Portrait of a Child - 1883

Mother and Child - 1886

Picking Bluebells

Portrait of a Girl - 1886

The Convalescent - 1888

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