Art: Helene Schjerfbeck

Maria (1909)

Tomorrow is the last day for the exhibition of Helen Schjerfbeck at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), for those who will be in London for the weekend, it is worthwhile stopping by and also seeing the Antony Gormley exhibition as well (I will write this up another time, I think Schjerfbeck was better). As many of my readers know, I really enjoy seeing art created by women artists. I knew very little about Schjerfbeck but thought it was opportune since I was already going to be at the RA to see Gormley. I am so glad I did!

She is described by the RA as one of Finland’s best-kept secrets and the exhibition is the first in the UK. Though she is little known where I am from, she is a Finnish national icon and rightly so. I really enjoyed the exhibition, her naturalistic and abstract style was warming and uplifting. She was a pioneer of her time, whilst her peers painted in the traditional Finnish style, she broke away and developed her own modern/contemporary style.

At the age of four, she fell and broke her hip which left her with a life long limp.  With a similar story to Edvard Munch, art was introduced to Schjerfbeck to pass time when she was unable to go to school. At the extraordinarly young age of 11, her talent was recognised and was offered a full scholarship at the Finnish Art Society. As she forged her own path, she has been an artist that could never be categorised. She constantly experimented with her techniques and took inspiration from other artists of the time.

Schjerfbeck lived through some of the most seismic shifts in modern art, from Impressionism to Surrealism. But she was never one to follow the crowd and forged her own path

Paintings to look out for

  • The Bakery (1887) – This was painted during her time in St Ives. In this painting Schjerfbeck captures the atmosphere through colour, light and composition. With the beautifully painted baked goods, it makes a very warming and comforting piece of art.
  • Woman with a Child (1887) – What I love about Schjerfbeck’s paintings is that she manages to capture warmth in a very unique way. Her art is just a pleasure to see. This intimate painting between the woman and child, the painting filled my heart with joy.
  • The Convalescent (1888) – The child-like curiosity and emotion. Wide-eyed and ethereal, it captures such an innocent moment.
  • Maria (1909) – The picture in my header, it is so simple, but her naturalistic style is captured very elegantly in this piece
  • Self-portrait with Palette (1937) – An excellent example of her varied painting styles, this very modern self-portrait vastly differs from her initial style.
  • Madonna de la Charité, El Grecon mukaan (1941) – Another wonderful example of her modern naturalistic style.

A wonderful exhibition and just a small insight into this remarkable artist, I hope that I would be able to go to Finland to see her other works. For those who won’t be able to make the exhibition in London, the video on the RA website gives a great summary of her work if you don’t get a chance to see it in person!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x