This summer, the mesmerizing paintings of Helene Schjerfbeck, one of Finland’s best kept secrets, appear in the UK’s first major exhibition of her work. The Royal Academy of Arts presents 'Helene Schjerfbeck' from July 20 to Oct. 27, 2019.
Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) is a Finnish national icon. From her early naturalistic style – honed during her studies in France – to her highly abstracted self-portraits, this exhibition will present Schjerfbeck for the first time to UK audiences.
Talented and widely travelled, Schjerfbeck found artistic success at a young age. In the 1880s she connected with artists’ colonies in Pont Aven, Brittany and St. Ives, Cornwall. In her later years, she left the Finnish capital for a quieter life that allowed her to concentrate on her work. Nonetheless, keeping in touch with artist friends and the seismic shifts in modern art, she produced some of her most raw and radically abstracted paintings in these years.
Through over 60 portraits, landscapes and still lifes, this long-overdue survey traces the evolution of her remarkable career. Among the highlights will be a sequence of self-portraits, which demonstrate Schjerfbeck’s lifelong fascination with the physical and psychological process of ageing. In the age of the selfie, her engagement with masks and masquerade – the superficial appearance we present to the world and what lies beneath – is more relevant than ever.
Overlooked for too long, Schjerfbeck’s unique vision and painterly invention will be a revelation.
Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki.