The RA Opens its doors to Finland's Best Kept Secrets: Helene Schjerfbeck

Self-Portrait, Black Background (detail), 1915.

Self-Portrait, Black Background (detail),1915.

Originally Swedish, Helene Schjerfbeck was born in Finland, in 1862. Known for her realistic style in her paintings, this year the Royal Academy of Arts, London is opening an exhibition all about her incredible works.

Her work starts with a dazzlingly skilled, somewhat melancholic version of late-19th-century academic realism…it ends with distilled, nearly abstract images in which pure paint and cryptic description are held in perfect balance.
— Roberta Smith, New York Times, November 27th 1992
Girl from Eydtkuhne II,  1927.

Girl from Eydtkuhne II, 1927.

Circus Girl,  1916.

Circus Girl, 1916.

Authorized by Adolf von Becker, an influential member of the Finnish Society of Fine Arts, to be a student at the homonymous drawing school in 1873, Schjerfbeck started practicing during an era when Finland was already giving fair chances to both male and female artists. Thanks to a government grant, the young artist embarked on her artistic career in Paris, where she was trained at the Parisian Colarossi academy, then staying in Pont-Aven, a popular artistic colony even before the arrival of Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard in 1886. She produced some of her most raw and radically abstracted paintings in these years.

The exhibition at the Royal Academy not only will trace the evolution of the artist through over 60 portraits, landscapes and still lifes, but will also focus on one of Schjerfbeck’s favourite topics: the psychology and the beauty 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.
— Royal Academy of Arts, London
Self-portrait,  1912.

Self-portrait, 1912.

The exhibition opens 20th of July, 2019. Free for members. More details here.