Helene Schjerfbeck, "Student cap (after the party)".
Signed HS and dated 1879 in the middle. Oil on canvas 40x34 cm.
Wear due to age and use.
Private Collection, Finland.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Tammisaari Art Museum, 1984, no 39.
"Private", Kunsthalle Helsinki, 1988, no 88.
"Omat Klassikot", Art Center Pyrri, Savonlinna, 11.6.-7.8.1988.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Ateneum art museum, Helsinki, 2.2.-5.4.1992, no 24. The exhibition continued in Washington, USA.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Millesgården, Stockholm, 3.4.-1.6.1998.
"Helene Schjerfbeck and her artist sisters", Art Center Retretti, Punkaharju, 3.6.-29.8.2010.
"Helene Schjerfbeck 150-year Memorial Exhibition", Ateneum art museum, Helsinki, 1.6.-14.10.2012.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Turku Art Museum, 16.9.2016-29.1.2017.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum, 1992, illustrated on p. 108.
"Helene Schjerfbeck-150 years", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum art museum, 2012, illustrated on p.92.
Helene Schjerfbeck's childhood was characterized by dejection. Her father Svante Schjerfbeck died of tuberculosis as early as 1876, and her mother Olga struggled with financial difficulties to support Helene and her older brother Magnus. In addition, she suffered from a severe hip injury caused by a fall as a child.
Her artistic talent was discovered early, and she began her art studies at the Finnish Art Association's Drawing School as early as 1873, at the age of only 11. She quickly became technically proficient, was exceptionally productive and soon acquired a distinctive artistic outlook.
However, the prevailing narrow-minded view of women, which did not look kindly on women's independent creativity, obscured her early artistic career, and this was not helped by the reserved approach of her mother to her painting.
After graduating from the drawing school in 1877, she continued at Adolf von Becker's private academy. Schjerfbeck greatly appreciated von Becker and she felt that he gave her a solid foundation on which to build her future career.
In the painting "Student cap" from 1879, which is now for sale, one can discover much that was close to Helene Schjerfbeck's heart. The student cap and the worn-out May Day programme can be seen as symbols of education and progress, which she valued highly. The red fabric gives a dramatic effect but can also refer to the working people and the struggle for equality. Across it is a wooden stick, which gives the painting balance and conveys an impression of continuity. The grey gloves evoke wilting flowers. All the objects depict the multifaceted world of thought of a young person and are emphasized by the neutral grey background.
The following year Schjerfbeck travelled to Paris to study with the support of a Senate scholarship. Paintings produced at this time included "Wounded Warrior" and "Death of Wilhelm von Schwerin", paintings that belonged to a male sphere of experience and were unsuitable for women. The experimentation and the strong naturalistic elements also caused consternation among the public. Despite her unique talent, Helene Schjerfbeck felt like an outsider in Finnish art life. It was not until 1917, in connection with a solo exhibition at Stenman's Art Gallery, that she received the appreciation she deserved.