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Helene Schjerfbeck

(Finland, 1862-1946)
Helene Schjerfbeck
(Finland, 1862-1946)

Helene Schjerfbeck, "Twinflowers".

Not signed. Executed in 1886. Oil on canvas 20x35 cm.

Wear due to age and use.


Family of the artist, Sjundby Manor.


"Helene Schjerfbeck", Tammisaari museum 1984, no.27.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 1988, no.20.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Gothenburg Museum of Art, 2.12.1987-21.2.1988, no.20.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm 1987.
"To malerinner", Modums Blaafarveverk, 23.5.-30.9.1998.
"Drommen om en have", Blaafarveverket, 13.5.-24.9.2017.


H.Ahtela, "Helena Schjerfbeck", Helsinki, 1953, no.160.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum, 1992, no 101, illustrated on p.130.
"Helene Schjerfbeck-150 years", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum art museum, 2012, no 144, illustrated on p.128.

More information

The mid-1880s were a turbulent time for Helene Schjerfbeck. In 1883 she participated for the first time in the Paris Salon with the work 'Fete Juive'. She shared a studio in Paris with Maria Wiik and tried out new painterly expressions in paintings such as 'Shadow on the Wall' and 'The Child's Neck'. That same year she met an English artist, whose identity is still unknown, and became engaged to him. The following year she also participated in the Paris Salon, this time with the canvas 'Funeral Procession in Brittany' (1984), which received poor reviews in her home country. Her artist friend Helena Westermarck, among others, objected in 'Finsk Tidskrift' to the painting's poor colour composition, but at the same time was careful to highlight Schjerfbeck's great talent.

Scherfbeck spent the summer of 1884 at Sjundby Manor in Siuntio, which was owned by her aunt's husband, Tomas A. Adlercreutz. At the farm, she spent a lot of time with her cousins, who often acted as models. The farm became an important place for Schjerfbeck, to which she often returned. The forest hill near the farm served as a playground for the children, and it also became a favourite place for Schjerfbeck to paint. Twinflowers grew here, and the place was particularly suitable for painting small-scale close-up studies of flowers.
The following years were characterised by difficult trials for the young artist. She participated in a large-scale exhibition of Finnish art, organised by the Senate in the House of Lords, with no less than six works, but the reception was very poor. Only Maria Wiik received an honourable mention; otherwise, the critics resented the tendency of female artists to uncritically embrace new trends in art. To make matters worse, her fiancé broke off the engagement at the same time, as his relatives feared that Helene's hip injury, caused by a childhood fall, was due to tuberculosis. Helene Schjerfbeck remained unmarried, which probably took its toll on her, and she seems to have particularly mourned the fact that she was childless.

"Twinflowers", created in 1886, is clearly inspired by French impressionist plein-air painting. The delicate yet vibrant flowers are beautifully illuminated by the light, set against a misty forest background. Three tree trunks, shaded in grey and leaning in the distance, complete the composition. Schjerfbeck's sensitivity and soulful expression are evident in this work. As with many of her paintings, "Twinflowers" offers a glimpse into the artist's inner life, making it a truly captivating piece.

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