Helene Schjerfbeck, Girl on the Sand.
Sign. HS. Executed in 1942. Oil and charcoal on canvas 47x35.7 cm.
Wear due to age and use.
Gösta Stenman collection; present owner.
"Helene Schjerfbeck Tribute Exhibition", Stenmans Art Salon, Stockholm 1942, no.97.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Stenmans Art Salon, Stockholm 1944, no.85.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Canada and USA 1949-1952, no.27.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Stenmans Art Salon, Stockholm 1954, no.99.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Stenmans Art Salon, Stockholm 1958, no.94.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Lapinlahti Art Center, Lapinlahti 1983, no.20.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Ekenäs Museum 1984, no.54.
"Private 88", Kunsthalle Helsinki, 1988, no.89.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Ateneum Art Museum, 2.2.-5.4. 1992, no.451.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C., 1992,
The National Academy of Design, New York 1992-1993, no.451.
"Helene Schjerfbeck - The Years of Changes", Hyvinkää Art Museum, 10.11.2001-10.3.2002.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Malmö Art Museum, 12.2.-17.4.2006.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", Ateneum Art Museum, 1.6.-14.10.2012, no.653.
"Spirituality in Art - Helene Schjerfbeck", Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki 2012.
"Night and Day", Halosenniemi Museum, 23.9.-30.11. 2014.
"The Magic of Summer", Halosenniemi Museum, 3.5.-4.9.2016.
H.Ahtela, "Helena Schjerfbeck", Helsinki, 1953, no.886.
"Helene Schjerfbeck", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum, 1992, no 451, illustrated on p.275.
"Helene Schjerfbeck-150 years", ed. Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Ateneum art museum, 2012, no 653, illustrated (full page) on p.323.
The blacksmith Juho Kustaa Sahrmans and his wife Olga's four children served as inspiration for Helene Schjerfbeck in several paintings. The family's children Elma, Einari, Martta and Katri also served as little helpers, including fetching food portions for Helene and her mother from the railway station restaurant in Hyvinkää. In an interview with the author Lea Bergström, Martta revealed that in the early 1910s, she had modelled for the first version of "Girl on the Sand". The painting currently for sale is the only later interpretation of the two works with this motif painted thirty years earlier, and it was executed at the Luontola Sanatorium in Nummela in the midst of the Continuation War.
The two works from the early 1910s of "Girl on the Sand" are visually powerful, especially the oil painting (which has been part of Keirkner's collection from early on and since 1945 part of the Ateneum Art Museum's collection), where the cinnabar-red dress and the downy light-yellow hair practically shine in the viewer's eyes. The shapes, colours, and lines are modern and stripped down; sunlight rhythmically plays on the dress, while the neck and head are enveloped in a soft radiance. The girl's sour mood is excellently depicted with a modern and simplified artistic approach. The vibrant colour palette reflects the rainbow colours that were sought after in Finnish art at the time, replacing the darker shades. At this point however, Helene Schjerfbeck mainly followed the Finnish art world through newspapers, letters, and discussions with friends, as she remained firmly stationed in Hyvinkää and had not yet even met her future art dealer Gösta Stenman or artist friend Einar Reuter.
The version from 1942 is more subdued but shares something in common with the two earlier works, including the gouache painting (which belonged to the artist Eric O.W. Ehrström's collection early on and is now owned by the Gösta Serlachius Foundation). However, the overall impression is characterised by the painting's specific, unique aura and darker colour palette. In the earlier paintings, the girl's posture is so hunched over that her ankles are barely visible, with only her shoes supporting her. In this later version, she is barefoot and not as hunched over. The mood is focused and balanced. The twig in the girl's hand is straighter and held more firmly, seemingly drawing its own patterns in the expressively depicted sand. The characteristic green hue for the artist has, in some places, complimented the pale-yellow colour to add sensitivity to the colour palette. Like the gouache version, the charcoal lines provide contours and define the forms. This interpretation of "Girl on the Sand" is modern and stripped down, with a calmer and more peaceful mood than the first versions she painted in her 50s. The motif is placed outdoors, which was unusual for Schjerfbeck, and this time, she fully captures the contrast between light and shadow. The girl's face is in strong shadow compared to her bright hair. The painting's balanced yet multifaceted mood once again demonstrates Helene Schjerfbeck's virtuosity and makes it something entirely different from a traditional child's portrait.
At Helene Schjerfbeck's 80th-anniversary tribute exhibition at Gösta Stenman's art salon in Stockholm, "Girl on the Sand" from 1942 served as a prime example of the artist's perpetually youthful creative power.