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.
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Text: Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse