I think I can say without a doubt that Helene Schjerfbeck is now one of my favorite artists. Never heard of her? I hadn’t either before coming to Helsinki, but apparently pretty much every school child here in Finland knows who she was. She’s one of the most important figures in the Nordic art scene, and the beautiful Ateneum art museum in the center of the city has a wonderful exhibition right now in honor of her 150th birthday, or some such thing. There are a few hundred of her works displayed chronicling her journey from a more Naturalistic style as a young woman to a very modern, minimalistic approach in her later years. The thing that captured me the most in the exhibit was, besides the variety of styles, the sheer beauty inherent in nearly every single painting. She chose, for the most part, to paint human subjects, saying, “There’s nothing as interesting as the human face,” and it’s remarkable the emotion that she seems to be able to call forth both in the expression of the subjects themselves and in the viewer (or me, at least). There is such grace in every stroke of her brush, pencil, pen, or whatever tool she happened to use. I think that right there is probably why I like so many of her paintings so much – they are full of grace, a certain softness that makes the eye contentedly happy.
|The Convalescent was one of my favorites|