Helene Schjerfbeck
16 Sep 2016 – 29 Jan 2017
Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) was one of the leading artists in Finland during her lifetime and, owing to her late work in particular, can also be counted among the great modernists in Western art. Featuring works from nearly all periods of the artist’s career, which spanned 70 years, the exhibition demonstrates how Schjerfbeck’s early style, with its affinity to realism, was gradually replaced by a spiritual and ascetic expression.

The core of the exhibition consists of portraits and character studies, which were Schjerfbeck’s true forte. The show contrasts Schjerfbeck’s famously penetrating self-portraits with her highly idiosyncratic still lifes that, just like her self-portraits, depict the relentless passage of time. The exhibition also includes early historical paintings by Schjerfbeck, who at the time was an exception in Finland, as the prestigious genre was considered an exclusively masculine province. Turku has received 90 works on loan from the Ateneum Art Museum and from both public and private collections in Finland and Sweden. Among them are the well-known early works The Convalescent and Funeral in Brittany, as well as a dozen self-portraits from 1878–1945.

Thanks to Victor Westerholm, Schjerfbeck had close connections with the Turku Art Museum, which was run by the Turku Art Society, and her work was exhibited there during Westerholm’s directorship more than 20 times between 1891 and 1919. Westerholm encouraged her to show her work in Turku, even though Schjerfbeck had stopped exhibiting in Helsinki. Relative to other public art collecting bodies, the acquisition strategy of the Turku Art Society was quite progressive, with the society acquiring six works by Schjerfbeck during Westerholm’s term. Five of them were purchased before Schjerfbeck’s first solo show and breakthrough in Helsinki in 1917. These early acquisitions included the classics The Old Manor, At Home and Self-Portrait with Silver Background. The Schjerfbeck collection at the Turku Art Museum has subsequently grown through purchases and donations and is today one of the most important in Finland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of events that features interesting, special guided tours, expert talks and an Art Tasting. For more information about the programme, please visit Ajankohtaista.

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2019