Born in Finland, Helene was a sickly child from a very early age, and a fall was to result in lameness in one leg. Her talents were recognised, however, and from the age of 11 she was admitted to art school. On government scholarships she was enabled to travel abroad, and painted and exhibited in France and Italy. She studied at the Atelier Colorossi, Paris, with Marianne PREINDLSBERGER (later Marianne STOKES) in 1881 and painted with Marianne in Pont Aven. Invited by Marianne, she arrived in St Ives in 1887 to work with her friend and her artist husband, Adrian STOKES, for a period of months, finding the mild climate conducive to painting out of doors.
Several major pictures of hers were painted in St Ives: The Old Bakehouse and View of St Ives (1887). The Convalescent (1888) of which there were several studies, won a Gold Medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1899 (a b&w plate of this charming picture appears in Sparrow 1905). Chickens among Haystacks, which remains in Cornwall, was also from her St Ives period. She is said in Benezit to have fervently admired the work of Velasquez, and admitted to the influence of Symbolism.
In 1889 she returned to St Ives with her friend Maria WIIK. From 1917 when she had her first exhibition in Sweden, she met with increasing success and acclaim, and became one of the best known women in Finnish Art. In 1991 the Finnish Broadcasting Company completed a film version of her life, after visiting St Ives to trace film locations for some of her paintings. In 1992 an exhibition of her work toured to the United States, and in 2019 London's Royal Academy, in conjunction with the Finnish National Gallery, hosted a major Helene Schjerfbeck exhibition.
works and access
Works include: As mentioned in bio above; The Little Convalescent; At Work; (latter two in Sparrow); Table Roses (discovered in St Ives in 1919, and sold in Sothebys soon after)
Access: Pohanmaan Museo, Vaasa, Finland; Museum of Helsinki; Copenhagen
In Cornwall: Penlee House, Penzance: Chickens among Haystacks
Dowdeswell; Paris International (1899); Paris Salon 1900 (Bronze medallist); ROI; Sweden, Italy, United States, 1992 tour
2012: 'Effortless Brushstrokes', Falmouth Art Gallery 11 Feb - 14 Apr
2019: Royal Academy of Arts, London (20 July-27 Oct)
Art Cyclopedia (Internet Guide); 19th Century Women Artists
Benezit (lg ref and signature)
T Cross Shining Sands
Dowdeswell Exh Cat (repr Hardie 2009)
Gaze (1997) Dictionary of Women Artists
Hardie (2009) Artists/Newlyn & St Ives p344 (Bibl)
Hoyle, H (Oct 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall http://cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Helene Schjerfbeck - An Interrupted Narrative'
Newton et al Painting at the Edge
W S Sparrow (1905) Women Painters of the World [plate of The Little Convalescent b&w, p310 and At Work, p313]
Tovey (2009) St Ives/ Social History
D Piper (1984) A-Z of Art & Artists
Whybrow (1994) St Ives