Sometimes, one is simply lucky in discovering something new and fascinating. This time the luck took a detour of sorts. Sweetheart and I watched a quiz program on TV. One question referred to internationally renowned German painter Gerhard Richter. Who would be the female equivalent to Gerhard Richter, the question was. Of the four names given, only one, that of an also internationally renowned singer, was familiar to me. So I went for it, with sweetheart disagreeing. He picked the name Rosemarie Trockel, stating that she was a German paintress. But, quite snotty despite my ignorance, I said that I surely would have heard or read about a certain Mrs. Trockel before, if indeed she were comparable to Gerhard Richter. Alas, I was wrong. Turns out, Mrs. Trockel is famous and influental in her work as conceptual artist and I don’t have the first clue about it all. So I shall research her art further. However, Mrs. Trockel or those in charge of her body of work seem to be quite protective of it in terms of freely available imagery. One can view much of her art at two or three big galleries selling her art, but the images are not free to be copied. I will keep at it.
But – and now we proceed to today’s artist – while investigating Mrs. Trockel, I stumbled upon the name of a certain Helene Schjerfbeck. To be honest, if it weren’t for the weird spelling of her name, my eyes would have overread the name. As I was looking for information on Mrs. Trockel. But stumble I did, checking back if I had read properly. I had. Schjerfbeck it was. So I detoured, to check out this Helene Sophia Schjerfbeck of Finland. And I was awed. This Lady will take two Sundays to fully grasp.
Let’s start with the early years. Born 1862 in Helsinki to an office manager and his wife, she fell down a flight of stairs as a four year old, breaking her hip. This accident left her with a limp for the rest of her life. Her talent in drawing was spotted early by Adolf von Becker, a painter who ran an art school in Helsinki. He and later a certain Prof. Georg Asp paid for her tuition at Beckers art school. At the age of 17 she already won a prize at a competition organized by the Finish Art Society. Enough fame to grant her travel scholarships by the Imperial Russian Senate (Finland was part of the Russion Empire back then), enabling her to go to Paris, later Britain and back to France to study and work. During this time she painted in Realist style. She expressed admiration for Manet, Degas, Morisot and Cassatt. Her two best know paintings stem from that period: The Convalescent and The Dancing Shoes. But also many a still life and landscape in plein air style. Great art, all of it, I think. Have a look.
Next Sunday, we shall explore the fascinating turn, Mrs. Schjerfbeck’s art took, when she withdrew to the countryside in later years.