1296. Helene Schjerfbeck (Finland 1862‑1946).
”Stam och tallar”. Signed with monogram HS.
Oil on panel, 65 x 60.5 cm.

SEK 700.000 – 800.000
€ 73.000 – 83.000

It was an overwhelming time for the Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck in 1913-1917. She had been rediscovered after just over a decade of absence from the art scene. The at that time young Gösta Stenman (1888-1947), editor, art critic and later art dealer, had discovered her paintings at the Turku Art Association’s spring exhibition in 1913 and he was excited by what he saw. Another young man, the preacher, artist and writer Einar Reuter (1881-1968), with the pseudonym H. Ahtela, also became her admirer in 1915. He went to see her in Hyvinge, about 50 kilometers north of Helsinki, where she lived since 1902. The familiarity of these two art-loving characters became a vital injection for Helene Schjerfbeck and her painting. They became friends for life, thanks to their love of art, in a warm and supportive affection.

During her first years in Hyvinge, Helene Schjerfbeck developed her reduced modernist painting technique. First, by observing the different appearances of nature, such as the silhouette of the tree crown against clouds, leaves and flower shapes and the landscape seen through the window. She stylized the motifs, draw and cut out applications and made collage, painted in watercolour, and initially failed to handle the oil paint. It became a revolutionary upheaval when Stenman and Reuter appeared in her life. Her paintings radiate new power and the colours began to flourish. She had found the red colour some years earlier. It increased the intensity of the subject, the red lips in the portraits and in the still-life painting, such as ”De röda äpplena” in 1915. As a result of the attention she revived from the two men, she also tried other colours in her paintings.
In the garden at her residence in Hyvinge, outside the window stood a well shelter surrounded by trees, tall tree trunks, deciduous trees and bushes. On the other side were the road, other houses and fields. The painting ”Brunnen” dating from 1914 and the landscape painting ”Stam och tallar”, the latter with its pink tree trunk in the foreground, have a common expression. They are also painted on the same kind of cardboard with the same dimensions. Also they have the same scent of French plein air painting, outdoor painting, but now freely developed. The “Stam och tallar” painting also brought her closer to the fauvist movement with its complementary colour energy. Lines and contours in charcoal on top of the oil paint hold the motif together. Helene Schjerfbeck dared to be liberatingly unconventional.

Helene Schjerfbeck had her first great success in the 1880’s with paintings such as ”Wilhelm von Schwerin’s death” in 1886 and ”The Convalescent” in 1888, but is today perhaps most known for her intrusive self-portraits. The most vigorous of the portraits were made after her 75th birthday in 1937 and her second solo exhibition, organized by Stenman’s art gallery at Storgatan 10 in Stockholm. Schjerfbeck also made many landscape pictures, especially the magnificent from Fiesole in 1894 and her paintings of the view from the hotel in Saltsjöbaden outside Stockholm where she lived in the last years of her life, as well as this auction’s subtle landscape ”Stam och tallar” from Hyvinge.

Lena Holger
author and art historian

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