In the artwork, a child sits in a rattan chair and explores a spring sprout.
Helene Schjerfbeck: The Convalescent (1888). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Yehia Eweis.

The first English-language biography of Helene Schjerfbeck published on the FNG Research website

The work written by Marja Lahelma and published by the National Gallery is about a passionate, courageous person who is completely dedicated to her art.

In Finland Helene Schjerfbeck’s paintings are today probably the most beloved artworks in Finnish art history. However, she is not quite as well known beyond her home country, even though in the past decade there have been several successful exhibitions presenting her art in Europe and in Japan.

Many of these exhibitions (in Frankfurt 2014, Tokyo and three other Japanese cities 2015, and London 2019) have been curated in collaboration with Ateneum Art Museum and here the role of our chief curator Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff has been crucial.

The books published alongside the exhibitions have enriched research and revealed new aspects of Schjerfbeck’s art. However, no biography of the artist has been written in English before this.

The now published Helene Schjerfbeck – An Artist’s Life is the first biography of Helene Schjerfbeck, written in English. The book is written by art historian Marja Lahelma. The work, published as an online book on the FNG Research website, offers accessible information to anyone interested in Schjerfbeck’s art.

“Interest in Schjerfbeck and his art has grown significantly abroad. I believe that there is a demand for the online book and that it will reach readers all over the world,” says von Bonsdorff.

Helene Schjerfbeck – An Artist’s Life is divided into six chapters that describe different periods in Schjerfbeck’s life and art. The book reveals an exceptional artist who bravely followed his own path and thus contributed significantly to the development of the story of Finnish art and its orientation towards modernism.

As Lahelma states in the book, Schjerfbeck was a passionate and completely dedicated person to his art. Unlike some previous biographies that have painted Schjerfbeck as frail and isolated from the art world, Lahelma shows her as a strong, courageous and determined woman who was able to develop a great career and make a living from her artistic work.

The book project is part of the Ateneum Art Museum’s Schjerfbeck research project. The book project was initiated by von Bonsdorff, the book’s editor-in-chief, and was made possible by the Jane and Aatos Erkko foundation.

Helene Schjerfbeck – An Artist´s Life

  • FNG Research 1/2023
  • Publisher Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki
  • Editor-in-Chief Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff
  • Editor and Picture Editor Hanna-Leena Paloposki
  • Language Revision Gill Crabbe
  • Graphic Design Lagarto / Jaana Jäntti and Arto Tenkanen
  • Copyright Authors and the Finnish National Gallery Web Magazine and Web Publication

ISBN 978-952-7371-63-3 (pdf)

ISSN 2343-0850 (FNG Research)

FNG Research: Helene Schjerfbeck – An Artist’s Life

Front Cover Helene Schjerfbeck, c. 1895 Photographer unknown Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections,
Finnish Narional Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery.