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Helene Schjerfbeck
01.06.2012 - 14.10.2012


Year 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important and recognised artists in the entire Nordic region, Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946). To celebrate this anniversary, Ateneum Art Museum is presenting the largest ever exhibition of Schjerfbeck's art. Over three hundred works of art will be on display, covering all periods of Schjerfbeck's artistic output - from her historical paintings of the 1880s to her later examples of minimalistic modernism.   

The new exhibition will present Schjerfbeck's well-known classics alongside previously unseen or seldom exhibited works of art from private collections. A central theme of the exhibition is Schjerfbeck's interaction with the masters of world art. For the first time, Schjerfbeck's paintings after El Greco will be displayed alongside two original works by the Spanish master.

The curator of the Helene Schjerfbeck anniversary exhibition is Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Chief Curator at Ateneum Art Museum. A comprehensive catalogue raisonné of Schjerfbeck's art will be published in connection with the exhibition in which researchers shed new light on the artist and her work. The catalogue is edited by Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse and Anu Utriainen and will be available in Finnish, Swedish and English.

The exhibition at Ateneum is part of the official programme marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Helene Schjerfbeck. The anniversary will be celebrated throughout Finland with special exhibitions and events. The patroness of the anniversary year is President Tarja Halonen.


Schjerfbeck in Ateneum's collections

Ateneum Art Museum has the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Helene Schjerfbeck's art. The collection comprises a total of 212 paintings, drawings and sketchbooks. The first acquisition dates back more than 130 years to 1880, when the painting Wounded Warrior in the Snow was acquired by the Finnish Art Society. Ateneum's unique Schjerfbeck collection has also expanded over the years thanks to numerous valuable donations, the most significant being those of Nanny and Yrjö Kaunisto and of Ester and Jalo Sihtola.

The Friends of Ateneum association has also added to the collection over the years. The most recent donation was made in autumn 2011, when the association presented Ateneum with five of Schjerfbeck's sketchbooks, a hundred sketches as well as photographs and other archive material. The sketchbooks have been published on the Finnish National Gallery's Art Collections online service.

You can study Schjerfbeck works from the Ateneum collection by following an on-line trail A Journey with Helene Schjerfbeck that covers her long career and includes key works and quotations from her letters. Along the trail you will find drawings from a sketchbook collection donated by the Friends of the Ateneum. The commentary is by art historian Siina Hälikkä.

The importance of Ateneum's Schjerfbeck collection has grown in recent years together with increased international interest in the artist's production. Already during her lifetime Schjerfbeck's art was displayed throughout Europe in numerous exhibitions of Finnish art. Art dealer Gösta Stenman began organising Schjerfbeck exhibitions in Finland in the 1910s. The extensive solo exhibition at Stenman's gallery in Stockholm in 1937 received a rapturous reception. After this, solo exhibitions were held also elsewhere in Sweden almost on a yearly basis.

Her broader international breakthrough came in 2007, when a major retrospective exhibition of Schjerfbeck's art was held in Paris, Hamburg and the Hague. Attracting over 350,000 visitors, the exhibition aroused interest among researchers, artists and the general public alike. 

The most recent international exhibition of Schjerfbeck's art was in Ordrupgaard, Denmark, last autumn. The museum presented around sixty works, of which close to forty were from Ateneum's collection.

Swedes will have another chance to admire Schjerfbeck's art after the exhibition at Ateneum, when a selection of paintings will travel to Prince Eugen's Museum in Stockholm and the Gothenburg Museum of Art.