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The Royal Academy of Arts this sum­mer presents a sur­vey of the long and pro­duc­tive ca­reer of Fin­nish artist He­lene Sch­jerf­beck (1862 – 1946). This will be the first solo ex­hi­bi­tion of Sch­jerf­beck’s works to be held in the UK. Cel­e­brated as one of the most fa­mous and highly re­garded artists in Fin­land, it will be a rare op­por­tu­nity to see Sch­jerf­beck’s paint­ings to­gether.

The ex­hi­bi­tion will fea­ture around 65 por­traits, land­scapes and still-lifes, chart­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Sch­jerf­beck’s work from a nat­u­ral­is­tic style in­spired by French Sa­lon painters in the early 1880s, to a rad­i­cally abstracted and mod­ern ap­proach from the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury on­wards. Through­out her ca­reer, Sch­jerf­beck ex­hib­ited in­ter­na­tion­ally and was par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful in the Nordic coun­tries and across main­land Europe; how­ever, she has re­mained largely undis­cov­ered in the UK.

The ex­hi­bi­tion will be di­vided into five sec­tions. The first cov­ers her ear­li­est works, the sec­ond her larger paint­ings, while in the cen­tral gallery, self-por­traits will fea­ture a se­ries of 17 pro­gres­sively abstracted and in­creas­ingly raw works painted through­out her life, from the age of 22 to 83, that re­veal Sch­jerf­beck’s fas­ci­na­tion with age­ing and the phys­i­cal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the self. The fi­nal sec­tions will fo­cus on por­traits of fam­ily, friends and mod­els made be­tween 1909 and 1944.

Left: He­lene Sch­jerf­beck, Self­por­trait, Black Back­ground, 1915. Oil on can­vas

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