The Easel

Finland’s Munch’: the unnerving art of Helene Schjerfbeck

Schjerfbeck does not provide a tidy narrative. She was fashion conscious but many of her portraits show a preference for “an averted gaze”. She adored Paris but ultimately chose provincial Finland – where her art became modernist. One critic’s view that her work is “a cold shower of second-rate art” is an outlier compared to this writer’s summation – “wan, authoritative and unnerving”.