Friday, July 16, 2010

Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art (Retretti exhibition presentation)

From the official presentation:

Helene Schjerfbeck and Sisters in Art, the lead exhibition of the Retretti Art Centre’s summer 2010 programme presents a broad overview of Finnish women artists from the first half of the 19th century until the turn of the century. In addition to Schjerfbeck’s work, the exhibition includes works by Fanny Churberg and Maria Wiik as well as of such lesser-known artists as Mathilda Rotkirch and Hanna Rönnberg. The exhibition is curated by Professor Riitta Konttinen.

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is the best-known Finnish women artist. From an early age her work attracted considerable attention but was also the object of serious criticism during her lifetime. The free painting style and direct realism of her first large figurative painting, Boy feeding his Younger Sister, painted in Brittany in 1881, led to its being given a contradictory reception. Her promising career as an historical painter was cut off by the widely held view that the subject matter was considered unsuitable for a woman.

A great deal has been written and continues to be written about Helene Schjerfbeck´s career and oeuvre but she was by no means the only woman to carve out a path in Finland’s male-dominated 19th century art world. She had both numerous predecessors and contemporaries, some of whom, such as Fanny Chruberg, Maria Wiik, Ellen Thesleff, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt or Elin Danielson-Gambogi, are well-known today.

There are, however, many more whose work is exhibited only seldom or not at all. Their artist stories are, however, moving and their work appealing and interesting from the point of view of the development of Finnish art.

The paintings and drawings in Retretti’s exhibition relate how women entered the Finnish art arena. The time span runs from the romantic Realism of the first half of 19th century, through Naturalism and on to late 19th century Symbolism, ending with the early steps of Modernism around the turn of the century.

Retretti’s summer 2010 exhibition presents works also by Mathilda Rotkirch, Victorine Nordenswan, Alexandra Frosterus-Såltin, Victoria Åberg, Julia Stigzelius-de Cock, Amélie Lundahl, Ada Thilen, Helena Westermarck, Dora Wahlroos, Hanna Rönnberg, Anna Sahlstén, Beda Stjernschantz, Hilda Flodin and Ester Helenius.

Riitta Konttinen’s book on 19th century Finnish women artists, Naiset taiteen rajoilla (Women on the Fringe of Art, Tammi) is published in conjunction with the exhibition.

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