Lot 13
  • 13

Helene Schjerfbeck

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Helene Schjerfbeck
  • The Girl from California
  • signed with initials centre right
  • charcoal and gouache on paper
  • 44.5 by 35cm., 17½ by 13¾in.


Acquired from the artist in the late 1920s; thence by descent to the present owner


Helsinki, Ateneum, Helene Schjerfbeck, 1992, no. 338, illustrated in the catalogue
Hyvinkää, Taidemuseo, Helene Schjerfbeck Taikavuorella Muutoksen vuodet 1902-1925, 2001-02


H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter), Helene Schjerfbeck, Stockholm, 1953, p. 365, no. 614, catalogued (as Kaliforniskan)
Helene Schjerfbeck 150 Years
, exh. cat., Helsinki, 2012, p. 260, no. 501, catalogued & illustrated

Catalogue Note

Executed circa 1927, the present work belongs to a series of five works depicting the same sitter who captivated Schjerfbeck over a fifteen-year period. Most of the works in the series are in prominent Finnish public collections, including the first oil of 1919 (Ateneum, Helsinki) (fig. 1), the oil of 1934 (Didrichsen Art Museum), and the watercolour of the same year (Reitz Foundation; formerly in the collection of actress Ingrid Bergman). All five versions present the young Ulrika Baarman (1895-1978), as Schjerfbeck saw her in Tammisaari when she was aged twenty-four. Born in San Francisco, Ulrika was a relative of the artist through her mother. 

Here Schjerfbeck reprised the composition of some eight years earlier. While she radically reinterpreted other compositions such as The Convalescent, her vision of The Girl from California remained remarkably consistent across the versions. Certain variations can be noted however: while the 1919 Ateneum oil presents the sitter close-cropped and on a square format, for the present work Schjerfbeck shifted towards a more rectangular, vertical sheet emphasising the downward glance of the figure. Bold patches of white gouache define the fall of light on the left side of her nose, the sensuous cupid’s bow of her upper lip, and the upper-left of her head, with the head itself haloed in green. The result is a particularly abstracted and haunting interpretation.