Schjerfbeck’s delicate health and nervous disposition engendered a strong sensitivity to nature. Her frail condition is most poignantly expressed through her still life compositions.
The present work is a particularly effulgent study of flowers in bloom. The pink and white petals are bathed in light; the blossoms fill the surrounding space and embue the composition with a warm glow. The vitality of the flowers in Floxia mirrors Schjerfbeck’s own creative energy, yet the fleeting brushstrokes also suggest a moment of transition. The flowers are both at their peak and at the moment before they begin to wilt.
Schjerfbeck painted still lifes throughout her long career and the genre is key to understanding her aims as an artist: ‘her still lifes are the very essence of painting, and some are amongst her finest work’ (Helmiriitta Sariola, Nature morte, Helsinki, 1992, p. 83). Unlike portraiture, in which there is an inevitable dialogue between the artist and the sitter, still life painting permitted Schjerfbeck to focus on colour and composition free from a narrative subject. And it was Schjerfbeck's sensitivity to nature that called her back to the genre again and again throughout her life.
Fig. 2, Photograph of Helene Schjerfbeck painting en plein-air in Tammisaari. IMAGE ID 645D06101
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