Lot 11
  • 11

Helene Schjerfbeck

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Helene Schjerfbeck
  • The Fencer
  • signed with initials lower right
  • watercolour, gouache and charcoal on paper
  • 37 by 32cm., 14½ by 12½in.


Helsinki, Art House, Helena Schjerfbeck Memorial Exhibition, 1980, no. 42
Helsinki, Ateneum, Helene Schjerfbeck, 1992, no. 325, illustrated in the catalogue
Helsinki, Ateneum; Stockholm, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde; Gothenburg, Museum of Art; Helene Schjerfbeck 150 Years, 2012, no. 461, illustrated in the catalogue


H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter), Helena Schjerfbeck, Stockholm, 1953, p. 365, no. 578, catalogued (as Fäktaren)
Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, '[...] Notes on Helene Schjerfbeck's relationship with works by other painters, particularly El Greco' in Helene Schjerfbeck 150 Years, exh. cat., Helsinki, 2012, p. 53, cited

Catalogue Note

Although she never visited Spain and knew the artist's work mostly through reproductions, the work of El Greco enthralled Schjerfbeck like no other single artist throughout her career. After the ‘rediscovery’ of El Greco in the previous century, the first decades of the twentieth century saw a period of critical re-evaluation of the Cretan artist’s work, at exactly the same moment that Schjerfbeck was developing her idiosyncratic form of modernism. Her interest in El Greco was likely sparked by a three-part article on the artist published in L’Art et les Artistes in 1912, the year in which Schjerfbeck first mentioned the artist in a letter to her close friend Helena Westermarck. Finding artistic affinity in the psychological intensity and drama of his work, and spurred-on by her knowledge that Cézanne had been a fellow admirer, in the 1920s Schjerfbeck was repeatedly drawn to models which she considered ‘Greco-esque’, as in the present work.

Painted in Hyvinkää in 1924, The Fencer is a portrait of a Mr Huolman from Lake Saimaa in the south-east of Finland. Ahtela catalogues another version in oil of similar dimensions in the collection of Thomas von Wachenfelt. Together with her portraits of her nephew Måns, versions of The Landlord and portraits of her friend and supporter Einar Reuter – to whom the present sitter bears some resemblance with his strong, angular features – the present work ranks as among Schjerfbeck’s most striking male portraits.