Lot 3
  • 3

Helene Schjerfbeck

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Helene Schjerfbeck
  • The Red-Haired Girl II
  • signed with initials upper left
  • oil and graphite on canvas
  • 37 by 36 cm., 14½ by 14¼in.


Einar Wulff, Grankulla (acquired from the artist through Einar Reuter in 1916. Wulff, 1888-1978, inherited the stationery business founded by his father Thomas Fredrik Wulff, who opened his first stationery shop in central Helsinki in 1890. Einar was a prominent art collector who began collecting Finnish art in 1915; the present work was therefore among his first acquisitions); thence by descent to the present owner


Helsinki, Kunsthalle, 50th Anniversary Exhibition of Finnish Artists, 1943, no. 228
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Contemporary Finnish Art 1914-44, 1944, no. 196
Helsinki, Galerie Hörhammer, Wulff Collection, 1954, no. 76
Helsinki, Art Hall, Helene Schjerfbeck Memorial Exhibition, 1954, no. 76
Lübeck, St. Annen-Museum, Helene Schjerfbeck, 1969, no. 11
Helsinki, Art House, Helena Schjerfbeck Memorial Exhibition, 1980, no. 30b
Helsinki, Ateneum; Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection; New York, The National Academy of Design, Helene Schjerfbeck, 1992-93, no. 250, illustrated on the catalogue cover
Helsinki, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, About Spirituality in Art: Helene Schjerfbeck Anniversary Exhibition, 2012, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue (as Punainen pää II / Det Röda huvudet II)
Helsinki, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, Gems from the Wulff Collection, 2014


H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter), Helene Schjerfbeck, Stockholm, 1953, plate 59, illustrated; p. 362, no. 424, catalogued (as Det röda huvudet II)
Helene Schjerfbeck 150 Years, exh. cat., Helsinki, 2012, p. 208, no. 357, catalogued & illustrated


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The canvas is lined and is securely attached to a keyed wooden stretcher. This is providing an even and stable structural support. The extreme edges of the original canvas are covered with narrow strips of white fabric which is secured with small pins to the face of the stretcher. Then painting has a backboard which is screwed into the reverse of the stretcher. There are several labels adhered to the reverse of the backboard and the stretcher. Paint surface The paint surface has the artist's original unvarnished appearance. The paint surface appears stable. There are a few historic minor paint losses within the background, within the upper part of the sitter's hair, and in the extreme upper right corner of the composition. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows a small retouching in the extreme lower right corner of the composition, and some further possible small retouchings running intermittently along the left vertical framing edge. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition. Colours are less warm than in the printed catalogue.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1915.

The exquisite synthesis of linear elegance, painterly texture and subtle intimacy that Schjerfbeck achieves in Red Haired Girl II is the high point of a series of figure paintings that she completed during her time in Hyvinkää. Having resigned from her teaching post at the Finnish Art Society Drawing School in Helsinki for reasons of ill health, she withdrew to Hyvinkää in 1902 to live with her mother and recuperate. There in relative isolation, she developed the modernist, paired down technique which she explored throughout the second half of her life, and which reaches such sophistication in the present work.

Schjerfbeck's interest in the subject of the red haired girl grew in prominence during the Hyvinkää years. In 1913 she painted Red Headed Girl (19.5 by 23cm., private collection), and incorporated the sitter's distinctive pose and profile into the left hand sitter in her double head study Sisters of the same year (31 by 42cm., private collection). The contemplative downcast angle of the red-haired girl that is the subject of the present work first appears in the three-quarter length figure in Outside the Sauna (Diana) of 1915-17 (65 by 52cm., Hämeenlinna Art Museum; fig. 1). The exquisite delicacy of the moment captured is intimated in the gesture of the woman drying herself in the charcoal and gouache study for the composition. But the sublime serenity of the figure is only fully revealed when Schjerfbeck focuses her undivided attention on the figure's head, first in Red Haired Girl I (fig. 2), which she gifted to her friend and supporter Einar Reuter, and ultimately in the present work, Red-Haired Girl II. It is in these two paintings that Schjerfbeck distills with such an economy of means the outer beauty and inner purity of her sitter, and in the process evokes a deeply considered and profoundly moving ideal of female beauty.

As the final stage in the development of Schjerfbeck's extraordinarily compelling reductive process, it is illuminating to observe how Red Haired Girl II builds on Red Haired Girl I. The present work is notably the slightly larger of the two canvases - 37 by 36cm., versus 31 by 31cm. The pencil delineation of the profile of the forehead, nose and mouth in Red Haired Girl II is both clearer and more delicate; there is greater differentiation between the colour of the sitter's right cheek and the colour of her hair; and the bob of hair that hangs down across the left side of her face is also more carefully defined. In short, what Schjerfbeck captured so sublimely in Red Haired Girl I, she has further perfected in the present work, to achieve a breath-taking climax to a fascinating painterly progression and realising in the process an icon of femininity.

The importance of Red Haired Girl II in the Schjerfbeck canon was clearly recognised when the painting was selected as the cover image for the ground-breaking retrospective of the artist's work at the Helsinki Ateneum in 1992. Now, approaching twenty-five years later, the painting continues to represent the artist at the peak of her painterly powers, an enduring image that resonates with public appreciation for her work.