Exhibitions

Modern Women
HELENE SCHJERFBECK, ELGA SESEMANN, SIGRID SCHAUMAN & ELLEN THESLEFF


27. August - 03. January 2021

MODERN WOMEN: HELENE SCHJERFBECK, ELGA SESEMANN, SIGRID SCHAUMAN & ELLEN THESLEFF

27 AUGUST - 2 JANUARY 

The exhibition Modern Women, which can be experienced at GL STRAND beginning in August, puts the spotlight on four strong female artists from Finland –  Helene Schjerfbeck, Elga Sesemann, Sigrid Schauman and Ellen Thesleff – and their work interpreting modern life and the modern woman in particular. The exhibition shows several main works from each of the four painters, and at the same time addresses a topic that is still highly relevant: women’s lack of recognition. 

Modern Women shows several of Finland’s best modernist painters. Helene Schjerfbeck, Ellen Thesleff, Sigrid Schauman and Elga Sesemann were all artists who devoted their lives to their work, but not without personal sacrifices. All four artists brought distinct individuality to their works and continued to explore and renew their styles throughout their lives, sometimes to a very advanced age. Today these female artists are attracting renewed interest and are seen as among the greatest Finnish painters of their time. A wide range of their works can be experienced at GL STRAND beginning in August.

The four artists’ knowledge, perspective, and skill contributed to highly personal interpretations and influenced modern painting in the time up until and after Finland became independent in 1917. Finnish women were some of the first in Europe to be admitted to their country’s art schools on the same basis as their male counterparts. But society’s traditional family and gender beliefs created barriers for these artists when it came to taking part in creative and cultural life. Even though women’s rights and equality were being discussed at the time, women’s role in the art world was a grey zone – much as it is today.

The modern women of this exhibition didn’t let their gender hold them back. They saw themselves as skilled artists and were confident about their own abilities and talent. They made the most of their talent and their interests and many of them worked simultaneously as artists, critics, and teachers – often living and working outside of Finland, particularly in Paris, for long periods of their lives. They maintained a remarkable openness to new forms of art, to a much higher degree than their male colleagues. Many international styles found their way to Finland via these women artists.  

Helene Schjerfbeck, who is today known as one of Finland’s most-loved artists, is at the centre of the exhibition with 19 works. During her lifetime she was respected for her unique style and position, which is impossible to categorize. She also taught Ellen Thesleff and Sigrid Schauman, who are both currently of heightened interest both in Finland and internationally, making this exhibition particularly relevant.

“The exhibition shines a light on one of the era’s most important concerns: female artists’ lack of recognition and therefore a lack of inclusion in both private and public collections. At the same time, the public will get a chance to see several of Finland’s most important modern artists. The focal point is images of women and other motifs that female artists created during this era: still lifes, landscapes, and cityscapes,” says Anne Kielgast, head curator at GL STRAND.

The exhibition Modern Women shows a total of 53 works by the four Finnish artistic colleagues Schjerfbeck, Thesleff, Schauman and Sesemann, and their major contribution to the breakthrough of modernism. They depicted their own experiences and the life they lead. Their ideal was the self-sufficient artist, irrespective of gender. And this is how they lived their lives.

The exhibition can be experienced at GL STRAND from 27 August 2020 – 3 January 2021. An earlier version of the exhibition was shown in New York, Stockholm, and Tokyo. The exhibition in Copenhagen was curated especially for this occasion.

Modern Women: Helene Schjerfbeck, Elga Sesemann, Sigrid Schauman & Ellen Thesleff is produced by Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, curator Anu Utriainen, and is presented in co-operation with                GL STRAND.

 

Ateneum Eng RGB

Helene Schjerfbeck: "Circus Girl", 1916, Oil on canvas. Yrjö and Nanny Kaunisto Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

Helene Schjerfbeck, "Self-Portrait", 1915, olie. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad collection Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Ellen Thesleff, "Self-Portrait", 1916, oil. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Elga Sesemann, "At a Cafe", 1945, oil. Finnish National Gallery. Ateneum Art Museum. Phot. Finnish National Gallery. Hannu Aaltonen

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Helene Schjerfbeck: "Circus Girl", 1916, Oil on canvas. Yrjö and Nanny Kaunisto Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

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Ellen Thesleff, "Self-Portrait", 1916, oil. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

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Helene Schjerfbeck, "Self-Portrait", 1915, olie. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad collection Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

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Elga Sesemann, "At a Cafe", 1945, oil. Finnish National Gallery. Ateneum Art Museum. Phot. Finnish National Gallery. Hannu Aaltonen