Born in 1862 one year before the salon des refuses in which Edouard Manet came to prominence, Schjerfbeck began to study art as a child in Helsinki and was recognised as a prodigious talent. In the 1880s she spent time in Paris studying in the private academies as the Ecole de Beaux-Art was not open to women. Like many artists she spent the summer months in artist colonies or back in Helsinki. In 1883 she travelled to Pont-Aven, where she met international colleagues and began to paint like Jules Bastien Lepage, whom she also met.
At the end of the decade she spent two seasons in St Ives, staying with Adrian Scott Stokes, who was married to Schjerfbeck’s painter friend, Marianne Preindelsberger, who had been with her in Paris. Further travels in the 1990s took her to Vienna, Italy and St Petersburg where she copied old master paintings that provided her with as much of an artistic eductation as her formal studies. Visits to the museums there and in Paris and London were of foundational importance to her and she continued throughout her long career to reference them in her paintings.
Two articles by Jeremy Lewison have recently been published. One, on late Picasso, was published in Late Style and Its Discontents by Oxford University Press, and the other, on Abstract Expressionism, in the Abstract Expressionism catalogue published by the Royal Academy to coincide with their major autumn exhibition.