Today at Sothebys
in London, two rare modernist masterpieces by Helene Schjerfbeck never previously offered at auction sold for a combined total of £1.4m / 1.9m.
Leading the group was Girl with Blonde Hair, painted in 1916, which sold to a European institution for £869,000 / 1,193,219 (est. £500,000-700,000 / 700,000-975,000). One of Schjerfbecks most expressive works and a prime example of her radical modernist style, the painting concealed a study for a different work on the verso, discovered by Sothebys specialists when inspecting the picture. Lemons in a Wooden Bowl a masterpiece from her late period was acquired by The Reitz Foundation in Finland for £533,000 / 731,859 (est. £300,000-500,000 / 418,000-700,000). Begun in 1934 but not completed until ten years later, the painting belongs to an important series of pure still lifes of single pieces of fruit or bowls of fruit.
Claude Piening, Head of Department, 19th Century European Paintings, Sothebys London, said: We are thrilled to have been able to offer completely fresh to the market works by Helene Schjerfbeck. Masterpieces like Girl with Blonde Hair and Lemons in a Wooden Bowl rarely come to auction, and for both works to appear together for sale in London marked not only a once-in-a-generation moment for collectors, but also an important moment for Finnish art on the international stage. Schjerfbeck was famously retiring in her lifetime, paying little interest in her public profile. With the success of todays sale, some 70 years following her death, her reputation continues to gather further international momentum.
Anna-Maija Bernard, Sothebys Finland, said: I am delighted both works went to European institutions and will be accessible to the public for future generations to enjoy.
Lord Mark Poltimore, Deputy Chairman, Sothebys Europe, said: I was among the first to bring works by Helene Schjerfbeck to the international market in 1988 and its wonderful to see this extraordinary artist achieve extraordinary prices once again.