Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for the Royal Academy’s retrospective of Finnish artist.

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Helene Schjerfbeck, Still Life with Blackening Apples, 1944. Oil on canvas, 46 x 50 cm. Didrichsen Art Museum; photo: Jussi Pakkala

Evening Standard: **** “The exhibition at the back of Burlington House has the gallery space and light to give these works the room that they need: the room of self-portraits is stunning. And what an impression they create. This is an overdue tribute to a very considerable artist.”

The Guardian: ** “In presenting Schjerfbeck as a go-getting 20th-century modernist, this exhibition dwells not on her early strengths but on a long decline. It also includes a room in which she charts her physical decay in a series of brutally honest self-portraits. They’re certainly brave. Her last paintings of herself are skull-like. She stares at her imminent death in the mirror. While impressive, the effect is bizarre rather than tragic.”

Time Out: **** “A series of late self-portraits are another highlight, as they disintegrate into ghostly angular skulls often tinted an unhealthy mould-on-sliced-bread green. This is what makes Schjerfbeck fascinating. Instead of tapering off into rehearsed formulas, her art gets better as it heads from start to finish.”

The Telegraph: **** “A household name in her native Finland but virtually unknown elsewhere, Helene Schjerfbeck has arrived at the Royal Academy amid a fanfare of pre-publicity hailed as the next great rediscovered feminist art icon before the show has even opened. She follows in the wake of Agnes Martin, Sonia Delauney and Annie Albers, to name just of a few of the neglected women artists who’ve been launched to retrospective stardom in recent years.”

The Times: **** “This is the first solo exhibition of her work to be staged in this country. Make the most of the opportunity; you are in for the most wonderfully striking surprise.”

The Upcoming: **** “This is a rare opportunity to experience the imaginative works of a skilled modernist painter throughout her lifetime.”

London Visitors: “This fascinating exhibition introduces the work of Helene Schjerfbeck to a wider audience and offers the rare opportunity to view a large number of the artist’s work. Schjerfbeck is one of those artists that seem to operate in their own world and follow their intuitions rather than the fads and fashions of art.”

Culture Whisper: *** “As the exhibition progresses if peters out somewhat. It’s difficult to know whether this a curatorial issue or whether Schjerfbeck just got stuck in rut, sticking doggedly and unimaginatively to portraits and still lifes, when her early work showed such promise. Still, this exhibition is worth a visit, as there are some real gems dotted throughout.”

The Arts Desk: *** “It strives to strike a balance between paintings which often hover between a sense of presence and the act of erasure, while foregrounding her idiosyncratic technique – the result of scoring, sanding and planing away layers of paint to create planes of soft colour.”

Helene Schjerbeck is on display at the Royal Academy of Arts until the 27th October.


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