The Modern Woman, produced by the Ateneum Art Museum and the Finnish National Gallery, focuses on four important artists who worked in the early 20th century: Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), Ellen Thesleff (1869–1954), Sigrid Schauman (1877–1979) and Elga Sesemann (1922–2007). The exhibition, consisting of works from the collections of the Ateneum, focuses on the role of the modern woman amidst the social, political and cultural changes of the era. ”We want to show how Finland has made it possible for women to build independent careers as artists”, says museum director Susanna Pettersson, who has curated the exhibition together with curator Anu Utriainen.
All four artists were exceptionally international, and all of them painted until the end of their lives – although Schauman, for example, was not able to dedicate herself to art before reaching 70!
The theme of the modern woman is explored through two perspectives: women as painters and women as the objects of painting. The fabulous selection of works includes 44 paintings by the four artists and a number of woodcuts by Ellen Thesleff. The artist featured most prominently is Helen Schjerfbeck, whose works have never been displayed at the Oulu Museum of Art at such an extensive selection. The least known of the four, Elga Sesemann, who passed away in 2007, has not been properly recognised until the past few years.
The exhibition was produced for the international circuit and was exhibited in Scandinavia House in New York and in the Millesgården in Stockholm in 2017.
Photo above: Helene Schjerfbeck: Girl from Eydtkuhne II (1927). Finnish National Gallery/Ateneum Art Museum, The Kaunisto Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen. (Detail)