A portrait by Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) entitled My Father was auctioned off on Tuesday at Sotheby's auction house in London. The painting was sold for some 250,000 euros to an unnamed buyer.
Already one of Finland's most lauded artists, Schjerfbeck's paintings are in particular demand at the moment, says Ateneum museum director Susanne Pettersson.
"It's a big deal from our perspective, too, that works by Finnish artists are being sold around the world," she says. "This is not the only auction to include Schjerfbeck's work – more are on the way."
Schjerfbeck and her work have been featured prominently in many countries in recent years – for instance in Germany and Japan in 2014 and 2015. An exhibition of Schjerfbeck's oeuvre, called Independent Visions and curated by the Ateneum museum, is currently on display in New York.
"People have also been asking after art lending possibilities, there is a lot of interest," Pettersson says.
An international study on Schjerfbeck is also in the works.
"A large group of researchers have studied her work from various viewpoints, that's always a good sign," Pettersson says.
Homage to lost father
Schjerfbeck painted numerous portraits of her mother Olga, but only three of her father, Svante Schjerfbeck.
Her mother encouraged her daughter's artistic pursuits, but died of tuberculosis in 1876 when Schjerfbeck was 13 years old, leaving the family in turmoil. Young Helene's studies may have been cut short if not for a wealthy family friend.
Schjerfbeck painted the three portraits of her father several decades after his passing. One piece from 1928 is in a private collection, while the two others – both from 1943 – are owned by the Didrichsen museum and the most recent buyer respectively.
Schjerfbeck based the painting on a daguerreotype of Svante from the 1860s.
The 250,000 euro price tag of the portrait sold on Tuesday was far less than other Schjerfbeck works have fetched at auction.
Last year the Finnish Gösta Serlachius Foundation purchased Schjerfbeck's The Red Head for some 1.3 million euros, and the Reitz Foundation bought Lemons in a Bowl for 600,000 euros in 2015.