The Lace Shawl

Helene Schjerfbeck Finnish

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 829

Schjerfbeck titled this painting after the black lace shawl worn by Sigrid Nyberg, her friend and landlady in a town on the Finnish coast. As the artist worked, she transformed the shawl and torso into abstract shapes and passages of color. Bold strokes and thin layers of paint create a varied, textured surface. Nyberg’s face is stylized, with dramatic eyes, lips, and sleek hair evoking the modern woman of the 1920s. Schjerfbeck described the picture as conveying both beauty and "inner sorrow and emptiness." The artist’s style earned her a reputation as one of Finland's foremost modernist painters. This is her first work acquired by a museum in the United States.

The Lace Shawl, Helene Schjerfbeck (Finnish, Helsinki 1862–1946 Saltsjöbaden), Oil on canvas

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