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.
Schjerfbeck, however, at least on the face of it, looks an unlikely candidate for this kind of treatment: a repressed and secretive loner, who spent much of her life caring for her elderly mother and who probably never had a physical relationship before she died of...
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