One of Finland's most-cherished modernist painters, Helene Schjerfbeck, is most widely known for her realist works and self-portraits. One of her earliest works and one of her most famous is The Convalescent (1888), a charming portrait of a would be resting child. This was painted in St. Ives in Cornwall, England. Schjerfbeck visited the region twice in the late 1880s. The painting was included in the Paris Salon the year of its completion under the title First Greener. A sick child was a common subject in art at the time, but Schjerfbeck’s painting is also about the return to vitality. The brushwork is lively and the treatment of light is reminiscent of impressionism. The painting was praised in Paris. The reception back home was initially controversial – the picture was considered excessively realistic. However, the Finnish Art Society decided to purchase it, and soon after its completion the painting was acceded to the Ateneum’s collection.
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