Sisterhood in Art: Portraying Sisters

Helene Schjerfbeck, A Boy Feeding his Little Sister, 1881, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland.

It’s not surprising that many artists with sisters painted their portraits, especially early in their careers. They were probably easily available for modeling and they often supported the artists’ efforts and careers. Each of the five portraits below depicts sisters in their own unique way – from an honest painting in a home setting to a splendid allegorical representation created for a wealthy client. Enjoy and share with your sister!

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) remains a hidden gem of Finnish art. Her style changed dramatically throughout her life. That is why among her artworks, we find Realist, Symbolist, and Expressionist pieces. This painting depicts an everyday event: a boy feeding his little sister. Schjerfbeck created it in 1881 in Brittany, France. Schjerfbeck was enchanted by the models, she saw “something beautiful, fresh and genuine” in these Breton children. Even though critics found something appealing in the picture, this work aroused disapproval in the Finnish press – what gave offense was that the painting was large (115 x 94.5 cm) meanwhile its subject was trivial.

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