The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Chief Curator at the Finnish National Gallery Ateneum, Helsinki.
Helene Schjerfbeck first travelled to St. Ives in Cornwall on the south-west coast of England in July 1887 at the invitation of her artist friend Marianne Preindelsberger, who was then married to the English artist Adrian Stokes. She stayed until the Spring of 1888 and then returned in the Summer of 1889, when she shared a studio with Maria Wiik, staying until the following Spring. During her first stay in 1887, Schjerfbeck was still suffering emotionally from the break of her engagement to an English artist whom she had met in Brittany. Despite this, her letters to Maria Wiik demonstrate her keen interest in her new surroundings that are mirrored in the acute observation of her paintings from this time. 'Helene Schjerfbeck had a rare gift of seeing much in little, and found beauty where others saw only the trivial' (R. Konttinen, exh. cat., Helene Schjerfbeck, Helsinki, 1992, p. 46).
Just as Virginia Woolf would later recall the strong colours of her childhood holidays in St. Ives at around the same time, Schjerfbeck's letters also reveal how much she was struck by colour. While the aesthetic influence of Paris and Brittany is obvious in her work from the first half of the 1880s, the second half of the decade is very much characterised by the influence of St. Ives. It was in Cornwall that Schjerfbeck's art came out of its transitional period and rediscovered the palette of her earlier style. This sensitivity to colour is perfectly demonstrated in the present work with its dashes of red in the chickens and subtle tonal variations in the haystacks and foreground. Furthermore the loose, expressive brushstroke, particularly in the sky, and the handling of the paint throughout bear witness to the ongoing tendency towards reduction that had begun to appear in Schjerfbeck's work of the mid-1880s and which now in St. Ives carried the artist towards a new freedom of expression.