The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Chief Curator at the Finnish National Gallery.
Nina (Sunday) is a sensitive and atmospheric depiction of a private moment, whose serenity is exquisitely captured by the artist with a unity of line and shading characteristic of Schjerfbeck's unique subtlety of execution. Schjerfbeck was fascinated by the human face and often used the motif of a girl's profile, as if caught in a moment of quiet introspection, to study her subject in depth.
Schjerfbeck's vision and ability to portray her sitter's character with the minimum of exquisitely rendered detail is extraordinary. Nina has a very strongly defined profile, a very bold line that complements the more softly defined mass of hair and surrounding shading. In addition the wisps of hair over her eye, the solitary curl hanging over her face and the red of the lips contrast the strong lines of her nose and chin and soften the overall effect. Schjerfbeck's compositional strength in the present work, however, lies in her depiction of Nina's long, graceful neck. Enclosed on one side by strong shadow and on the other by a simpler line, the whiteness of the sheet contrasts both the background wash and that of her hair, separated from the neck by a stronger stroke of charcoal. At first glance a simple rendition of her subject, Schjerfbeck's restraint often belies a complex and highly structured composition. In its beautiful elegance Nina (Sunday) is no exception and achieves a sense of calm and serenity through contrast and subtlety.
The present work belonged to Einar Reuter (1881-1968) who wrote two biographies on Helene Schjerfbeck in the 1950s under the pseudonym H. Ahtela. Reuter, a State Forester, writer and artist, first visited Schjerfbeck in Hyvinkää in 1915. Their relationship developed into a life-long friendship and, as an ardent admirer of her work, he was able to acquire some of her most important pictures.