Helene Schjerfbeck, Self-Portrait with Red Spot, 1944Oil on canvasFinnish National Gallery, Helsinki,
on display at Sandinavia House, New York. 

The magic of painting is in how an accumulation of color can encapsulate and elaborate upon lived experience. A tired observation, perhaps, but when such a moment hits full force it still comes across as something of a miracle. How can so much be embodied by (to quote Symbolist painter Maurice Denis) “a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order”? It seems so improbable, and so rare. This train of thought came to mind while traversing “Independent Visions: Helene...