Helene Schjerfbeck grew up in a Finnish-Swedish family in Helsinki. As a teenager, she was highly acclaimed for her traditional historical paintings and was awarded grants to travel and study in Paris, Italy and Russia.
Upon her return to Helsinki, Schjerfbeck taught at the Konstföreningen Drawing School. She never quite fit in to that city's art scene, which was dominated by national romantic painting. Instead, Scherfbeck retreated to Hyvinge and Ekenäs in southern Finland, where she developed her distinctive modernistic style, inspired by her studies of the great french masters.
Her art caught the eye of art dealer Gösta Stenman of Stockholm, who arranged for her to hold an exhibition. Her work is currently represented in numerous Finnish and Swedish private collections, as well as at the Atheneum and the Gyllenberg Art Museum in Helsinki.