Helene Schjerfbeck, born in Helsinki in 1862, is considered Finland's most important figure and portrait painter, and is today celebrated as a national heroine. From 1873 to 1877, she studied at the drawing school of the Finnish Art Association in Helsinki and for two years at the local private art college of Adolf von Becker. Stipends allowed the artist to travel in France and Italy and continue her studies, under Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris, among others. There she regularly exhibited in the Salon beginning in 1883 and participated in the World's Fair in 1889. In the 1890s Schjerfbeck returned to Finland. She began early on to sell her works to private and public collections. She worked as a drawing teacher until 1902, before giving it up for health reasons. She subsequently lived in virtual isolation in Hyvinkää and later in Tammisaari, where she devoted herself wholly to painting. In 1944 the artist gave in to the incessant urgings of her art dealer Gösta Stenman and moved to Sweden, where she lived until her death on 23 January 1946.