The artist as a young woman turns her face toward the viewer and surprises us with her lively eyes, which make her appear to be responding to a call. Her right eye, different in color and without a pupil, suggests the words of M0digliani: “Because with one eye you see the world outside, and with the other you see inside yourself.”
Schjerfbeck permits the viewer to see the precise moment in which the material vanishes and the spirit replaces it. At the age of eighty-three the painter seems to look at the viewer from another space and time, in which representation no longer exists and there are not movements or sounds. Even so, this distorted image preserves the mystery of life through the tension with which it projects toward the viewer a desire for final, loving contact.
The artistic style of the Finnish painter progressively moved away from depiction of the ideal. Looking at the anguished deformation of this self-portrait from 1944, the viewer wonders what happened to the authoritative but sensitive beauty of the 1912 work … Asymmetry and mangling of shapes and colors make visible the artist’s suffering, presumably related in part to the difficult years of World War II. The dramatic elimination of conventions is anything but the inability to paint: Schjerfbeck’s work reveals a reality of profound tension.
Commentary from Medicine in Art Getty Museum 2010
Wikipedia article Helene Schjerfbeck