The Convalescent • Helene Schjerfbeck, 1888
Helene Schjerfbeck (pronounced sheriff-beck) was a Finnish painter who lived from 1862 to 1946, and whose work changed considerably over that time from realism to something much more simplified and abstracted. She was continually pushing her work and growing over the entire course of her artistic life.
The Convalescent is a good example of her earliest work. Painted in 1888, when she was 26 and living in St. Ives, England, it won the bronze medal at the 1889 Paris World Fair.
At Home • Helene Schjerfbeck, 1903
According to Wikipedia, at Helene_Schjerfbeck, Schjerfbeck is considered to have become a modern painter by 1905. In At Home, you can see how she has simplified her forms. She is painting a portrait, but she has simplified the figure to its biggest, most basic shapes.
Katkelma • Helene Schjerfbeck, 1904 – 5
In Katkelma, painted in 1904 – 1905, notice how, in addition to her simplification of the shapes of her composition, Schjerfbeck is experimenting with underpainting and the use of texture.
School Girl II (Girl in Black) • Helene Schjerfbeck, 1908
In School Girl II (Girl in Black), painted in 1908, the girl's figure has essentially become a flat shape in the composition. Schjerfbeck has reduced the figure to its essence, and is working with the composition in terms of two-dimensional shapes.
Under the Linden • Helene Schjerfbeck, 1911
In Under the Linden, Scherfback has continued to simplify the figure, retaining the beauty of the girl's gesture and a lovely sense of the light, but simplifying in a way that creates a rhythm and movement in the composition that is distinctively her own. Her work serves as a wonderful model and inspiration for learning to find the big, simple shapes in whatever it is we see, and to translate them into paintings.
You can read another short, insightful biography at Artists in 60 Seconds: Helene Schjerfbeck.