Nelimarkka is best known for his paintings of the flat landscapes of Ostrobothnia, but his early oeuvre shows an equally keen interest in the study of people and their distinctive personality features.
In a letter written to his wife-to-be Saima Alaviitala in the late 1910s, Nelimarkka describes how he was busily searching for interesting landscapes to paint, but fails to mention any portraits. Buyers preferred landscapes, and Nelimarkka needed to convince his fiancée of his ability to support their future family.
Long before he ever had children, Nelimarkka drew many portraits of sleeping children. In the late 1910s, he painted a number of touching child portraits in which the child bears a thoughtful, sometimes wary expression, occasionally with a hint of sadness in their eyes.
Gradually Nelimarkka began to receive portrait commissions, including his portrait of the author Teuvo Pakkala commissioned by the Otava publishing company in 1922.
Image: Eero Nelimarkka: Girl Dressed in Blue, 1915 © Private Collection / Photo: Hanna Kukorelli