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Vanessa Helder (1904 – 1968)

Untitled (Floral Still Life), ca. 1940s, watercolor on paper, signed lower left, 10 x 13 inches (image); artist’s name and address inscribed verso, presented in a high quality Vandeuren frame


Vanessa Helder was one of the most important female West Coast artists during the 1930s through 1950s and the only nationally recognized woman on the West Coast working consistently in a crisp, precisionist aesthetic. She was born in Lynden, Washington and studied at the University of Washington and later, as a scholarship winner, at the Art Students League in New York with Robert Brackman, George Picken and Frank Vincent Dumond. During her New York years, Helder solidified her tightly controlled approach to the watercolor medium, which is closely related to the Immaculate and Precisionist painters, Charles Sheeler, Edmund Lewandowski, and Peter Blume, among others. As in the case of Sea Shells – Blue & Gold, also in this exhibition, this characteristic, as well as Helder's technical prowess, are on full display in Untitled (Floral Still Life). Helder taught at the Spokane Art Center and worked as a painter and supervisor for the WPA in Washington state. After a series of successful solo shows, she achieved national prominence when she was selected as one of only two women for inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking 1943 exhibition, American Realists and Magic Realists. Soon after the MOMA show, Helder relocated to Los Angeles where she taught during the 1950s at the Otis College of Art and Design. Helder was a member of the American Watercolor Society and the California Watercolor Society, where she served as Vice President in 1947. During her long career, she was represented by prominent galleries, including Macbeth Gallery in New York, and exhibited and, in many cases, won awards at significant museums and exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Portland Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Denver Museum and San Diego Fine Arts Gallery. She is extensively listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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