From ‘rags’ to an artist’s apex

Alice in Wonderland

     (PNAN-AL) – Born just prior to the Civil War in Louisville, Kentucky, Helen Maria Turner (1858-1958) became one of America’s foremost Impressionist painters, despite of artwork by women still being labeled as hobbyists or second class professionals in the early 1900s and the destructions of the war: the successful family coal business, which also attributed to her oldest brother’s death; the family home destroyed, including the death of her mother in 1865; Turner moved to New Orleans with an uncle, who has been noted as a catalyst to fulfill her art aspirations, but also the dreams her uncle wanted for himself.

La Belle Creole

     Going on view Sunday, February 20 at the Huntsville Museum of Art, “Helen M. Turner: The Woman’s Point of View” exhibition will feature over 40 paintings and works on paper, which supports what art historian Louis Hoyer Rabbage wrote in regards to the first examination of her work, in a retrospective exhibition for the Cragsmoor Free Library in Ulster County, New York in 1983. He mandated that the purpose of the exhibition was to make a statement on behalf of Turner’s “rightful place in American art history.” This show also serves as a historical example of determination by one woman who played a major role in the advancement of the visual arts in America.

     Turner studied at the New Orleans Art Union in 188o and in 1895, she moved to New York where she studied art and taught at Teachers College, Columbia University and later became a student of Kenyon Cox and Douglas Volk at the Art Students League. While in New York, she earned a living teaching fashion illustration at the YWCA and after 1907, she spent summers painting at Cragsmoor, an upstate New York art colony, where she also built a home.

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    Among some of her achievements, Turner was only the third woman ever elected to the conservative National Academy of Design, where she received the status of full Academician in 1921.

      The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection and the Corcoran Gallery of Art collected her work, and she was honored with a solo exhibition in 1926, which traveled to six cities.

     In 1949, the New Orleans Museum of Art organized a special exhibition of Turner’s work, but with the post-war focus on new modes of abstract painting, impressionist and post-impressionist works had fallen out of favor. Since 1974, many other women artists has been reevaluated by art historians and accounted more fully for their contributions to American art.

     Turner’s HMA exhibition will feature four dominating and distinct themes: Interiors, Women in Nature, Portraits of Women and Landscapes. She created most of her works while living at Cragsmoor, yet the majority of her portrait commissions took place in New Orleans, where she returned to live near the end of her life.

Published by on January 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Marketplace Guide, At the Museums dept, PaletteBoards Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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