Helen M. Turner

(Louisville, KY, 1858 - 1958, New Orleans)


Born in Louisville, Kentucky and raised in New Orleans, Helen Turner became one of the more successful female artists to emerge from the American South. At a young age, Turner painted landscapes, still lifes and portraits, but lack of money and education kept her from pursuing her dream of becoming a professional artist. By 1895, at the age of 37, Turner was able to save enough money to move to New York, where she enrolled at the Art Students League. Its teachers included some of the country’s most distinguished artists, including William Merritt Chase, Joseph De Camp, James Carroll Beckwith, Kenyon Cox and Douglas Volk. In 1899, she became a scholarship student at the Teachers’ College at Columbia University, where she continued to study until 1902.

With seven years of formal study and a teaching certificate, Turner began a career as a teacher and artist, and displayed her works at some of the most prominent museums and galleries of the time, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the National Academy of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She gradually made the transition from watercolor to oil painting, and experimented with the most popular style of the time, Impressionism.

Turner remained based in New York until the mid 1920s, and spent her summers painting at Cragsmoor, an art colony 80 miles north of New York City near the Hudson River Valley. There she built a house and studio that she surrounded with lavish gardens. Her Cragsmoor paintings mostly depict women in garden or interior settings, relaxing or performing everyday household tasks.

Turner closed her studio in 1926 and returned to New Orleans, where she continued to paint for the last 30 years of her life. She died in 1958 just a few months before her 100th birthday. Her work has been included in a number of exhibitions of both southern or regional artists and American Impressionism.

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