Orphaned at thirteen, Helen M. Turner overcame enormous obstacles to become one of the most successful American woman artists of the first half of the twentieth century. A daughter of the South, she worked in the impressionist style across a range of genres, specializing in subjects that portrayed the woman’s sphere, from still lifes of dressing-table tops to figures in landscapes and interiors that captured the reflective moments of a woman’s everyday life—sewing, reading, bathing, arranging flowers, or gardening. Though she is often categorized as a southern artist, Turner spent many years in New York and summers at the Cragsmoor artists’ colony in upstate New York. She was only the fourth woman to be elected an academician of the National Academy of Design, and during her lifetime her paintings were widely collected, even as the impressionist mode lost its luster to post-impressionism and other avant-garde styles.
For the first time in more than a quarter of a century more than forty of Turner’s luminous works have been gathered for a traveling exhibition, which opened in June at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. Drawn from private and public collections around the country, the show was organized by the Dixon Gallery with the cooperation of the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, and the Huntsville Museum of Art in Alabama, and it will be seen at those institutions later this year and early next. It is accompanied by a catalogue written by the guest curator Jane Ward Faquin with contributions and an essay by Maia Jalenak.
Helen M. Turner: The Woman’s Point of View · Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis · to September 19 · www.dixon.org
Photo: Flower Girl by Helen M. Turner (1858–1958), 1920. Detroit Institute of Arts, gift of the National Academy of Design, Henry Ward Ranger Fund/Bridgeman Art Library.