|Helen Blumenschein (1909-1989) had some big shoes to fill. She was born in Brooklyn to Mary and Ernest Blumenschein, accomplished artists who would become key figures in the history of Western American art.
In 1919 when Helen was 10 years old, the Blumenscheins moved from New York to Taos, New Mexico. They took the train to Raton and traveled the last leg of the journey by car, barely surmounting Northern New Mexico's treacherous mountain landscape.
In Taos the Blumenscheins and members of New York's Ashcan School worked to build and promote the Taos Art Colony. Young Helen showed artistic talent but refused tutelage from her parents. Her father called her "Bill" and encouraged her to hunt and fish, which would become lifelong hobbies.
Helen traveled with Mary between New York and Taos for school. After completing her secondary education, she moved to Paris from 1929 to 1931 to study art. Her mother had found success in France previously: she was the second American woman to receive an award for a painting at the Paris Salon. Among Helen's teachers in Europe was modernist painter Andre Lhote.
Back in America, Helen enrolled part-time at the Art Students League in New York for printmaking. She studied there from 1932 to 1936. Over the course of her artistic career she mastered many mediums including oil, watercolor, lithography, serigraphy, ink and charcoal, but she was best known for her prints. Her most common subjects were Western and Southwestern landscapes.
Helen joined the Women's Army Corps during World War II and served in the South Pacific. Upon her return she focused exclusively on her artwork, showing her prints across the United States and abroad. She mounted two solo exhibitions, at the Oklahoma City Art Center and the New Mexico Museum of Art.
The artist was also a historian, naturalist, archaeologist and writer. She took an interest in archeology in the 1950s and received local awards for her efforts. She published three books about Northern New Mexico, including an account of her family's years in Taos.
In 1960, Ernest died and Helen donated the Blumenschein home to the Kit Carson Museum.
Helen died in 1989, leaving behind her own strong artistic legacy. The painting in our collection may be in the same genre as her parents' most famous work, but it possesses a style and spirit of its own.
Pictured: Self-portrait circa 1930's