Theme/Style Figurative art, still lifes, landscapes, portraits
Media Oils, gouaches, pastels, lithographs
Artistic Focus An
artist whose eyes were wide open to contemporary movements and considered
a radical in the early 1900s, Helena Dunlap was one of the earliest American
proponents of Post-Impressionism. Principally a figure painter,
her subjects tended to be close to the surface and scaled to nearly the
full height of the canvas. Often said to be the first woman Modernist,
her pure, sparkling palette and deliberate brush strokes helped pave
the way for future Modernist painters.
• Helena Adele Dunlap was born on a ranch in Whittier,
California in 1876.
• Dunlap studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy
of the Fine Arts, in New York City with William Merritt Chase, and with André Lhote
• Returning to Los Angeles in 1911, Dunlap held her first solo exhibition
that same year at the Steckel Gallery, about which a Los Angeles Times critic
noted, “We need pictures like hers in Los Angeles, because they are ‘so
• In 1915, Dunlap exhibited at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
in San Francisco, and received both gold and silver medals at the 1915 Panama-California
Exposition in San Diego.
• Dunlap had several solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science
and Art between 1914 and 1923, as well as a two-person show there with Henrietta
Shore in 1918.
• Helena Dunlap co-founded the Modern Art Society in Los Angeles in 1916, renamed
the California Progressive Group in 1919, which acted as an alternative to the
older and more conservative California Art Club.
• During the 1920s Dunlap’s frequent and extensive travels took her to Europe,
the Middle East, and India, and her friend Henrietta Shore joined her on a trip
to Mexico in 1927.
• After living in Paris for many years, Dunlap established a home in Laguna Beach
in the early 1950s. Later she returned to Whittier where she kept a studio, and
passed away there in 1955.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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