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Helen Lundeberg

American Painter

Helen Lundeberg Photo
Movements and Styles: Hard-edge Painting, Surrealism

Born: June 24, 1908 - Chicago, Illinois

Died: April 19, 1999 - Los Angeles, California

"I don't like disorder, or confusion or violence. I know they exist in the world but why should I have to paint them."

Summary of Helen Lundeberg

Helen Lundeberg was a profound thinker who started to paint and as such her work presents a highly intellectual response to art. She was interested in nature, but not specifically in flowers or vegetables, in all of nature, from the smallest crustacean in the sea to the largest planet in the sky. Indeed, Lundeberg was a dynamic personality and as she sought to investigate and understand life in all aspects, great energy bursts forth from her canvases. At the same time however, she was a rigorous and careful scientist making what seems like a contradiction - to unite passion and control - in fact a very good fit.

As her career was long and spans almost an entire century, it is interesting to use as a marker for art history moving from Surrealism, to Post-Surrealism and then on to abstraction. Indeed, Lundeberg seamlessly gleaned influences from the Renaissance to Early Surrealism. The artist's deeply inquisitive mind and particular interest in combining earth, sea, and sky, alongside even other worlds seems to align her work most accurately to that of the Surrealists Ithell Coloqhoun and Remedios Varo. All of these artists wanted to constantly learn, to measure, to dissect and to join up all of the dots; a process that ideally moves towards illumination and enlightenment. It seems, in her late works - full of simple forms, soft color, and originary central energy - that Lundeberg got pretty close.

Key Ideas

Lundeberg was an intellectual as well as an artist. This combination resulted in her integral role in the establishment of two relatively influential new art movements. The first movement was initially called 'Subjective Classicism' - combining interests in both emotion and technique - but the title later changed to 'Post-Surrealism' and along with Lorser Feitelson, Lundeberg wrote the manifesto. The second movement was called 'Hard-edge Painting', a new form of abstraction, and once again the couple were at the center of its development.
As 'artists in love', Lundeberg's relationship with her husband, Feitelson, was both romantic and professional. Like Dorothea Tanning and Georgia O'Keefe , supported by Max Ernst and Alfred Stieglitz in turn, Lundeberg received extended support from her artistic spouse. Interestingly, all three of these women remained childless and all three effectively create highly reflective visual spaces that provide means to address and unravel complex feelings implied by the state of childlessness.
There is a sense that Lundeberg's influence base creates a harmonious marriage between Europe and The United States. Struck by the themes, motifs, and techniques of the early European Surrealists, René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico, she also had a love of the American desert landscape and the same intense curiosity as Straight Photographers, particularly Edward Weston. Lundeberg paradoxically established an American Surrealist identity, whilst revealing that the most important motifs in art recur irreverent of time and place.
Lundeberg's love of planets and the cosmos reveals that her career is one of a relentless quest for knowledge, even beyond our own earth. There is a strong parallel between Luneberg's later depictions of planets and the paintings of such similar globular and otherworldly spheres, also incased within a black ground, created by Yayoi Kusama in the 1950s, and by Ithell Colquhoun, slightly later, in the 1970s.
Helen Lundeberg Photo

While born in Chicago, Helen Lundeberg spent almost her entire life in California having initially moved to the city of Pasadena at the age of four to accommodate her father's job at a stock brokerage and real estate firm. Some of her fondest childhood memories were of car trips with her parents and younger sister; she would enjoy looking out of the window at the Californian landscape which would, years later, provide inspiration for some of her paintings.

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