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Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective

 

A retrospective including 60 paintings and works on paper spanning the approximately 20 years Helen Torr (1886-1967) was an active artist will be on view through August 17, 2003 at the Terra Museum of American Art in Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective.  The exhibition is the first major museum presentation of Torr's work, and it will bring to light new research and establish a chronology of work for this gifted yet little known modernist painter. (right:  Helen Torr, White Cloud (Light House), 1932, oil on canvas, 25 3/4 x 18 inches, Collection Anne and Vincent A. Carrozza)

Many of Torr's greatest paintings have been assembled for this exhibition.  Her still lifes and landscapes reflect her interest in flat, rhythmic design, her distinctive color sense and her willingness to experiment with different ideas.  Preparatory studies for several paintings, as well as a selection of sensitively rendered charcoal drawings, will also be highlighted.  It does not appear that Torr - an accomplished draftsman - began to paint seriously until she met artist Arthur Dove, her eventual husband.  Yet while the American avant-garde admired Dove, Torr struggled for recognition. During her lifetime her paintings were exhibited on only two occasions: once in a group show organized by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1927 and once with Dove at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery An American Place in 1933.

"Acknowledgement of Helen Torr's participation in and contribution to American modernism is long overdue," stated Shelly Roman, Assistant Curator, Terra Museum of American Art. "We are thrilled to have this retrospective here at the Terra Museum and to be able to lend our collection's fine Torr painting Purple and Green Leaves to this historically important exhibition."

Born in Philadelphia and trained at the Drexel Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Torr met Dove in Connecticut around 1919.  Recognizing kindred spirits in each other, the two artists eventually left their unhappy marriages to pursue their common commitment to making art.  In 1924, Dove and Torr settled in Halesite, New York finding inspiration in the town and its waterways.  Torr's innovative, early work explores elements of abstraction; she was especially prolific while living in this community.  In 1933, the couple relocated to Geneva, New York, to settle Dove's family's estate.  Geneva also proved productive for Torr; here she included in her subjects architectural motifs and evocations of nature.

Throughout the Depression, the devoted pair endured hardships - living first on a sailboat, then at the Ketewomoke Yacht Club, and later in a former roller skating rink.  Returning to Long Island in 1938, Dove and Torr purchased a waterfront cottage in Centerport, now owned by the Heckscher Museum of Art.  Dove soon became critically ill, and drawing only sporadically, Torr ceased making art to care for him until his death in 1946.

This exhibition was organized and is circulated by the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY.  Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective is made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the New York State Council for the Arts in Cooperation with the Upstate History Alliance; James Graham & Sons, New York; the Herman Goldman Foundation; the Suffolk County Office of Cultural Affairs; and the United States Department of Education.  A 40-page catalogue with color illustrations and an insightful essay by exhibition curator Anne Cohen DePietro accompanies Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective.  After Chicago, the exhibition will travel to The Mitchell Gallery, St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland in fall 2003.

Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective is part of MODERN MATTERS, a sixteen-month series of exhibitions and programs at the Terra Museum of American Art.  MODERN MATTERS presents fresh perspectives on early modernism in American art.

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