Z. VANESSA HELDER (1904–1968)
Alterations, about 1948
Watercolor on paper, 19 1/2 x 14 3/4 in.
Signed (at lower right): Vanessa / Helder
RECORDED: “Vanessa Helder’s ‘Alterations,’” unknown newspaper clipping, March 1949 (copy in Hirschl & Adler archives)
EXHIBITED: Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1948 // San Bernardino, California, 1949, 34th National Orange Show // Tacoma Art Museum, Washington, and O’Kane Gallery, University of Houston-Downtown, Texas, 2013–14, Austere Beauty: The Art of Z. Vanessa Helder, p. 123 colorplate 63
Alterations was shown at the 34th National Orange Show in San Bernardino, California, in 1949, and it was given the Third Award in the “Conservative Water Color Class.” This snowy picture is almost certainly a Vermont subject, the type of work for which she was most celebrated. One critic’s appreciation of Helder’s Vermont landscapes, in particular, aptly describes the tenor of the present work:
Watercolors of Vermont and California by Z. Vanessa Helder, now on view at the Macbeth Gallery, possess a purity of color and clarity of simplified design. The Vermont landscapes, in the main winter scenes, are uncompromising in their explicit record of an austere winter-locked world, snow-clad fields, bare trees, houses sharply silhouetted against a cold sky with a feeling of frosty atmosphere permeating the whole canvas (Margaret Breuning, “Landscapes by Helder,” Art Digest XVIII [March 15, 1944], p. 14).