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 Helen Hyde  (1868 - 1919)

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Lived/Active: California / Japan      Known for: oriental figure-views painting, woodblock printmaking, illustration

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Ad Code: 3
Helen Hyde
from Auction House Records.
"Home of Gabriel"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Helen Hyde was an etcher, illustrator and painter born in Lima, New York, April 6, 1868.  She was a pupil of Emil Carlsen in New York, Raphael Collin in Paris, Franz Skarbina in Berlin and Kano Tomanobo in Japan.  It was enthusiasm for her teacher, Felix Regamey, director of the Musee Guimet in Paris, that first inspired her interest in Japanese art. When her pictures were refused at the Salon, she returned home determined to give up her chosen profession. Living in San Francisco upon her return to America, she found that the Chinese characteristics of that city interested her, and her sketches made in Chinatown became popular.

Intent on going to Japan for a few months, she stayed fifteen years, and from her experience there she brought to this country an interest in Japanese works. After a years study with the last of the famous school of the Kano artists, and acquiring the Japanese method of wielding the brush, she was rewarded when her master asked her to paint a kakemono (hanging scroll) for the annual exhibition. In competition with Japanese artists, her picture, A Monarch of Japan, won the first prize.

Later Miss Hyde took up wood engraving and printing, and her color prints in the world of art became famous.  One of her most successful etchings is Little Cherry Blossom.  She was also known for genre, landscapes and interiors.

Hyde later painted in Mexico, and about these experiences she wrote the Color Lure of Mexico.  The Japanese influence is evident in these works.  While she may have imitated the Japanese in her approach to painting, "Her children are real children, sound in body and healthy in disposition. And above all they are children who do something."  She used pastel colors in her works very effectively, and was especially fond of soft pinks, greens, lavenders and yellows. It was said the "color of her prints are their greatest charm.  One scholar stated that "as an interpreter of children she has done for Japan what Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, children's book illustrator, did for France.

Helen Hyde was a member of the Chicago Society of Etchers and the California Society of Etchers.  The American Magazine of Art closes its tribute to this artist as follows: "There is a charm about her rendition of children , whether they be Japanese, Chinese, Mexican or American, which gives token to her sympathy with childhood; and with her passing has gone from the world of life of cheerfulness and courage and high purpose which, like a flower of sweet fragrance, has added beauty to life."

She passed away in Pasadena, California on May 16th 1919.

Blake Benton Fine Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Lima, New York, on April 6, 1868, Helen Hyde became a painter, illustrator, block printer, and etcher.  Having lived in Japan for many years, she is best known for her Japanese subjects of women and children.  She also worked in Mexico and the Carolinas.

Her maternal grandparents had crossed the continent to California in a covered wagon in the Gold Rush of 1850, but her mother Helen returned to the family home in Lima, where she gave birth to Helen.  In 1870 she rejoined her family with her infant child in California. 

Settled in Oakland, California, Helen first learned to paint from her neighbor Ferdinand Richardt.  She attended Wellesley School for Girls in Philadelphia, and after graduation, continued her art studies at the San Francisco School of Design under Emil Carlsen in 1886.   She then studied at the Art Students League in New York, with Skarbina in Berlin, Raphael Collin in Paris for three years, Kano Tomonobu in Japan, and in Holland.  

After ten years of study, she returned to San Francisco in 1894, and there she met artist Josephine Hyde (no relation) who convinced Helen to specialize in printmaking.  At that time she became fascinated with Chinese children and things Asian.  Her interest in the Orient took her to Japan where she lived from 1899-1914.  Her first prints were colored etchings; after which she pioneered making wood block prints in the Japanese manner in the United States.

She lived in Chicago and then returned to California to live with a sister in her final year.  Hyde never married, and died in Pasadena on May 13, 1919. 

She was a member of the California Society of Etchers; the Chicago Society of Etchers; the San Francisco Art Association, and the San Francisco Sketch Club.
California Midwinter International Exposition, 1894; Mechanics' Institute, San Francisco, 1896; St Louis Exposition, 1897; Mark Hopkins Institute, 1898; Alaska-Yukon Exposition, Seattle, 1909 (gold medal); Chicago Society of Etchers, 1911-1919; Paris Salon, 1913, 1914; California Society of Etchers, 1913-1918; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1915; Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915 (bronze medal); Art Institute of Chicago, 1916, 1920 (solos).

Her work is represented in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Art; Boston Museum; Library of Congress; Art Institute of Chicago; California State Library; New York Public Library; Mills College, Oakland, California; De Young Museum; and the California Historical Society.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from Annex Galleries:
Helen Hyde, printmaker and illustrator, was born in Lima, New York, but spent a privileged and cultured childhood in Oakland, California.  At twelve years of age her art instruction began under the tutelage of Ferdinand Richardt.  This was abruptly ended two years later due to the death of her father and the temporary resettling of the family in San Francisco.  Helen and her mother moved to Philadelphia, and after her graduation from Wellesley School, Helen returned to San Francisco and studied at the San Francisco School of Design. Hyde was briefly at the Art Students’ League in New York between 1888-1889.

The following year she departed on a four-year sojourn in Europe, which included a year in Berlin studying with Franz Skarbina, three years in Paris studying with Rafael Collin and Albert Sterner, and months in Holland and England.  n Paris, Hyde met Félix Régamey who introduced her to “the loveliness of things Japanese”, and this meeting was to have a profound effect on her life and work.

Returning to San Francisco, Hyde sought out Oriental subjects in San Francisco’s Chinatown and produced her first series of color etchings.  In 1899, Hyde voyaged to Japan where she became an ardent student of the Japanese language and a student of classical brush painting with Tomonobu Kano.  Hyde’s interest in color woodcut caused her to search out Emil Orlik, an Austrian artist working in Tokyo.  It was from him that she learned the skills of carving wood blocks.  She eventually realized that the results she was striving for were attainable only by working within the Japanese system and she employed Japanese carvers and printers (Shohiro Murate carved her woodcuts for eleven years).

Outside of a few return visits to the states and trips to China and India, Japan was Hyde’s home until 1914 when she returned to the U.S. due to ill health.  Hyde exhibited both nationally and internationally, and even her beloved Japan honored her work with awards.  Other awards included the gold medal at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition in Seattle in 1909 and the bronze medal for woodcut at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915.

Hyde was a member of the Chicago Society of Etchers, California Society of Printmakers. Chicago Society of Artists, and a life member of the Société de la Gravure en Couleur.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Credited with advancing Japanese woodblock printmaking in the United States, Helen Hyde flourished in the era of Japonisme, a fascination with Japanese art and culture. Though some critics have suggested that her flat expanses of color and decorative effects are evidence of her engagement with the Arts and Crafts movement, her delicate application of color and preference for the artisan workshop system align her work with the Japanese aesthetic so popular in the late nineteenth century.

Not long after her birth in 1868, Hyde’s parents left their home in New York to establish a residence in Oakland, California. There, Helen and her two sisters received instruction befitting young ladies of the day. It was at her father’s insistence that twelve-year-old Helen undertook art lessons from a neighbor, Ferdinand Richardt, a Danish-American landscape painter. In 1886, she enrolled in the San Francisco School of Design, where she took classes from the Impressionist painter Emil Carlsen; two years later, she transferred to the Art Students League in New York, studying there with Kenyon Cox.

Hyde’s introduction to the Japanese aesthetic that would define her mature style occurred during her travels through Europe between 1890 and 1894. She visited Germany, Holland, and England, but spent the majority of her time in Paris. As the city’s most prestigious academy did not accept female students, Hyde pursued private instruction from prominent teachers. She was also inspired by a monumental exhibition of Japanese prints shown at the École des Beaux-Arts, works which also influenced the careers of Mary Cassatt and Arthur Wesley Dow. When her submissions to the annual Salon exhibition were repeatedly rejected, Hyde became discouraged and returned home in 1894. Settling in San Francisco, Hyde explored her craft, sketching children in nearby Chinatown and acquiring rudimentary knowledge of color etching. It was during this period that Hyde earned the endorsement of the Ashcan painter William Macbeth who sold her work in his New York gallery. She also enjoyed success as a book illustrator.

At the age of thirty-one, Hyde moved to Japan, where she would reside, with only brief interruptions, until 1914. In addition to learning classical Japanese brushwork from Kano Tomonobu, she also studied with Emil Orlik, an Austrian artist working in Tokyo. Orlik sought to renew the old ukiyo-e tradition in what became the shin hanga (“new woodcut prints”) art movement. Although Orlik taught her to carve woodblocks, Hyde later deferred to established Japanese artisan tradition and hired a printmaker to carve woodblocks based on her drawings. Hyde’s prints depict a world without men, occupied by only women and their children. At a time when many artists focused on the bleak urban landscape and mass industrialization, Hyde—who wore kimonos and personalized her clothing and property with her Japanese crest—favored more conventional images of the natural landscape and family domesticity. Her love affair with pre-industrial Japan waned, however, when the Japanese Empire began urging westernization following the Russo-Japanese War. Suffering from poor health, she returned to the United States in 1914.

Having found restored health and new inspiration during an extended trip to Mexico in 1911, Hyde continued to seek out warmer climates and new subject matter. During the winter of 1916, Hyde was a house guest at Chicora Wood, the Charleston, South Carolina, plantation illustrated by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith in Elizabeth Allston Pringle’s 1914 book A Woman Rice Planter. The Low Country was a revelation for Hyde. She temporarily put aside her woodcuts and began creating sketches and intaglio etchings of Southern genre scenes and African Americans at work. During her stay, Hyde encouraged Smith’s burgeoning interest in Japanese printmaking and later helped facilitate an exhibition of Smith’s prints at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hyde’s paintings and prints appeared in exhibitions at the Paris Salon, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Today, her work can be found in the collections of prestigious public institutions, including the de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum, and the New York Public Library.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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Helen Hyde is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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