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Helen May Safford Smith

 (1871 - 1954)
Helen May Safford Smith was active/lived in California, Illinois.  Helen Smith is known for marine-wharves, seascape and landscape painting.

Helen May Safford Smith

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Helen May Safford Smith
Smith, Helen M. 1871–1954
Helen May Stafford was born on March 21, 1871, in St. Charles, Illinois, the daughter of William Lloyd Garrison Stafford and Jane (Miller) Stafford. Raised and educated in St. Charles, she received her early art education in Boston, Massachusetts. Helen then studied at the Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin, under Friedrich Heine, who first introduced her to watercolor. In 1893, she married William “Will” A. Smith in Barre, Vermont, where the couple settled. In Barre, she continued her studies at Goddard Seminary, where she was a member of the faculty.
In 1900, soon after the birth of their son, the couple moved to the western United States, settling in Whittier, California. In Whittier, Will Smith established the Whittier News, the town’s local newspaper. Years later, after the sale of the newspaper, he retained control of the print shop, turning the facility into a specialty printing business. In 1924, the family moved to Balboa Island, in Orange County, California, where they remained.
Helen’s art took many forms. In the early days of her career, she created pen and ink sketches, then by the late teens and early 1920s she turned her attention to oils and finally watercolors. Her subjects were often centered around her life on Balboa Island, and her sketching trips took her throughout California, with considerable time spent in Northern California. Although she continued to use both mediums, watercolor (possibly due to shortages of oil paint during World War II) became her primary medium in the 1940s.
In Southern California, she continued her art studies under the artists Anna Althea Hill, Ruth Peabody, and George Brandriff, and studied watercolor under Arthur Beaumont. While in the northern part of the state, she worked under the artist William Gaw. In 1947, at the age of 76, her desire to earn her master of fine arts degree was thwarted when she was told that due to the fact that it had been fifty years since she earned her undergraduate degree, her transcripts no longer existed. Disappointed, to say the very least, she enrolled for further study at Scripps College in Claremont, California, under the artist Millard Sheets.
Throughout her career the artist used various signatures when signing her work, such as: Helen Smith, Helen M. Smith, or H. M. Smith. Truly a California painter, she maintained a studio in her home where she painted daily and took weekly on-site excursions in and around her Balboa Island home. Her subjects include harbor and marine scenes, seascapes, and landscapes of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada.

Although a complete list of her art association memberships and exhibitions is lacking, one of her earliest documented exhibitions was with the Whittier Association in 1930. She was a member of the Laguna Beach and Whittier Art Associations, as well as the Bay Region Art Association, in Northern California, with whom she exhibited at the Oakland Art Gallery in 1938. In the autumn of 1938, she was given a solo show at the Louis Terah Haggin Memorial Galleries in Stockton, which was followed by shows at the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento; the Whittier Art Gallery; National Water Color Show at Balboa Park, San Diego; watercolors at the Laguna Art Gallery (later Laguna Art Museum) (solo); and Paramount High School, 1950–1952; all in California.

Never eager to sell her work, she often gave her work away as gifts to family and friends.
Helen M. Smith passed away on March 20, 1954, in Balboa Island, California.

Biography submitted by Maurine St. Gaudens

Emerging from the Shadows: A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860-1960, Maurine St. Gaudens, Editor, 2016.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Helen May Safford Smith
Born in St. Charles, Illinois, Helen Smith became a California painter noted for her marine scenes of Balboa Island and for landscapes of Yosemite and the gold mining areas of the Sierra Nevadas. She studied in Boston and at the Milwaukee Art Institute, and was a teacher at Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont.

She married Will Smith and the couple settled at Balboa Island about 1924. She took art lessons from Anna Althea Hills, George Brandriff, Arthur Beaumont, and Millard Sheets.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"

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Biography photo for Helen May Safford Smith
Helen M. Smith 1939

About  Helen May Safford Smith

Born:  1871 - St. Charles, Illinois
Died:   1954 - Balboa Island, California
Known for:  marine-wharves, seascape and landscape painting